He's smiling at me. No he's smirking at the person behind me. Here we go. Boom! Right across right side of my head. Football boots this time. It hurts like hell but all I feel is dumb. I start walking away, I whimper ‘Don't start this shit again’. Which they all repeat in unison. On the way home all I keep thinking is another year and a half of school. These incidents aren’t constant but its enough to make me feel on edge. I hate not knowing when and most of all why. I don't even have the urge to fight back. Sadly that will come later in life.
It's maybe a month later and there's someone in the playground not in uniform. Ryan’s here. My brother. Why is Ryan here? He's walking with this energy about him like he has something important to do. He’s looking for someone but it's not me. He towers over this boy his finger pointed right at his face. They're too far away for me to hear. He doesn't hurt him, just looks at him in a way I’ve never seen before. It could only have been a few seconds but that moment stuck with me for a long time. I never knew what he said but that boy never bothered me again.
I’m in my mid 20’s I’m three belts in. Fitter and more focused then I’ve ever been. We high five with our boxing gloves on and i think to my self I’ve always wanted to do that. I pay Dave for an hours private session but half the time we end up talking about life and I love it. For me that was always the easy part. In my youth I had struggled with masculinity and company of other men. But when I began martial arts I felt so empowered not because I wanted to hurt people but because I was less afraid about being hurt. I tell him about my recent encounter on the train. I was travelling into work with friends, I’m telling a story of some kind. Out of nowhere someone a row away tells me to shut up as I’m talking to much. I’m stunned and ask ‘are you talking to me?’ he mutters something aggressive but completely inaudible. Staring at me through the gap in the chairs I can hear him punching his fist into the palm of his hand. And he doesn’t look away. I recoil into my self. I’m that boy in the playground again and the whole carriage suddenly feels very quiet. Dave asks something like ‘Well what happen then?’ ‘well nothing really, he kept whispering and glaring until he got off’. But I was disappointed at how scared I was. I remember Dave's reaction to my story. It wasn’t filled with any bravado. He didn’t tell me how well I could of handled myself if it had come to it or which is the best position to choke the guy out. His reaction was more of - he walked away, then you walked away and no one got hurt. So what you mean to say is the right thing happened and maybe it's something you don’t need to worry over. We don’t train this hard to get into situations, we do it to stay out of them.
We're both men now. We're here because I text my immediate family saying 'I'm not ok haven't been ok for a long time. I need some space and most of all I need you all to be patience’. I hear from my brother a day later and here we are. Both sitting eating breakfast together. I can't remember the last time we were alone. I keep thinking how strange this feels. It's because it's real. This is no hi mate how's the kids ? This is a real conversation. The type of encounters with men I've been running from all my whole life. He’s looking at me like he knows what I’m going through. He's telling me how much he used to hate me when we were kids. My acting had taken me to exciting places and at times he couldn't help but feel pushed out. But it wasn't me he hated he’d come to realise it was just the situation. Growing up there was always a part of me that wished I was more like him and maybe that would have made life easier for me. But now I realise when we were boys he was in my shadow and was in his shadow. We've always been Chalk n cheese, but in some ways we meet right in the middle. We don't hug. I offer my hand though. He shook it with a smug satisfaction. He was pleased with himself. Like he'd been meaning to fix a crooked picture on the wall and today he put it right. It had been a long time coming but something in me shifted that day and clicked firmly into place.