I Have Punched People
The first person I punched in the face was Brian S., in fifth grade. He was sitting across from me in our basement cafeteria that smelled of cheap bread. He was calling me fat, and he kept doing it. He was a heartless little kid, endlessly amused with himself. As I recall I leapt over the table, over paper bags and trays and milk cartons, and started to pound his face with my fists. Being pulled off of him I thought, “It’s just like on televison,” but mostly I was full of rage.
We were both sent to the principal, a hen in large fake pearls and blue pumps who thought it was 1950 instead of 1977. Brian was still snickering, I had not managed to hurt him at all. “Girls and boys at our school must not fight,” the principal said.
I said, “I wish I could hit him some more.”
“You must promise that you won’t ever hit him or anyone again,” she said. Also, we were supposed to apologize to each other.
“Sorry,’ said Brian sneeringly.
My father came in to get me, Brian and I were both suspended for a day. My dad was really mad. Usually his anger made me feel bad. I didn’t feel bad at all. I cared about only one thing: myself. “I am not sorry, and I am not promising anything,” I said. He got madder but when he saw it had no effect on me he just sighed and shrugged.
The second time I hit someone was in 2000, at the Fiona Apple concert where she walked off stage, at the Roseland Ballroom in New York. This was before the iconic non-concert started. My friend barely bumped into this guy and she said “I’m sorry!” and he said “Watch where you’re going you stupid bitch,” and I said, “Fuck you, asshole,” and he said “Shut up you fucking dyke,” and I just jumped on him and started punching him. He was huge, I was barely getting anything in there, but he was surprised and I think really drunk. I was just one or two drinks drunk which gave me courage, but with still-decent motor skills. “What the fuck” he kept saying, as he protected his face with his hands. I think I kind of fell off him, like you fall off a wall you’re trying to climb.
What a weird night.
I mention this only because it’s my one successful moment of physical aggression: I once pulled a woman out of a taxi.
It was my taxi. I had hailed it, and it had stopped for me, in pouring rain. My friend was slightly behind, running toward me up Sixth Avenue, about to get into the taxi with me on the curb side, when a woman and some guy jumped into it from the street side. “Get out,” I said, leaning into the open window. “This is our taxi.”
“Finders keepers,” the taxi stealer said. I’ll never forget that. It’s the ultimate thing to say if you’re truly curious about what can happen after.
She was smaller than me, and maybe twenty-two, with a self-satisfied little face and a tiny purse. I was about thirty and all my stuff was in my pockets. “Seriously, get out of the taxi,” I said. My friend was now standing next to me.
“Make me,” the woman said.
I opened the door, grabbed her arms and pulled her onto the street. It was so easy. She weighed nothing. “You crazy bitch!” she screamed. “Jared, help me!” she screamed. The guy was already out of the taxi, just standing there staring at his feet.
My friend and I got into the taxi and headed to Billy’s, on First Avenue. “That was amazing,” said my friend, who was English, and, I found out years later, probably a spy. “Really surprising how enjoyable that all was.”
We talked about how it was not a good practice to take someone’s taxi.