Heavy Hitter’s Burden

Picture this: Two or more kids are play-fighting or playing a rough sport together, one kid gets hit too hard and immediately, their mouth locks open, tears well up in their eyes and they begin a long, weepy, drawn out groan that gets louder and louder until their cries sound like the distress call of a wounded animal that had fallen into a ravine and broken its legs. Quick as a flash and with their once youthful boisterousness now turned into stone-cold horror and panic at the thought of being punished by the adult tasked with looking after them, the kid’s playmates do everything they can to placate the hurt child, apologizing profusely and gently trying to calm them down. When that plan fails they try to coerce their friend into shutting up and adding some empty threat of further bodily harm or stealing a prized possession for good measure. More often than not, though, the only real remedy to the problem is to let the poor kid cry it out until they’ve gotten over the pain – hopefully before the adult in charge catches them and then punishes them for acting the fool.

I’m fairly certain that everyone, as children, had been the hurt kid that cried bloody murder after sustaining a hard knock. Or perhaps they were the guilty child that tried to calm the crying kid down in a panic.
But more than likely, they’ve played both roles.
Me myself, there have been times where I shed a few tears as a kid after being socked too hard while roughhousing with my friends in the playground at school or with my cousins but I can’t say I reached in deep enough into my reservoir of emotions where I completely lost it and caused my playmates to scramble and attempt to shush me. I preferred instead to suppress any pain I felt so as not to give them the satisfaction of having reduced me to a crying, screaming mess though I did let a few tears fall. I mostly saved my emotions for losing while playing video games, missing out on a gaming session or whenever my favorite TV shows were cancelled.

Anyway, there is one particular memory from my childhood that comes to mind when I think about this scenario and on this particular day, I was the panicked kid trying to calm a friend down after our play-fighting went too far. It was lunchtime at school and me and my friend (let’s call him Mark) decided to fight like the characters from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, despite the fact that his arm was encased in a sling due to an arm injury he had sustained after falling off his bed a few days earlier. It was the early 1990s and those two games were the talk of the gamer world and we were among those hooked. While I’ve stopped gaming a long time ago, I remain a fan of both series and still follow them to this day.
Common sense would have dictated that Mark should have kept his inner Ryu or Scorpion locked up tight but as a couple of eight-year olds neither him nor I had any semblance of caution and he was probably eager to prove that, even with a wounded wing, he could kick my ass.

It was on.

Ok, Bud. You asked for it.

He had a height and reach advantage over me but what he had in height he lacked in width and girth (he was rather lanky) and so as the shorter kid, I decided that the best way to combat his reach would be to get inside, rough him up and try to wrestle him to ground.
We started off feeling each other out, circling one another like a couple of young wolves preparing to duke it out for leadership of the pack. Mark made the first move as he lunged at me with his healthy arm in an attempt to jab me but I slipped over to the side and grabbed him and we ended up wrestling and grappling one another, trying to force the other to yield. He was coming at me with everything he could muster while I was nice enough hold back so as not to accidentally hurt the injured arm. The grappling ended up a stalemate and so we separated before going in for round two and somewhere in that second round our feet became entangled and we began to tumble towards the ground. I reflexively grabbed onto Mark’s bad arm on the way down and in doing so, accidentally jerked it hard as we both hit the ground with a thud.

We both sat up immediately and as I began to dust myself off and check for any cuts or scrapes, I snuck a quick peek at Mark. He was sitting where he had fallen and I watched as his face contorted and tears began to well up in his eyes.
This was not good.
Mark’s mouth quivered before opening wide to turn his whimpering into banshee-like screaming that threatened to alert any teachers on playground duty. Panic immediately set in and I tried to help Mark to his feet, attempting to grab the hand of his healthy arm but he wasn’t having any of it. He yanked his hand away, content to stay on the ground crying and show everyone what I had done to him even though he was a willing participant in the scuffle and was foolish enough to think he could fight while injured. I could only watch in disbelief as he continued to wail.

Man, shut the fuck up! You’re gonna get us both into trouble!

I knelt beside him and apologized, resisting the urge to place both hands over his mouth as he continued howling and sobbing hysterically while rubbing his bad arm.
‘I’m so sorry, man,’ I apologized, ‘I didn’t mean it, it was an accident.’
‘I wish you didn’t do that!’ he shot right back, ‘I think you made my arm worse!’
Well shit, it’s not like I ripped the fuckin’ limb off and more to the point, he should have known better. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Still, I did feel genuine remorse towards him, it sucks to hurt a friend no matter the circumstances.
Luckily, he calmed down after a few minutes of letting his emotions out and I gradually helped him up to his feet before we dusted the dirt off from our uniforms, breathing a sigh of relief that our little commotion didn’t alert a teacher or any other student wanting to play the snitch. Neither of us were the type to hold a grudge and once the adrenaline had calmed down and Mark’s tears had well and truly dried out we were all laughs and jokes again although round three would have to wait for another day. The rest of the day went by smoothly and by the end of it, our little tussle was ancient history.

Yeah, that’s one of the most vivid memories I have of long, agonized, screaming crying that comes with being hit too hard by a sibling or friend during mock-fighting, a staple of many funny childhood memories. Mark and I sadly went our separate ways following primary school and I haven’t seen or heard from him since, though I did reunite with a mutual friend of ours a few years ago (let’s call this friend Andy). It was during another friend’s bachelor party at a strip club and Andy happened to be one of the guests.
Of all the settings to run into an old friend, huh?
Anyway where was I?…..Ok, after the strippers at the club did their thing and they were in intermission, Andy told me – or rather, shouted at me over the loud music – that he, too, had lost touch with Mark but still got to see him get married and then become a father before they drifted apart.

‘Good for him,’ I thought. I was glad to know he got his own happy ending.

Mark and I probably wouldn’t even recognize each other now if we crossed paths and I’m sure he had long forgotten about that little scrap of ours from when we were a couple of rambunctious eight-year olds doing our best impersonations of Ken and Ryu and I unintentionally tugged on his injured arm and made him cry.

But I haven’t!

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