Lauren told me about the guy before:
They had met at work and hung out all the time. She was still living at home and whenever she stayed out, she would say she was staying at her friend’s. Nobody knew she was with him; and even though they were always together they never called each other boyfriend and girlfriend.
He told her that when he was younger, he had loved a girl and they had even been engaged, but the girl had called it off; she broke his heart. And since then, he said, he messed with girls.
I wasn’t sure what that meant. And I asked Lauren if he had “messed” with her.
Lauren looked down at the floor and said, “He would do this thing where he would act like he was going to hit me.”
In public school I never flinched at the false blows guys throw to show that they are in control, that they could follow through, that they had power. I knew if you didn’t flinch, then that was supposed to show you weren’t afraid. But I didn’t flinch because I thought the game was stupid.
In addition to not flinching, I developed a no-fucking-around stare after I got in one fight back in seventh grade. I had held a kid in a headlock and made him apologize to me. Once, I shared this fight story with a guy in my high school debate class because I wanted to seem macho after he had told me about beating up kids for no reason.
That guy had said he would hit the soft parts of a kid’s body: nose, eyeballs, throat, anywhere on the face; so the kid couldn’t hide from his friends that he just had his ass kicked. I didn’t ask, but I believe because the guy thought I was a fighter he felt he could tell me how to do it: “Hit hard. Hit him as hard as you can at the beginning and just keep hitting, homey. Whale on that motherfucker.”
I don’t know the guy before’s name or even what he looks like. Lauren never told me. If I knew, then I’d imagine:
I would come out of nowhere. His survival instinct would kick in and he’d try his hardest to fight or escape, but I would be ready with my glasses already off and my running sneakers on. I’d catch him if I had to and I’d beat the soft parts of his face: nose, eyeballs, throat. I would keep whaling on that motherfucker until he crumpled and then I would stand over the puddle of what he once was. He would have to know that I didn’t have any mercy for him, so instead of pleading, in between his gargles for breath, he would ask, “Why?”
In that moment, his question to me would also be my question to myself. I would answer:
“I don’t want you to say you’re sorry; I want you to be sorry.”