When I turned ten, I remember thinking that I should go back in time and visit the other me that was turning five. I remembered how cool it was when it had happened the first time.
So I did, and when I got back, I was waiting for me. To be precise, the fifteen year old version of me was waiting. The fifteen year old me had a lot more to say. He had just started high school, and he explained that he had experienced a lot of things, good and bad, that he thought I should know about.
He told me he was telling me about our future so I could stop some stuff from happening.
The fifteen year old me insisted that I start thinking about my school work more seriously. He hadn’t yet, and he was sure that if I started at ten it would be a good thing for the both of us. He explained that high school was a lot harder than middle school, and the other kids were the worst part. He explained that most of our friends from middle school had begun playing sports, and so we didn’t see them very much. I asked why we weren’t playing sports with all our friends, and he looked at me funny.
“We aren’t going to play because we’re serious about our school work and want to get into a good college. All those guys are doing is starting to turn into a bunch of losers.”
His answer annoyed me. I thought my friends were pretty cool, and I loved playing with them. I explained this to the older me, and he looked unhappy.
“You think they’re cool now. Just wait.”
He explained we would have our first fight, and we didn’t win.
“Look, when your friends tell you they’ll have your back, that actually means that they’ll stand at your back and watch you fight. They’re fucking liars and cowards. So, you better start asking mom now if we can take karate or boxing or something. Otherwise you’ll just end up like I did. Those guys are assholes. The people you think are your friends…aren’t.”
I asked him if we lost the fight.
“Well no, but we didn’t exactly win either. There was a lot of pushing. He pushed me…I pushed back. We wrestled around on asphalt for a while, and I got all cut up. That totally sucked. He was a fat guy and he ended up falling on me. I punched him when he was on top of me, but I still ended up getting a fat lip before our friends pulled him off and broke up the fight.”
“It was embarrassing,” he said softly.
I asked if he had at least fattened the other guy’s lip, too.
“No. I split his. He looked way worse immediately after the fight because he was all bloody, but it healed really fast. I had to walk around with a fat lip for a week and a half and get made fun of. People called us all kinds of fucked-up names.”
I didn’t want people making fun of me for a week and a half. I couldn’t believe my friends would just watch as I got beat up. But I knew I wouldn’t lie to myself. Then it occurred to me to ask the other me why we got into a fight. The other me stared for a minute or so and then smiled.
“I’m not telling you that. That’s actually kinda cool. Just remember we have to look out for each other because our friends won’t stand up for us when they say they will. They’re liars. Just remember that, okay?”
I promised him I would. He also wanted to make sure that I started studying more. I agreed, I told him that school work was really, really easy, and it was boring.
“I know it is. And it will be in high school, too. Well, at least your freshman year. I don’t know about the others yet, but your freshman year is pretty easy. But look, the important thing to remember is that you’re…no, WE, are better than our friends. Just remember to let them do whatever they want. Stay away from them.”
I promised myself that I would. Then I asked him if we have a girlfriend.
“Look, I don’t think I should tell you. I’m not sure myself. The girl thing is new to me, too.” He laughed a little and then his face darkened. “Just remember what I told you about the fight and the dickbags you call friends, okay?”
I said I would, and then I told the other me thanks for visiting and happy birthday. He told me the same and turned to leave. He spun around quickly and said, “Oh. Almost forgot. Remember to study. You need to get serious about our school work because we want to get into a good college.”
I promised I would and he left.
That same day I asked my mother if I could take karate lessons. She said no, but I kept asking her, and when I turned twelve, she finally broke down and said yes. I was so excited. I knew the fifteen year old me would approve.
I started training in karate and studying more. I liked karate then, and to this day it remains a place of calm where I can escape. I dedicated all my free time to training. Well, kinda. I mean, I was twelve, so I did what I could. My friends didn’t understand why I stopped hanging out with them as much.
I really didn’t understand it either. But I was never one to argue with myself. I think it hurt their feelings. I tried not to notice.
The beginning of my freshman year in high school I found out why I got in the fight. I had skipped school with a group of friends. A girl I liked skipped with us. Turned out she liked me too. We went to a friend’s house whose parents were at work, and that day I kissed the pretty girl on my friend’s porch swing. I remember the swinging motion threw me off. Our teeth clacked when we kissed.
It was awkward. But it was still a kiss.
When I went home that day my dad was already off work. I thought it was a bit odd that he was home at 4:00.
Turns out that someone had told the principal we ditched school, so she had called my dad. Since I was a pretty good kid my parents went easy on me. They had me tell them everything that went on that day, which I did, all except for the part that involved me and a girl and a kiss.
I had to report to ISS at school. One of the other guys in ISS told me who ratted us out. He said we should meet’em after school behind the cafeteria. He said our other friends would be there, too. I told him okay. But I knew what was going to happen.
Correction: I knew what had happened before.
When the asshole that told on us showed up (he was mad we hadn’t asked him to skip school with us so he tattled) I asked him why the fuck he told principal. He told me to get the fuck out of his face.
I remembered the other me had said people made fun of my lip for a week and a half. Week and a half.
He started to shove me and walk past, but before his hands even touched my chest, I hit him squarely the nose with my right fist. The punch was fast. And strong.
His nose sounded like a piece of celery snapping. It felt like I’d punched a rice cake. Before the blood even had time to pour out of his nostril, I hit him in the mouth with a left cross.
Just like in karate class. Ich. Ni. One. Two.
He stumbled backwards into the crowd. They held him up. He started to make a wailing-like cry in between bloody gurgles.
No one was laughing.
He was just standing there, leaning against the crowd, holding his nose, crying, saying stop. I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t protecting himself. He just stared and wailed and bled.
A week and a half.
I picked up my right leg and kicked in a downward motion at his left knee. I connected right above his knee joint.
If his nose sounded like celery, his knee sounded like a fluorescent light bulb bursting.
Lots of screaming.
The crowd dropped him. I got into the mounted position and chain-punched until he stopped wailing.
My friends pulled me off and we ran away from the cafeteria.
I spent the afternoon in my bedroom, wondering if I had killed the guy. I knew I shouldn’t have kept hitting him, but I didn’t want to disappoint myself.
The girl I had kissed turned out to be a little clingy, and when she began to interfere with my school work, I broke up with her. And just as I had told myself, I was drifting farther and farther from my friends.
When I woke up on my fifteenth birthday, the twenty year old me was already waiting in our room.
“Wake the fuck up” he said. “And don’t sleep so goddamn much. You’re wasting our fucking time.”