I was only 5 years old and summer was quickly approaching. I was finishing up my first year in school of afternoon Kindergarten. Besides the new things I was learning academically (like how to walk quietly in a straight line), I was enjoying all the new and interesting people in my class. There was Dan, who would become my best friend through high school. There was Douglass, who even in Kindergarten, exuded cool and always was the leader of the pack. And then there was my other new friend, Tommy.
Tommy lived 1 block away from my house, but he lived across a street that I was not allowed to cross by myself. Getting to go over to Tommy’s was always a big deal, because I had to have special permission and mom’s help to go back and forth to Tommy’s house. Besides being playmates, Tommy and I would also walk to school together. At age 5, the quarter-mile walked seemed like a hike on the Appalachian trail. But we always had fun, discussing the latest Saturday morning cartoons, or the newest Six Million Dollar Man episode.
I think Tommy was a little jealous, because my parents had bought me a Six Million Dollar Man action figure. The only action figures he had were his older sister’s Ken and Barbie dolls. No comparison, in my humble opinion.
Out of the Blue
It’s funny how certain moments seem to be etched forever in your memory. I can still remember the warmth of the June sun. The fact that I was wearing my favorite motorcycle t-shirt. And that I had been waiting for Tommy at the outside exit, on the far end of the elementary school, right at the edge of our concrete playground.
Tommy was a little late today and as he exited the building he said something to me. I don’t remember what he said. But then, out of the blue, he clenched his fist and punched me square in the nose. It knocked me to the ground. I remember feeling light-headed as I struggled to get back to my feet. As I stood, I realized that there was a warm liquid gushing down my face and onto my shorts. I had a bloody nose.
I looked to my left as I clutched my nose to see Tommy sprinting towards home. As I coughed on the blood, a classmate and her older sister exited and were shocked to see me bleeding all over the pavement. They helped me to the nurse, where my bloody nose was attended to. After the bleeding stopped, I was escorted to the principal so that I could report what happened and who had done this.
The principal asked if we had been fighting. No, we had never fought. She then asked who hit me. I told her it was Tommy. She wrinkled her nose a bit, sighed, and then told me to walk home with the two good Samaritans that had peeled me off the pavement. They we’re more than happy to escort me home, where my nose got some motherly attention and some chocolate milk to help ease my injury.
Sometimes,You Never Know Why
After the incident, a few phone calls were made and Tommy came over to tearfully apologize. He never did say why he punched me. We never really played again and he moved away after school finished that year, so I never saw him again.
Just like that, a sucker punch to the nose and the relationship was over. No explanation, no reasons given. Done.
Now that I’m older, I realize that something must have been terribly upsetting in Tommy’s world for him to lash out violently. Were his parents getting divorced? Was he being abused? Was he a foster child? I just don’t know.
But that’s how life is sometimes, you get sucker punched in the nose. By the time you’ve regained your footing, life has changed and you’re not really sure why.