Friday, May 4, 2007

Fist Fight

It's amazing how fast a gym floor can become dirty. They seem to suck every scrap of dirt off the bodies of the sweaty kids that run about in them. Little particles of dust that clump together, random buttons, forbidden candy wrappers, bits of shoelaces, littered across the dingy gray surface. Gyms seem to be constructed to echo as loudly as possible, heightening the hysteria of kids who spend too much time cooped up in classrooms or in front of TV screens. The energy is more than palpable, it's just plain LOUD.
I knew what I was getting into when I accepted the PE sub job at Fairview. It wasn't the first time I'd found myself within these walls that seem to speak of poverty and oppression, no matter how shiny and new the building appears. There is something that hangs around that region of Anchorage that speaks of ghettos and poverty. But I came anyway. Not because I am so selfless or loving. It's because it is my job and I get paid. It's been a long time now since I wrote my glowing essays, now filed in my employee file, idealistically talking about my desire to see children feasting on the knowledge I hold out to them in my delicate fingers. There is little room for idealism at this point. The kids here are hard and broken. They raise themselves in bitter despair. While I see the need, I feel helpless to rescue them from the prison futures I see so clearly laid out before them. So I accept these jobs, and try to remind myself that they are just children after all. Sweet gifts from God, crafted in his image.
As I walked around the gym, dodging the balls the kids were throwing at each other, I found myself searching for some sense of innocence in them. But even in play, there was a hardness, a dark competition that seems so distant from my own youth. I feel so old as the words "kids these days" echo through my mind. The sad truth, however, is that the world really does seem to be spiraling into darker realities with each passing day.
The echoing noises of children, running and playing, pounded against my already brutally throbbing head. I have a cold, and having to shout to keep them in line wasn't helpful to my scratchy throat. I figured that as long as no one was getting injured and they seemed to be enjoying themselves that it didn't matter much if they were noisily out of control.
I looked down to the far end of the gym and realized in an instant that someone was getting injured. A boy pulled his shirt up over his head and hunkered down as another boy proceeded to pummel him.
I scarcely knew I was moving as I fumbled uselessly in my pocket for my Simpson College Women's safety whistle. Anything to make some noise and hopefully avoid having to add myself to the fist flying frenzy. I've been in some pretty dodgy schools around town, but the last time I had to break up a fist fight the combatants were 7. This time I was dealing with 6th grade boys who easily out weighed me.
My mind was reeling as I reached around the attacker. His fists beat up and down blindly, rage coursing through his muscled movements. My weak attempts to pull him off were easily buffeted by his fury. I appealed to the other students to go for help from the office as my hands sought to hold the boy back.
The fists continued to pound with a mind of their own. My efforts were not appreciated by the adrenaline that drove the boy to beat and beat and beat at his classmate. As his arm came up quickly I felt his fist connect with my right cheek bone, just below my eye. Fortunately my contacts didn't decide to freak out, and a moment later the janitor came in and was able to call the boy off. Even as he ushered them toward the Principal's office the boy seemed eager to begin the beating again.
There was a dull throbbing in my face, but I was able to ignore it for the most part. Of course once the boys were removed a group of girls had to get into it as they debated whether the attack, spurned by a spitting incident that took place three days before, was warranted or not. Ai ya! I tell you, kids these days...
Visibly I didn't even come out of it with a bruise,, but even today, four days later, there is a tender spot where the fist struck me. And that's about it for the story, but now my dad can feel satisfied that I managed to embellish it a bit more.

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