Year 12! The first year of Sixth-Form, in which you are told that you are an adult, now—one obliged to continue wearing a certain uniform, abiding bollockings for untucked shirts and imperfectly knotted ties. For want of any compelling alternative, many wander directionless into this educative, social and sexual gauntlet when at their spottiest, stupidest and angriest, so sparks flew; here’s one.
My friends and I went to play basketball down the courts one lunchtime, and started jamming with some lads in Year 10. They told us that a guy assaulted a friend of theirs the weekend before, twatting him over the head with a skateboard. This I found enraging: the dude is harmless! He and his mates roundly surpassed my skill level on the court; I outplayed them by outshoving them with shoulders bigger than they had to shove with. It’s not fair: exploiting your age and physicality to win, especially so when it comes to violence. I was angry. So, what does an angry seventeen-year-old do?
I took to Facebook, that evening, which back in the day was a wild interwest as yet unpolluted by parents; full of posing and pissy teenage arguments and ‘tag a friend who…’ photos. I went on the culprit’s Facebook page and gave him some jip. The next evening, after having had a beer or five, I saw his understandably jippy replies. So I posted a ‘status’ saying some spectacularly cringe-worthy things to the effect: “Such and Such says he can kick my ass?! He is a pussy c**t t**t etcetera.” The next day or so a plethora of irretrievably embarrassing things were said each way, I cannot recall (only Facebook, the NSA and God have such power), but the gist of his response was: fight me, then.
And so it was. With every Facebook friend of each of ours as witness and soon-to-be audience, we were deigned to dance at 1 o’clock in the Sixth-Form car park. Some friends of his posted on my wall commiserating my loss and friends of mine congratulating my win in advance. I just remember a local and successful boxer’s comment that he would ‘bow down’ in front of my foe before fighting him, that streetfights are his game as boxing is his. I clearly remember thinking: fuck. Equally clearly: too late, now. I had an opportunity to ask my Dad to teach me how to punch, as he had done with my sister when the need urgently arose, but thought that my request would give it away. How so many people had wind of this over so many days in an open domain without a parent or the school being informed is beyond me and doubtlessly wouldn’t happen nowadays.
The day of the scrap was a school day, which started as one usually did. My friends mentioned the fight constantly and my nervousness was unwillingly fed by their excitement. Morning lessons were a blur, until the bell rang. I nabbed by sports bag and went alone to the changing rooms. I put on my Ireland football shirt, blue basketball shorts and trainers. I haven’t prepared, have no clue how to throw a punch and am about to fight with a purported street fighter in front of his and my friends. What the feck am I doing, I thought, making my way to the car park. I am fit and strong and play rugby and basketball, but I’m hardly going to punch him with a jump shot or rugby tackle.
Crossing the road from Sixth-Form, I caught sight of people, loads of people. My stomach dropped. I felt sick. My mind whirred impotently as I turned the hedgerow to enter the car park, seeing a legitimate crowd. People older and younger, some people I recognised from St Sampson, La Mare. I made eye contact with an older guy with tattoos I’d never seen before. I hope that’s not his friend. A mate approached me and passed me a cigarette, which I took and dragged on heartily, still walking, heart pounding sickly in my throat. I spotted my foe, stood with a group of his friends, smoking too. Not the nutter warming up boxing shadows like I’d imagined. Maybe this could be amicable, maybe he’d apologise for his actions, we all make mistakes, maybe—oh, no, he’s turned and is now sprinting dementedly toward me across the car park.
Pivot on my left foot, load it, left check hook in to the right side of his jaw, pivot out of his way as he falls unconscious to the floor. Precisely what didn’t happen. I’m glad I didn’t box then—feck me I’m glad he didn’t either. I was stood square on, didn’t think to set myself and didn’t throw anything as he jumped at pace to head-butt me. Being a head taller and going backward with his momentum, his forehead harmlessly hit the lower part of my chin, and we fell to the floor for a scrappy, gravelly grapple. I think it would look hilarious to watch, now. He managed to pin an arm as I attempt to get up with the other, and he bites the lower part of my neck. I remember yelping, “He’s biting me!” More a cry of ‘foul’ than anything else. A friend of his shouted back, “No rules!” I manage to get to my feet and he goes to rugby tackle me. I set my feet so he can’t get me down, but he continues to try, driving in to my midriff. I stand awkwardly and decide to start punching, throwing one, two, five, ten punches into the side of his head until he gives up the grapple. My turn to rugby tackle: much more successful, lifting and ragdolling him on to his back. He gets up a little slowly and as he goes for me again I swing a couple of punches, loosely and sloppily from the hip, stopping his advance. Christ I don’t like fighting, and I’m shit at it. I offer my hand, as much to end it for me as him. His mates offer more uninspiring slogans, a couple of fuck you’s, and he goes once more. I throw another couple of looping punches, one of which makes a horrible sound on his forehead, whether it’s my knuckle or the sound of impact I’m unsure. He looks dazed, bloodied and tired. I offer my shaking hand again, and he shakes it. Thank feck.
You hear the crowd when you’re fighting, I’ve come to learn through boxing in later years, but you don’t often see them. Looking at the scores of possibly underwhelmed but indubitably entertained students filling the car park, I finish a mate’s cigarette and walk toward the school. It’s all over in less than ten minutes. Walking past a teacher, who has obviously seen the commotion, she asks me what’s going on. “No idea”, I say, rushing off. She thought I should be suspended. Another teacher shook my hand.
The sort of thing I might fantasise about being able to gloat about on Facebook, when it came to being able to, I didn’t want to and decided against it. I felt humbled, and frankly scared by the whole ordeal. The dude and I made up and have chirped since. My girlfriend at the time, as all good women have a tendency to do for men, tended injury but not ego. “Nice camp boxing skills there, Liam”, she says as we watch a grainy video of my undeniably and flamboyantly camp attempts at punching, throwing from my leg in awkward arcs, before extending my hand to shake on a ceasefire. As scrappy and silly as educative and humbling, I haven’t had any car park contests since. Perhaps because I deleted Facebook, though.
After deleting Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which I used to publicise this site, visits dropped considerably. If you enjoyed this article, I’d really appreciate your clicking the title and sharing the web address on social media. Peace and chirps, Liam.