As blood poured down my face, I activated the camera on my phone and snapped a picture. Being kicked in the face had it’s perks.
Only moments before, I was on the ground letting out an ugly howl/shriek/cry as I clutched my face. By the lightning pain shooting through my face, I could tell my nose was broken. I had gotten into a fight with three guys and decided to take one to the ground. You don’t win three on ones, you just pick someone to hurt as badly as possible before you get your ass stomped. I’ve been in enough fights to know it is nothing like the movies. People don’t come at you one at a time. They swarm, punching and grabbing you from every which direction.
When the first big guy threatened me with a good time, I gladly obliged him. Connecting with a clean right he didn’t see coming, I followed it up with a left before I felt the next guy grab me. Shimmying out of my shirt, I swung wildly before making my own grab for someone. As I took one to the ground, I figured the end would be soon. I began throwing as many elbows and fists into the dude’s face as fast as possible.
The first punch to the back of the head did nothing to stop my swinging. When an uppercut came, I rolled away hoping that would be enough. As a boot made impact with my ribs, I wanted to laugh. If I wasn’t gasping for breathe from being kicked in the ribs, I might of. Clutching my now bruised ribs, I made the one and only mistake of the night. I left my face unguarded. As the boot connected with my nose, the searing pain blinded me.
I couldn’t tell you how long I laid there mixing blood and tears into the dirt, but when I got up most of the people had cleared out.
I didn’t care about the bruised ribs. Or the broken face. My mouth filled with blood, I cared about taking a selfie.
Many years ago, as a kid I followed some pretty heavy metal bands on Myspace. I remembered this one lead singer who had a profile pic of him with blood running down his face. I don’t know why, but I always wanted a photo like that. It seemed like the perfect picture to describe how I felt. Bloodied, broken, but smiling. It captured my daily struggle with life.
Snapping that selfie was like crossing a life goal off my list.
“Are you taking a fucking selfie?” Someone said, half horrified, half laughing.
There is a certain madness I know I carry. To take a picture moments after being sprawled out in the dirt is insanity. But, I was alive. A bit broken, but alive nonetheless.
There is a line I love from the movie Green Street Hooligans. Once you’ve taken a few punches and realize you’re not made of glass, you don’t feel alive unless you’re pushing yourself as far as you can go.
Maybe part of my problem is the romanticism I wrapped violence in growing up. In today’s world, that isn’t acceptable. But, when I was growing up, fighting was something you did.
As a boy, I fought because I was the only white kid in an all-Mexican neighborhood. When I moved to Connecticut, I fought because I was angry and having a hard time assimilating. If you have never been West Coast to East Coast, you wouldn’t understand the shift. People are nicer out west. The east is rife with stuck up folks who wouldn’t know politeness if it hit them in the face. So I hit them in the face.
I am not proud of the broken knuckles I have accrued over the years. For awhile, violence was all I knew. When I became a father and tried to live my life in a more thoughtful manner, I realized the world was changing for the better. Out back bare knuckle brawling wasn’t something I wanted my kids to embrace.
It always kills me when I see people bitch about how the world is changing. It’s too politically correct. People these days want things the last generation had to work for. Back in the day, my parents beat me and I turned out fine.
All of that, all of it, is bullshit. Trying to make a world where a kid doesn’t feel the need to lash out violently because he is different is a world I am happy to be a part of building. I want my kids to not have to worry if they are different. I want your kids not to worry, too. As far as free handouts, if I can do my part to get children the chance to go to school, go to the doctor, do things I didn’t always get the chance to do growing up- I am going to be for that. It doesn’t feel like entitlement to want to leave the world a better place for my children. I once had a chair thrown at my back because I wasn’t going to my room fast enough. I can remember every ass-whooping I got growing up. I can barely remember the hugs and kisses.
I didn’t turn out fine. I turned out a fucking mess.
Unless you are working your dream job, in your dream home, with your dream car- chances are you didn’t turn out fine either. This isn’t me judging or attempting to condemn the past generation. They did what they felt was best. I am hopeful of that at least. But if I have to see the guy I went to high school with, who was smarter than me back in the day, say he turned out fine because he got ass-whooping as a kid- I might go crazy. Working at the local gas station in the same shitty town you grew up in doesn’t mean you turned out fine.
In today’s world, you are more crazy for wanting to provide free tuition than you are for snapping a picture after getting your face broken in. Nobody sees something wrong with that?
People complain about everything changing in the world as we try to build a more inclusive society. I don’t think we are doing enough. I don’t want Today’s world.
I want Tomorrow’s world.