This is a memoir about being young and vulnerable at the hands of a bully. Garrison was a real kid, although that is not his real name. This story is a little long for a single post, so I’ll divide it into several segments. It was cathartic to write this. I hadn’t thought of Garrison in a long time, but he made a big impact on me (pardon the pun) when I was a kid. He probably had this effect on a lot of others too. There are a lot of bullies out there still. From playgrounds to governments, from office bullies to dictators, it seems as if bullies are a fact of life for humans. Someone is always getting pleasure out of making someone else miserable. This story is dedicated to the bullied among us – may we be strong.
Gregory Garrison gave me the creeps. He was the bully of Saints Peter and Paul Elementary School in Merrillville, Indiana back in the 1960’s. He wasn’t the biggest kid on the playground. He probably wasn’t the strongest. He was by far the meanest. He had no fear. He was brutal. He was a merciless teaser. He cussed. He talked back to teachers. Even the nuns. He lied. He hurt kids. Even the grown-ups were a little afraid of him. For a while I was on his radar. I was one of his victims.
I wasn’t really a fraidy cat. I was pretty average in that department. But when Gregory Garrison was around I was terrified. “What are you lookin’ at you little creep?” he hissed at me one day. How do you answer that one?
“Nothin’” I said lamely.
“How in the world do you look at nothin’? Hey, you guys,” he laughed to his friends. "I think he’s got nothin’ between those big ears of his! Haw! Haw!” They all laughed cruelly. I shrunk away, just glad that he didn’t smack me.
Once Garrison snuck up behind me on the playground. I usually tried to stay on the other side of wherever he was. Somehow he ended up behind me and gave me a vicious shove. I fell like a tree in the forest, shocked at being so carelessly caught off guard. At first I didn’t know what happened. I came up with my fists balled; ready to clobber whoever had done that to me.
“What!? You wanna fight, you little punk?” I dropped my fighter’s stance. He could have killed me. But I was still fuming at what he had done.
“What do you want, Garrison? I didn’t do anything to you.”
"Oh yes you did. You exist. You caught my attention.”
“Whatever,” I mumbled.
“Look, you guys!” he screamed at his friends. “The little jerk has his shoes on the wrong feet!” Sure enough, as I looked down my dress shoes were on wrong. They were my good shoes – leather wing tips with laces. We were not allowed to wear tennis shoes at Saints Peter and Paul. We had a very rigid dress code. Boys had to wear shirts with ties, dark trousers and dress shoes. Girls had long plaid skirts with white blouses. The first and second graders (the “babies” and ‘tots”) had to wear plaid beanies too. Even as Garrison and his friends were tormenting me, they had on white shirts and ties.
Third graders were way to old to make such a stupid mistake. I felt foolish but I was still angry for the rough shove. “Leave me alone, Garrison!”
“Whatcha gonna do, O’Punk?” He pushed me again. I fell down hard on my butt and bit my tongue. “Look how easy he fell, guys. Probably ‘cause his feets are on the wrong legs!” They screamed laughter as they walked away, clapping each other on the backs like Garrison was the funniest thing on earth.
I spit out blood as I got to my feet. I was humiliated and hurt. Garrison got away with it. He always did. I glowered at the creeps as they went to punish someone else.