By Adam Robinson
For some reason, people often ask me about my history as a fighter, which is not considerable.
I was only ever in one real fight, although another time I got so mad at my brother Aaron that I called him a bastard and tried to hit him. But Aaron is older, and I could not.
“Are you boys seriously fighting?” my dad asked us. Really fighting was preposterous.
Therefore, in my one real fight, I was too bashful to slug my opponent in the face. I didn’t want to give him a black eye. I was in seventh grade. I thought that if I had to go to school with a black eye, that would be embarrassing, so I oughtn’t give him one.
I’m telling you about my fight with Scott Johnson.
It started at soccer practice. In soccer I was not talented, and I didn’t like it, and I don’t think our coach was liked us, and he was Italian. Practice for him involved a brief lecture about cleats and then a lot of running. One day I was running past the goal post and I jumped up and hung from the crossbar and someone who was running past me tugged off my shorts and then a few other guys dragged me around the field by my legs and yelled “grass stain whitey tighteys” over and over.
It was pretty lame of those guys, I said to them.
I knew I had better do a fight. For my dignity.
(I hung from the crossbar because I was pretty good at gymnastics. I usually won the handstand contests in P.E. and I liked the rings, but the gymnastics coach was nicknamed Spermin’ Berman, so I went out for soccer instead. And I got pantsed, as I mentioned.)
The problem was I couldn’t beat up all those guys, and some of them had puberty and were strong, and some were popular—one had already fingered a girl—and some of them I walked to school with, so I had to be selective. I selected to fight Scott because I thought I would get more backers than I would against anyone else.
I knew there was going to be a lot of lead up until the fight, which was why I needed backers. I needed some people to say they thought Robinson would win. And there was lots of lead up. We had to finish practice, then hit the lockers. All the guys were weighing in. It was about 60/40 in favor of Scott.
And so there behind the school we formed a circle, and there was clapping and chanting and, I could tell, much reluctance between me and the nemesis that I had chosen arbitrarily. We circled each other until someone pushed me squarely in the back and I stumbled forward into Scott, flailing. We vied for headlocks. He got me by the waist. The thing I remember most distinctly, aside from how much I didn’t want to punch him in the face, was the moment that I got to knee him several times in the gut as I pushed him around the field.
And then he tripped me and we wrestled for a minute, and one pubescent Cosell said, “This is just going to be a wrestling match.” At that, interest waned. Scott and I stood and brushed ourselves off.
We all walked away together. I thought it was a stupid situation, and that I had mostly done the right thing, but I still quit soccer, even though my dad told me I’d be a quitter if I did.
It was cold in upstate New York in the fall.
I don’t know why people ask me about fights. You should hear about all the car accidents I’ve been in. One was a boat accident.
After writing this, Adam Robinson tried to get into several fights by being obnoxious and pedantic. Now he’s at home reading The Everything Store and updating his list of places where it’s possible to talk about poetry and not get your ass kicked.