The Bullies Resurface. 2021.

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The biggest bully I ever faced was underneath my own skin.”

Johnny Cash.

Paulie Greco emerged. Rising like a boneless demon between the cracks of schoolyard concrete. I couldn’t focus on anything else after that. For hours. Through massive, lead-paint thick Brooklyn public school windows behind heavy-gauge steel grating, I could still see him. Lurking.

I couldn’t stop seeing him. Waiting. For me.

I felt the ice, the fear coursing through veins I didn’t even realize I had inside my body, my head. Until they started throbbing. 2:15pm. He’d been out there. Since noon. High noon. I recall shaking uncontrollably at my desk the closer the hands of the large black & white super-ticky clock hanging above the chalkboard inched towards 3.

My heart beat heavy in both ears. I wondered how I was going to live with no blood, no teeth. No spleen. I heard somewhere you could live without a spleen. That oddly seemed to calm me.

Would I be able to walk? Please god not the face was all I could think. Thinking positively – Perhaps a good pummeling would work off some of the belly fat I carried around thanks to Drake’s cakes, Yodels to be specific.

Let me tell you: I didn’t do anything to him. In fact, I stayed far from him. I was always aware of his space so I could purposely avoid it. He hated me because I was fat. I wore green corduroy pants in the summer (thanks mom). Come to think of it, I get why he hated me.

I was diverting the attention of a spic-guinea (an exotic, smarm-raised blend of Italian & Puerto-Rican and that’s what she called herself) beauty in spandex pants who didn’t give him the time of day – she liked my brains over his brawn. Go figure.

I was friends with his girlfriend (cute girls always liked to be friends with me because I was a non-threatening, funny troll-like figure). I had bigger pimples, maybe. For one reason, many reasons, every reason, this guy hated my guts. All I knew? I was dead soon.

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks. Rest In Peace. Your life shall cease...

Smashed behind a city school by a leather-jacketed beast. There he was – leaning against a shaky schoolyard fence. Greasy dark hair. Black leather with chains (as I think about it, looked stupid in June). He’d deftly bounce off the chain link, then shuffle – from one foot to the other. Right. Left. Right. Left. Rocking.

The cadence of a psycho planning a pounce on chubby prey. I’m sure he noticed me through the smudgy glass and steel-cage monster panes of glass. I know, at the least, he smelled me. My fear. I think it made him rock faster.

3pm was here. I couldn’t feel my legs, not sure how I rose from the desk…Numb. I walked slow. To the bulls-eye. Not sure of my fate. Listen, it was never leave or die. I didn’t want to live in the dank vastness of the mysterious boiler room, the beast anchored in the school’s basement.

Throughout your life they just re-appear. Those bullies…

Large corporate masters live to bully. Because they can. And since the pandemic, we as consumers have given them even more power to do so. Shareholders, Boards of Directors seem to encourage them (mostly by demanding greater results).

Bullies hate the truth, corporate bullies are seduced by narratives. They diminish in power once they know you’re not afraid and you possess the strength of the truth.

Today, many companies can pay less in wages, avoid raises, ask more out of you, work you out of a position for others less skilled, because they have the power. Yet, out of the other sides of their PR mouthpieces, they can preach social justice all the while pandering to China to preserve their profit margins. China knows this. They are not afraid. They think we’re dumber than Paulie in algebra class.

As for you, you can take your dollars and walk. They won’t care but you will. You can pick up and leave their captive cubicles and prevail in finding greater more lucrative ventures.

Get to know your inner bullies. The bullies who push against you from within. They do stick around until death. You know them. You’ve faced them. The ones who constantly, mentally pummel you. Telling you you’re going to fail, fall, falter. The ones who nag at you. Cajole you until you give up. It’ll take some strong self-analysis to understand your interbullies as I call them, but if you remain aware, you’ll face your internal Paulies head on.

Sure, you may stumble short term; oh, they’ll rock you, shuffle you up, but you’ll persevere eventually. It’s inevitable. The more you fight, the greater understanding you’ll have of a bully’s crude method to shake you. Your mind will grow smarter than your interbullies. It’ll take time but it shall happen. Never give up.

Don’t be bullied to be stupid with money. There’s a lot out there to taunt you to overspend or misuse credit. Stand your ground. The less you spend the more empowered you will become. The more secure you will become in your future. A bully should possess a negative net worth but not you.

Discover your reinforcements. Seek and then never forget what/who supports you. Understand the need to train for battle. Find friends (some you never knew you had) – exercise, a good diet, sleep, deep breaths, meditation, reading, heartfelt discussion, all need to be employed as you fight the bullies.

It’s ok to wallow in Yodels a bit (if you can find them). However, too many will weaken your body and spirit. Know when to shut down the devil’s food (which is a devil’s food).

I couldn’t feel anything. The greater Paulie became in my line of sight, the more steadfast my pace. I wanted to flee but I kept walking. Straight.

Closer. Closer.

I recall closing my eyes to stop my legs from heading out of Dodge. I wasn’t going to run. I didn’t do anything wrong. If I got beat so be it. With all the adrenaline running through me I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have felt a thing. So it appeared to be an opportune time for a thrashing.

I just wanted one good shot. One good kick. One surprise that would shake him. I stopped close to the rock-a-bully. He was in mid-swing. About seven feet away. I tried to move in but couldn’t. Frozen. He moved towards me. He spoke. Rough Brooklyn. Mostly hoodlum. Mumbled.“You talk to my girlfriend?” “Yea,” I said. What was I going to say? “She’s in my homeroom class.” “I know people. I’m related to gangsters. You understand that?” I knew that.

I know people too. I hang out at Torragrossa’s Funeral Home. I watch them embalm dead people after school. You think my mother could get a discount if you kill me?”

I continued before he could say another word: “You need to realize I won’t die so easy, though. If I can take you with me, I will,” I said. No reason why. Anger perhaps. All I know is I meant it at the time. I had nothing to lose.

At that moment his girlfriend, my friend, ran up (reinforcements) and screamed at him not to touch me or it was over between them. He backed off.

Pussy 1, Bully 0.

A few weeks later I found out that he was a bit scared of me after that incident. It wasn’t his girlfriend’s threats. It was the fact that I watched the dead being embalmed and it didn’t shake me up.

It was a bit of information he wasn’t expecting. It was a surprise. A shock.

Bullies hate surprises. Shocks. The truth.

And apparently the embalming process.

Who knew?

9Robin Franks, David Perka and 7 others2 Comments1 ShareShare

The Town I Never Knew.

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I know so well…

Can only be reached by a single-lane road.

Comprised of rock, the path bleached white from the sun; further crushed to pebble from the universe of dreamers before me who have perhaps traveled here…

To the town I’ve never been, others have never been, too.

Don’t ask me how I know.

I’ve participated in the crush of these stones, although I have never been behind the wheel of an auto. My feet have not tapped a gas pedal or rode the brake. Yet, I have gone 35 mph over hills through wooded canopies to get to the place I never traveled.

I pass a farm on the way to the town I never knew.

A shadow man rides a tractor through vast acreage, uniformly tilled. He never fails to wave as I pass. His hand gray smoke, it disappears to a whisper and reunites with the wheel of his machine.

I make sure to return the greeting before I enter the town I have never been.

Eyes on the road. Broad-leafed trees afire in fall, a perpetual season of harvest. Boughs relent, drip low in orange-red homage to those who pass underneath.

Limbs extend in the direction of this hamlet. They point directly to the place I visit often and yet I have never been…

Verdant arteries spider down jagged hills of blood-red dirt.

At bottom, green melts into blue-emerald water. White caps twirl, roll, collapse into the clear. The peaks, briefly sunkissed before collapsing into blue, then rise again in a steady, calm cadence.

But, I haven’t experienced the cool of this water on my skin…

A cliff across the waves. Majestic, comfortable and worn with time. Houses pepper the strata. Each place, distinct. Each occupied. At least I think. Lights on, shadows shimmer in windows.

A special abode. Constructed mostly of redwood. An expansive, wraparound deck; a wall of glass showcases an unobstructed view of the town I never seen, close or afar.

In the living room a majestic tree, it prospers through a wood floor. The biggest Bonsai. Six-feet tall – highly unusual for such a species. A floor-to-ceiling stone hearth captures embers that never die, perpetually warm. I never planted this tree. Nor have I sparked an eternal flame that warms inhabitants and visitors. This seems to be a safe place.

The walk through town, visitors who enjoy the view from the deck, have been occupants in my head – a persistent dream for going on four years now.

I am relentlessly at peace in this house I’ve never been…

I enjoy the company when it decides to arrive. I have no idea how and why they’re there.

The air, cold. Not a bite, just a nip. The winds pregnant with warmness of wood on slow glow. Jasmine rises and is carried by air. The fragrance of rosemary permeates dusk. The sky, bluebird blue; dissipating heat births broiler waves onto a blood-orange horizon as warm water relents to the cool of the night.

The town itself is small. Quaint. Aged with whitewashed exteriors, they badly require a coat of paint. Some structures are brick. Inside each establishment, the walls replete with cedar panels.

A pub, a tiny restaurant – lit candles on every table, a grocer; a shop that sells dried flowers and tinctures. I can never make out shopkeeper faces except for smiles. Although nondescript, these folks radiate warmth and invitation.

These friendly souls beckon me to stay, but I never do. There’s no time for that yet. I need to depart…

The people I see for who they are; the ones who visit the town I never been and house I never lived, are those I know. Or knew.

They are people long gone.

Loved ones from the past. My past. Friends, family, mentors. It comforts me to see the serene expressions on their faces as they investigate and enjoy the town I’ve never been.

Mind you, once I succumb to sleep, I have no idea if the town will ever again enter my nocturnal thoughts. I have no idea who’ll I’ll run into.

A couple of nights ago, dad came by. Haven’t seen him in a while. He tried to tell me something. His mouth moved, formed words. Yet they were non-sensical, jibberish, as much as I tried to understand.

I probably wasn’t ready to hear what he was saying.

The town I never walked is a place of comfort. I’m always excited to visit. The home with the Bonsai tree is a sanctuary, a fortress of love.

I watch the sun from the deck as it gives up the last edge of light. The dying warmth makes everything gleam; the dull, faded wood of the town I never been, appears to glow.

I drove someone who’s alive into the town I never been.

Her breathing radiates with the sun. A slight crinkle to her nose when she smiles which I can never forget, makes me believe she’s earned a visit to the town I never been. The burnt of leaves warms the already-natural beauty of her face.

We navigate a convertible through the trees.

She’s happy for the adventure.

And with this woman I’ve been to the house I never been…

The farmer waves.

The shopkeepers smile.

The Bonsai bows.

The woman’s hair captures the sweet fragrance carried on air.

The town thrives.

But with eyes open, life has a way of saying.

Visit me whenever you like, you cannot stay.

We’re not ready for you.

You are not ready for us.

But someday, this white road you travel will be your last.

And it’ll be the best day, ever.