A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in the produce section of a grocery store when I heard someone behind me say, “Well, look who it is.” The someone was named Brett, and I hadn’t seen him in more than twenty years. Brett and I had gone to high school together, and during our senior year he fell under the impression I was trying to steal his girlfriend. I was. But, since Brett was much bigger than me and had one of those tempers people describe as “liable to go off,” I had been trying to do it as covertly as possible, but with little success.
Things reached a head when I got up the nerve to give Brett’s girlfriend an earring, the one I wore in my left ear. I’d seen a character in a John Hughes’ movie do it and thought it would be a romantic gesture, certain to bond us together for eternity, or at least until senior prom. But when I removed the earring and placed it in Brett’s girlfriend’s palm, she looked at me like I had just handed her the gum out of my mouth. Word quickly got back to Brett, who issued an official statement on the matter: My ass was scheduled to be kicked in the student parking lot immediately after school.
At 3:15, I walked to my car where, nearby, a sizable crowd had gathered, separated into two distinct factions. The larger group was comprised of Brett’s friends: burly, scowling guys in hiking boots, sleeveless shirts, and camou age caps. They could have been mistaken as a casting call for a Deliverance sequel. In comparison, my fan base, a handful of pale, skinny guys dressed in black, looked like they were waiting in line for Depeche Mode tickets Brett and I stood facing each other, and he ared his nostrils and clinched his sts. For a moment I thought he might tilt his head from side to side and crack his neck like a villain in a kung fu movie. I was certain I was about to be pummeled and fairly sure that at some point during the ght one of my greatest fears would be realized and my eyeball would pop out of its socket. But before the violence began, the assistant principal appeared and everyone quickly dispersed. I spent the rest of the school year avoiding Brett and focused on being turned down by girls without large, temperamental boyfriends.
Now, two decades later, Brett and I faced off again. But this time, he just smiled and told me about his daughter who was a senior at UT and his son, a high school wrestler who’d made all- state. He told me about his back surgery and his new pontoon boat and his Dachshund that had recently been run over. The more I tried to extricate myself from the conversation, the more Brett continued to talk. At one point he handed me a business card with his picture on it and explained how I could save money if I combined my home and auto policies. When he segued from telling me about his wife’s in-home tax preparation business to giving me his opinions on the upcoming election, I realized what was going on. It may have taken more than twenty years, but Brett was nally getting the opportunity to punish me. He pounded me for close to half an hour, and I’m proud to say I took it like a man.