There is a certain conceit common to intelligent people who were ostracized in high school. Now we are proud that the popular cliques never accepted us. You can't categorize us. We don't fit. We wave our status as "outsiders" like some subversive political banner, in hindsight. Now that we are secure enough to know that these social distinctions are petty and absurd. Or now that we are circumspect enough to conceal our insecurities more completely...we pretend we never cared a jot.

But I remember a time when I would have grovelled for acceptance.

Pleaded. Begged. Or smashed some poor kids' faces into the dirt trying to crawl up that shaky ladder.

I would have slid to the floor and licked the sneakers of those polished cheerleaders if it could have made me one of them. If it could have made me beautiful in their eyes.

I would never have succeeded. But God knows I made my small attempts.

I am not all that different than the people I despised. I was never any better than they were.

I can admit it though. This is important. Pull that part of you down that sits on the pedestal and you paradoxically become more heroic. Of course, this is its own conceit...

Someone said recently that they admired me for my independence. For all the travelling I had done. For all the times I had taken the initiative and done things for myself.

I just responded: "Do you think I had a choice? Do you think I wouldn't have traded all of these chances and places, all of my experience in wandering and searching, just to find one place where I fit?"

I would have traded it. But I wouldn't trade it now -- because it is part of who I am. That seeker element -- not comfortable in one place or life, but finding comfort in some kind of derivative, comfortable in the movement.

Part of it is real cowardice. I see that now -- I had defined freedom as the ability to run away. But part of it is more real than that. As I start to find, now, something like a home, I know that this part of me will resurface, when the time is right, for another round of travelling and seeking.

So I'm no real threat in high school to the boys, but they know that if they mess with me, I ain't gonna lay down and curl up in a ball saying, "Please don't hurt me!"

I learned early on that the best way to win a fight was to hit the guy right in the nose as hard as you could. If that didn't draw blood and he was still ready to kick your ass, hit him in the gut as hard as you could. If this didn't stop him, you might be in for a long day.

A kid from Nawlins moves to our school. His locker is right next to mine. I guess it's 9th or 10th grade. He's a slick lookin' little bastard, and I guess I didn't treat him the way he wanted to be treated, even though I don’t think I ever went out of my way to annoy him. Maybe he just didn't like me the first time he laid eyes on me. Ever had that happen to you with someone?

After he's been there a couple of weeks, he's putting his stuff up to go home and I'm doing the same. He hits my arm with his locker door. On purpose. I say, "What's the deal?" He says, "You wanna do something about it?"

About two minutes later, we're outside and I'm getting ready to clean his clock. We're doing the little dancing around with your fists up and I'm trying to draw a bead on his nose. Out of nowhere, and by that I mean "coming from a place which does not exist in real time or space," this little prick had hit me twice. Hard. And I didn't even see his hands move! God, he was fast. And he'd obviously had some boxing lessons which my dad had failed to bother with.

About five minutes later, I'm bleeding like a stuck pig and I've had about enough of this. I don't think I ever laid a hand on him, and my face looked like something out of Raging Bull.

I tell this story just to add another twist to the concept of how high school can make a coward out of you. I was never as eager to fight again, and I actually walked away from a couple of situations later in life that might have made me look like a coward. They say that's a brave thing to do, but we boys know better, don't we?

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