Memories of a bully
by Julie Parker
Rene Manes was a female version of the neighborhood bully. She was taller than most of us girls, had long blonde hair, pale skin, and was intimidating as hell. A bit of a loner, she kept to herself, except to abuse any poor sap who unwittingly crossed her path.
One summer day, she approached a few of us who were playing marbles, and asked if she could join the game. Stunned, we just looked at her. Rene Manes not only wanted to play with us, but she actually asked permission. Speechless, all we could manage were slow, short nods.
In our school, “steely boulders” were considered the most valuable marble, followed by agates, then purees. Cat-eyes were at the bottom. In this particular game, I won my first steely boulder. I was simultaneously ecstatic and terrified, because the marble, naturally, belonged to Rene. She immediately denied my victory. A bit loony in my joy at having finally won the coveted steely boulder, I actually stood up to her. This resulted in an intensely heated debate, and ended when she shoved me on the ground. The skin of my knee scraped off, and I limped home, crying, as blood dripped down my shin.
A couple of days later, my family and my aunt and uncle’s family took a trip to Disneyland. After checking into the hotel room, my mother discovered my knee wound had become infected. As she scraped the puss off, I cried and screamed. My cousin (three years younger than I) watched the painful, grisly procedure through the hotel window, crying and screaming in harmony with me, until her mother carried her off to their room. The scar on my knee remains to this day, a subtle reminder that standing up to a strong personality does not always have a happy ending.
That fall, I had one more encounter with Her.
In my front yard, stood a tall sycamore tree, with a long, fairly straight, horizontal branch. It was about half-a-foot out of my reach, but I could jump up, grab it, pull myself up, drape a leg over it, and swing around it like I did on the monkey bars on the playground.
One afternoon, standing under said branch, I assumed the squatting position to segue into the jump. Rene happened to be walking down the street. I pretended I didn’t see her. Midway through my vertical leap, with deliberation and malice aforethought, she yelled my name, knowing that, in a knee-jerk reaction, I would automatically turn my head in response, lose momentum, and plummet to the ground. I landed on my arm, and watched her continue walking with a smile, as tears rolled down my face.
The doctor told my mother I had a sprained arm, and that I would need to wear a sling until it healed. At school the next day, Manes called me a “faker,” saying there was nothing wrong with my arm. Everyone believed her, so I took it off. When I got home, my mother was not pleased to see me sling-less. The following morning, she watched me walk down the street to ensure I kept it on. Of course, I took it off as soon as I was out of her sight. The arm managed to heal, without physical scarring. To this day, however, when someone doesn’t believe me, I can become somewhat defensive.
Manes’ family moved the following summer, and the streets became safe once again. As I grew in height and age, my self-confidence grew as well. I now stand up for those who are unable to do so, and support the underdogs. However, whenever I find myself standing next to a tall woman, those cell memories shoot up to the surface, and I have to remind myself I am no longer 8 years old.