Friday, November 20, 2015

The Beast Within

October 2015

     I'm not in second grade anymore. I'm sitting in a restaurant with my son, Tommy, enjoying dinner with friends before going to a haunted forest in Maryland. It's Friday night, so the  place is crowded.        My radar goes off. There's a bully nearby.
     I zone in on the perpetrator without even thinking about it.
     He's hiding behind the mask of parenthood. It doesn't fool me; I know a bully when I sense one.
     He looms over a child, berating him for some unknown crime. I can't see the child, but I can feel some of his pain, even though my daddy never did that to me.
     I don't know why I feel it so much, but I do. Then, I realize I must do something to stop it.
     Why? Again, I don't know.
     No one around me seems to notice. Is it just me, overreacting?
     No, I can feel the tension in the air. It's there.
     I stop eating and become more aware of my surroundings, noticing where the man sits in relation to me and every detail I can absorb. There are frying pans hanging behind him in the kitchen, just over his head.
     Everyone at our table continues to eat except Tommy. He gives me that, "Please don't DO anything," look.
     The man becomes louder, pulling on the boy's arm as he threatens to take him outside for...?
My not-so-sweet alter ego
     Others around us begin to notice and pretend not to. That's what polite, normal people do in restaurants.
     I, on the other hand, cannot do that. Honest, I can't.
     My heart is already beating so fast I can feel it, and heat rises from my chest up into my cheeks until they begin to burn. I remain calm enough on the outside but inside, I'm preparing for a BIG fight. (Frying pans make fierce weapons.)
     I am Bruce Banner trying NOT to turn into the Hulk. He's a powerful fighter but makes a big mess.
     So, I channel my rage into "the stare" and give it to him dead in the eye. Lucky for me, he is sitting directly across from me, two tables away.
    He looks away and stops the abuse.
    The tension is gone, and the air feels clean again; I pick up my fork. Tommy lets out a sight of relief.
     He gets embarrassed when I turn green in public.