The first fight I remember being in is vague, and composed of half-formed memories that seem to waver, like I’m looking at them through water. Maryland. Beltsville. An apartment complex. We were behind the building opposite ours and there was something happening and there were several kids from the complex around and I was 9 or 10, my brother 7 or 8. I don’t remember what or why, and, to be honest I couldn’t swear to the fact that this fight was on behalf of my brother . . . but I feel like it was.
As fights go, it was pretty anti-climactic: basically the kid hit me and I taunted him by just taking the blow and grinning right back at him. I think this happened twice. What I most clearly remember after this was walking around the corner of this apartment building on our way home, and my brother yelling behind us at the top of his lungs “you motherfucker!!!!”
Rhode Island. The Wakefield Mall. We’d just moved to the state so I was 12ish and my brother was 10ish. My parents were in a store somewhere and my brother and I had gone to get something to drink. I don’t remember having a soda, but I remember my brother with a cup and a straw and some kid decided to pick on him. Was he telling my brother to give him his soda? Maybe. Was he pushing at my brother? I think so. So I got between them and told this bully to leave my brother alone. He punched me. Perhaps flashing back to my previous efforts, I just took the blow and grinned back, knowing that this would be far more infuriating than if I punched back.
Then he punched again. But I don’t remember that. The next thing I do remember was lying on the floor, looking up, my brother leaning over me with his cup of soda and asking if I was alright. “What happened” I think I asked. “He hit you and you went down” my brother replied (or something to that effect).
I wasn’t out for very long, and no adults got involved in the situation. I don’t think we even told my parents about it at the time.
This was all back before my brother and I began to fight against each other—which became our modus operandi throughout most of our teen years. Back when he would hold my hand. When I could protect him, just a little bit, from the world. While it is perhaps sad that we no longer look out for each other in any close or consistent way (and while I am already feeling bad for this post making my mom cry), nothing will change the fact that I have taken punches for my little brother and nothing will change the beauty and the sheer rightness of that fact.