There he was, standing in the boy's restroom, leaning against a sink, smoking. The restroom was otherwise eerily empty.
I remembered the seventh grade. He was a grade ahead, taller, bigger, and stronger. He had a friend who was nearly as big, and together they would terrorize me, once even holding a knife to my throat.
I'd glimpsed him now and then in high school, but now, we were face-to-face.
He no longer scared me. I'd grown to six-four, I outweighed him by at least twenty pounds, and by God, he no longer scared me. I stood in the doorway, locking eyes with him. He didn't look scared, but he did look, well, concerned.
It was the ideal opportunity for revenge. I moved closer.
"Shit man, you got big." Now he looked just a little scared.
I remembered his knife against my neck. I felt my throat constrict. I heard my own blood pumping in my ears. I measured the distance to his nose, and imagined smashing it with the heel of my hand. I teetered on the edge of losing control.
"Still got the knife you held against my throat, asshole?" The voice coming out of me sounded guttural, primitive.
"No," he answered.
"You have a knife on you?"
"Yeah," he answered.
"Good," I said. "Try to hold it against my throat now, asshole."
He said nothing, but now he looked scared, good and scared.
"I'm sorry," he said, finally. His eyes were tearing up. He was slumped, defeated, looking like a whipped dog.
I looked at him for a moment, and something changed in me. Try as I might, I couldn't hold on to the rage I felt. It left my body like an outgoing tide.
"I can't believe I was ever afraid of a pussy like you," I said. He said nothing. He stood there, eyes downcast, looking nothing like the blond-haired boogeyman of my seventh grade year.
He graduated a month later, and I never saw him again. Not in person, anyway. But, ten years later, I would read about him in the newspaper.
He'd come out of a supermarket, where he came upon an elderly couple being accosted outside their car by a knife-welding transient. He grappled with the man while the old couple escaped back to the store. The store people called the police, but they arrived to find the transient gone, and the blond-haired boogeyman from my junior high on the pavement with multiple stab wounds.
He died in the ambulance. I wish he hadn't. I wish he would have lived, and I wish I would have known him as the man he became.
I would never have let him buy the beer. Heroes shouldn't have to buy their own beer.
Prompted by Thom G's Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are ideal, measure, and teeter.