Maybe I can't speak for many people when they just started high school, but during those first few days I was trying my hardest to fit the hell in. All at once my life had suddenly gotten a lot more 'adult', or something. I had to commute for the first time. I bought lunch instead of brown bagging it. I wore a tie and slacks every day and woke up at 6 AM to shower and get my things in order for my school day.

As if this wasn't enough, my social deficiencies were made much more obvious with the student body I interacted with every day. The lines of social elitism were so blurred back in my grammar school. Everyone was quite friendly with everyone else. Our baseball team hung out with the science club, our girl scout troupe went to U2 concerts with the alter boys. It was weird and wonderful and really nice all at once.

High school was a bit different. I got shoved on the bus by a horde of larger specimen male students who thought my big art portfolio was stupid looking. They all seemed to be wearing uniform team jackets which hid away muscles bigger than my head. In the hallways, I noticed not a common sense of public friendliness, but instead well organized collections of elitist cliques. And those cliques didn't like any other clique surrounding them. Thankfully though, the entire school was able to muster up a unifying disgust of my big, black art portfolio and how much space it took up in the hallways when I walked around.

"Well, this is fucking stupid," I said to myself, and ditched the first day of high school.

On the request of my mother and her hard logic reasoning of how I'd turn into the scary bag boy at the corner deli sans a high school education, I went back to that place. That big, stupid stone building full of overly pretentious douche bags.

You'd go back too if you ever met the deli bag boy. He could quite possibly be the best living example of why people should pursue higher learning. By Christmas, I had found a comfortable niche in two activities. Hanging out with the chess club and hanging out in the weight room. I didn't really know how to work out or play chess. But I enjoyed the atmosphere of both. No one teased me and both places let me keep to myself and just observe.

After a week or two of just observing both, I felt some motivation to actually participate. So after school, I got dressed into some sweats, laid down on a free workout bench, two 60 pound bar bells at my side, and proceeded to do my very first chest press.

It's kind of funny the thoughts that visited me in my head after my little Filipino arms gave out and I dropped a weight on my chin. As I lay there, bleeding on my rather handsome matching champion tee and green sweat pants, all I could do was stare at the ceiling and ponder these new observations on the situation at hand.

Probably the first reason was why I had chosen 120 pounds to try to press on my VERY FIRST ATTEMPT AT STRENGTH TRAINING. I chalk it up to some inner machismo thing. Oh, and being stupid. I also blame a lot of it on how I'm very, very stupid. Asking someone to spot me was also another peachy idea that had somehow gotten away from me before I did the deed.

The second wonderful new idea floating through my generously bloodied skull was how it wouldn't really hurt if I ever accidentally dropped a bag of plastic chess pieces on my face. I don't even think someone hitting me square on the chin with those chess clocks would have hurt as much as the 60 pounds of barbell hate that French kissed me all over the lower part of my left eye socket and surrounding cheek area.

After one of the more humane guys in the room approached my bloodied, obscenity-screaming heap of a self to help me to the school medical office, I got patched up just fine. Also, just as a historical precedent, no one has ever matched me on the amount of creative formations of curse words and Jesus ever attempted from the St. Francis Preparatory athletic room to the medical office.

So, after about a week or so, I quietly walked into the Wednesday after school chess club meeting and shyly asked one of the team members to show me how to play chess. I felt like a complete asshole. Asking for help didn't come easy to me, and it seemed that I would be setting myself up for mean words or teasing. Plus my face looked all messed up. Like I had gotten in the middle of a gang turf war or something. I smile, thinking that Nobel, the guy who showed me how to play, probably did it out of some sense of fear or future harm I might do unto him if he didn't help me out. Showing a quiet, shy kid with a bruise and welted face how to en passant might not be the most enjoyable way to spend your Wednesday afternoon, I think. It's all wonderful memories after that one initial awkward moment. I took to chess wonderfully. Tactics, strategy, and the mental high of chess was hyper addictive. Being able to play got me in good with my girlfriend's parents, too.

I started lifting weights again in college. I guess I just needed some perspective with it, because it's just as fun as playing chess.

Probably because I don't drop things on my face anymore.

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