Perhaps because of the clashing cultures of North and South Lawrence, perhaps because we were acting out what our parents said at home, perhaps because we were junior high boys and needed to throw our out-of-control bodies against each other, a series of race-related fights broke out at South Junior High my ninth-grade year. I wanted in on them. One afternoon in the crowded hallway between classes, Brent Tolbert pushed me from behind to get me moving. I told him to meet me in the morning, in front of the school, trying to sound ominous. He looked at me, puzzled, and just said, “OK.” I told everyone I knew that I was going to fight him the next morning, thinking of our jostle as the undercard of some professional wrestling bill. He showed up the next morning expressionless, and followed me out to the side of the building with most of the school in our wake shouting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” When we got there, he asked me, “You really wanna do this?” I lunged at him. He picked me up with surprisingly little effort, and held me over his head. Then he put me down to his left. I lunged again, he held me in the air again, and put me down to his right. “We done.” Then he walked away. Later on in high school, when I met my birth father, I found out Brent was my cousin by marriage.

Just added to The List and the Story: Against the Eighties

AuthorJohn Proctor