Middle school is like a war zone and my school was in it to win it.
It was the mid 90’s during the height of the Tupac/Biggie feud and my peers had designated the left side of our 7th grade hall “west side” and the right side “east side.”
Every day when classes changed all the students — black and white, male and female– would run into the centrum and start screeching ‘west side’ and ‘east side’ and throwing up their best attempts at gang signs. I participated, not just because everyone else was, but because I had a huge crush on Anthony, one of the instigators of this little gang simulation.
Anthony was about 6 feet tall, black and looked like he was 20. I met him in 2nd grade and since I’d hit puberty he’d been paying me special attention.
Unfortunately, Anthony already had a white girlfriend who didn’t really want him getting another one. Brandi had a perm, braces and an attitude that would not quit. When Anthony dumped Brandi and started “talking” to me, Brandi expressed her anger by screaming obscenities at me in the hall.
I’d scream right back, calling her bitch and ho as she repeatedly threatened to beat me up. Sometimes my friend Rebecca, who was a center for the basketball team, would report things back to me that Brandi said at practice. This would only fuel my anger. Brandi and I kept screaming at each other for several weeks but she never actually pulled a punch. I genuinely believe she was scared of me.
Then one day I was sitting in social studies class when I heard a scuffle outside and then a scream. In those days fights were as common as the class bell but that didn’t lessen the desire to witness one going down. Undeterred by our teacher, the class ran out into the centrum and joined the dozens of other students that had torn out of their seats to see who was getting beat up this time.
There was Brandi, standing in the middle of the hall, holding this girl Amanda by the hair. Amanda howled as Brandi used her free hand to punch, slap and claw Amanda’s face. Then Brandi let go of Amanda’s hair, kicked her to the ground and started pummeling her. Brandi picked Amanda up again—by the hair—and went for her face, this time beating her with an open handed fist.
Amanda was helpless, squawking and screeching but not quick enough to get in a single punch, scratch or even kick. Brandi was like a wild animal unleashed. Her movements were rapid, methodic, precise. This was no fight. It was a full on ambush and Amanda didn’t stand a chance.
People began laughing and inhaling sharply and I wasn’t sure why until I noticed Amanda’s pants. She had peed herself.
Finally some teachers sauntered over and broke up the fight, dragging each girl separately to the office. I stood there totally shocked wondering, Why wasn’t that me?
Later Rebecca met me at my locker. She told me Brandi had been dying to beat the shit out of me for weeks but that Rebecca had intercepted and told Brandi that if she ever touched me, she’d have to deal with Rebecca.
At age 13, Rebecca was 6ft 1 and stronger than any girl I knew. Nobody fucked with her. I was speechlessly grateful, staring at the spot on the floor thinking how easily I could have been the one peeing myself.
The bell rang and the throng of students throwing up gang signs disappeared into their classrooms.
I never did date Anthony but 2 weeks later he and Rebecca got together. They dated for six months, which, for middle school is like an eternity.