I grew up among boys who had oversized heads on necks like flower stalks. I was considered an athlete among these boys, though I was no athlete compared to many of the boys in the tougher classes, kids who were not absurdly labeled “Intellectually Gifted Children” and assigned to the IGC class. These boys in my class from grades one to six all grew up to be wealthy men, I’m certain of it. In their presence I never had occasion to fight, or to be very tough, but that side was dormant, I suppose.
There was a guy in California named Joey, I knew him peripherally when I spent a few months out there in the mid-seventies, while all the flower stalk necked boys were working towards advanced degrees and promising careers. I found myself making drawings in spiral bound drawing books, looking out the windows of the bus as it made its way from New York to the Bay area. Joey had a small white car, perhaps a convertible, and was ahead of his time with a vanity license plate. The plate announced: JOE OUI.
We played touch football one day on a huge field of grass, two on two. It was a close game, the teams evenly matched, and we all ran for hours on a cool afternoon that turned into dusk and then a chilly evening. When it got too dark to see the passes, and our legs were burning with the cold and fatigue, we called it a day. As we were walking to the car, bone tired, Joey playfully launched himself into the air and tackled me from behind. I did not take it well.
I think Joe Oui was shocked at how quickly he found himself on his back, with me on top of him, leaning on my forearm pressed against his throat like a piece of wood. I continued to apply pressure until his face changed color and real panic began to show in his eyes. Then I stood wearily and let him get up. He clutched his throat and muttered something about what he considered my overreaction, I said nothing.
A stone killer.