In which I am evil and unkind..
In 5th grade I met a kid named Grant. He greeted me after school, introduced himself, and before I knew it had invited himself to come over to my house and play. Or maybe I invited him, but if I did it was because he put a spell on me or something. Actually, what I remember is him saying "Can I come over and play?" and me not knowing what to say other than Yes.
Grant was big and strong. He had thick glasses with black plastic frames, and he was socially clueless (ie, he was friendly, open, and totally lacking in cool.) I think mentally he may have been a little slow. Looking back only a few years later, I realized that Grant was a great person. He didn't have my insecurities and neuroses, my hyper-concern about how I looked to others, my desperate need to be accepted. He was friendly, nice, and honest. And because these qualities made him such a dork, he also didn't have any friends.
With our friendship 30 seconds old, he began to ask questions. "So, do you like games? What do you like to play?" He's decided that we're going to be friends, and we need to get on with the business of nurturing this friendship. Hence the questions -- after all, how can we be friends if he doesn't know what I like?
But this is too weird for me. He's not following the script -- the one where we act cool and give each other crap and gradually decide if we like each other or not. I feel sorry for him for being so friendly and vulnerable and dorky.
Anyway, we walk most of the way to my house together. I do not warm to him as we walk. He makes me nervous and his naked need for friendship makes me uncomfortable. This was a couple of years before I became a social pariah myself, before I developed the famous empathy I go on about ad naseum today. In 5th grade I was still a popular kid, with friends. I had no idea what it would be like to be Grant. I wish I hadn't been such a shallow little snot, but there it is.
Some kids from our school approach us. These kids know Grant, and they don't like him -- he's a little different, so of course he must be mocked unmercifully. They call him names from across the street until he suddenly runs toward them as if to attack them. They scatter, and he comes back to me, panting and grinning.
The kids regroup a little further away, and the name-calling begins again. I say, "Hey, go after them again!" So he does. And I take the opportunity to run into an alley and hide from him.
This time when he returns, I'm nowhere to be found. He comes a little way down the alley. I peek out from behind some garbage cans. I think he sees me, because he gets a sad, resigned look on his face, then slowly turns around and walks away.
I go home by myself. I don't want to think very hard about what I did.
The next day at school, it dawns on me that I have made an enemy of Grant. I have dissed him even worse than the others, because I did it from a position of friendship.
Someone tells me that Grant is looking for me, and he's not happy. After school, I hurry toward home, but I am too late -- Grant is trotting after me, full of righteous indignation and wounded pride. He is still big. His black plastic glasses don't seem so funny any more.
I stop and face him as he runs toward me on the grass. I make as if to meet him, but turn aside at the last minute. His knee hits my quadriceps muscle and my whole leg goes numb. I collapse on the grass, crying like a girl. Grant doesn't even bother to beat me up, just looks down at me, blubbing and snotting on the grass, then walks away.
It hurt like the devil. I limped all the way home. The next day I had a big bruise, but I knew I deserved it.