I heard "Hush" by Deep Purple on the radio this morning, and out of nowhere I thought about a bully in my seventh-grade class who wore Led Zeppelin, Slayer, and Metallica shirts to school, all of which were bands the students knew. But on that one day, or sometimes two, out of the week, he would spend a good portion of the day trying to explain just who the hell Deep Purple were. Sure, now I know that they were famous for having lots of keyboards in their hard rock sound, they had Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, and were famous for playing a song that you only need to know a few chords to play: "Smoke on the Water," but at the time I didn't know anything about the band or the boy wearing it, excpet that he scared the shit out of me.
One day he wore a Slayer shirt on a school spirit day where we had to wear our colors, red and white, and he inadvertently had those colors on his shirt. He was bragging to everyone that he was showing his school spirit with a gruesome Slayer shirt, and the teacher said, "Jake," we'll call him Jake, "why don't you get up and parade around the room in your Slayer shirt to show everyone, and he DID it! He marched around the room displaying his shirt, cavorting around the room, flipping his long, dirty blond hair around, and all I could think was, "I'm scared of this kid, and I'm scared of Slayer."
Frightened as I may have been of his apparel, I actually came to his defense when administration banned heavy metal shirts but continued to allow girls to wear their New Kids on the Block shirts. This teacher thought I made a great point, and I think it was then that she told me I had one of the brightest minds in the school if I'd only apply myself. I got that a lot, but never quite like that. But, I didn't set out to tell you what an underachiever I was and still am; I'm here to tell you about the biggest bully I've ever known.
I work in education, and on the whole, I really do believe that kids are meaner and nastier these days. While that may be true, this guy would have given anyone at my current place of employment a run for their money. He may even have taken on the top three or four the baddest baddies at once. He got in a fight just about every week, and he logged hours and hours of solitary confinement time in the in-school suspension room. He was like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape , only younger, wearing more heavy metal shirts, and instead of bouncing a rubber ball, he got his jollies beating up other seventh-graders.
Maybe it's because we both donned blond mullets at the time, but for whatever reason, he liked me. I remember one time I walked into the bathroom to find Jake just hiding out for a while, probably having just finished a Marlboro red, and he said, "Let's slam dance!" I didn't know what the hell that meant because I had never been to a heavy metal concert, or any concert for that matter. I think at the time I was into Vanilla Ice. Before I knew what was going on, he was colliding into me repeatedly, vigorously, with his shoulder, but with a big shit-eating grin on his face. All I could do was slam back into him with a bony shoulder of my own. Despite being short in stature, he was really strong, and I found myself inching closer and closer to the tiled wall . . . At which point he stopped and we went back to class. I was so scared and happy it was over that I forgot to go pee.
Jake reeked of smoke every day. I had a locker next to his, and he stunk of that awful combination of leather and cigarette smoke. He'd be opening his locker singing, "Your mother was a witch. She was burned alive. Satan's little bitch . . ." Now I know that is from "Am I Evil", one of the bonus tracks off a now out of print version of Metallica's first album, Kill 'Em All, originally performed by Diamond Head, but at the time, I just stared straight ahead into my locker, hoping that he wouldn't look at me, hoping that he wasn't talking my mother, his, or anyone's.
One time I was in health class with him (I seemed to have every class with him), and we were getting our drug education. Jake was giving the class an education of his own when he asked questions like, "What do you call those pills that are small and yellow cause my sister gave me some and I was all messed up . . ." I don't think he was talking about Nuprin. He probably could have given us a sex education lecture as well. I remember rumors of him having sex with the the class slut (I was horrified that we had a few in junior high having not even started masturbating yet) behind a dumpster while his friends waited at the end of the alley for him to finish. Really? This guy seemed to have enough life experiences after middle school to just chill out and join the Peace Corps at the ripe-old age of forteen.
He went to a different high school than me, which is good because he probably would have had every class with me again, but during my junior year I remember someone in my study hall, where everyone bullshitted and no one studied much of anything, telling me that he ran into him. He said something innocent to Jake like, "Hey, we went to Junior High together!" Jake started punching him in the face, perhaps for old time's sake?
What the hell was wrong with this boy? As an adult and an educator, all I can think about is what was being done at the time to help get this young man get on the right path and keep him from hurting anyone on a daily basis. Also, I wonder what his parents were like? Actually, as I typed that, I remember his mother, and she had a feathered mullet, looked as if she were more of a buddy than a mom to him, and she probably got her son stoned and made him the only Deep Purple fan in the district. I thought of most of this in the span of five minutes during my car ride, constructing a long-winded blog about shit that happened twenty years ago, just having heard a self-indulgent keyboard solo. I need a blog bully to shove my head in a toilet the next time I get on a tangent like this.
How about you, Seven Readers? Tell us about a bully when you were a kid. What did he/she do? Why do you think they did it? Most importantly, what rock bands were they into and do you think of them when a song pops on during your morning commute, or is that just me?