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Fist Fight

Rob McGinley Myers

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Rob McGinley Myers with his brother Scott
(Courtesy Rob McGinley Myers)
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For more than 15 years, Rob McGinley Myers has been telling a story about the only fist fight he's ever been in. He loves that he knows what it feels like to get punched full force in the face. He also stood up to one of the toughest, scariest guys in his high school, even though Rob was a puny, pudgy freshman at the time. The thing that makes this story slightly more complicated is that the tough, scary guy Rob stood up to was his older brother, Scott.

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I was a freshman in high school and I'd recently been broken up with by my first girlfriend. I'd only been dating her for a few weeks and I hadn't even managed to kiss her. And the night she broke up with me, she hooked up with a different guy the same night. I was in a pathetic state and feeling miserable about myself.

So I'm sitting in geometry class, and the bell rings. I walk out and as I come into the hallway, it's as if this rumor has already spread through the entire school that my brother has been picking on my ex-girlfriend. There's been a confrontation and he's been suspended. And I'm just in shock about this, walking to my science class, thinking, "Can this possibly be true? What does this mean for the future of my dating life?" And I turn down the hallway and there is my brother, shouting at my ex-girlfriend that he hopes she's happy that he's just been suspended.

You have to understand that my brother is six feet tall in a black leather jacket. He's got long black hair. He's a metal head. And he's one of the toughest, scariest guys in my high school. He's shouting at my ex-girlfriend, and she's running away on the verge of tears.

And so I just walk up to him and I say, "Why are you such a f---ing asshole?" And he just looks at me, shocked. And a crowd starts to gather. And so I just say it again. "Why are you such a f---ing asshole?" And then I just turn and walk away. And as I'm walking away, I feel this weird power over him. Because I can tell that he doesn't know what to do. But then I hear him shout from behind me, "Why don't you come back here and say that to my face!" And I just keep walking. But then I hear the sound of running behind me. And I feel myself being pushed from behind. And I fall face forward on the floor. And stand up and try to turn around, and he punches me in the face.

I don't remember the pain. Or even any physical sensation. I just remember the sound. It was so loud. It sounded like a sledgehammer hitting an iron box. This "kuh-thunk!" And I remember thinking, "This is what it's like to get punched in the face." And then someone pulled him off me, and it was over.

I've been telling this story for almost two decades now, whenever the subject of fistfights comes up. But though my brother and I get along fine now, in all that time we never once talked about the fight.

Why didn't we ever talk about it? I sat down with Scott to find out. But when I asked him what it was like to be one of the toughest, scariest guys in our high school, Scott said, "I think that reputation was a little undeserved. I mean, I guess that's the image I wanted. But I never thought people actually looked at me that way. I never thought I had earned it."

I reminded him of a legendary fight in our school cafeteria. The story was that Scott picked a guy up and threw him over a lunch table. But Scott was intent on deflating his own myth. He said the guy actually sat on the table and tried to kick him in the chest with both feet.

"When he kicked me, he just kicked himself off the other side of the table. Of course when everybody came up to me and said, 'Whoa, I heard you threw Meadows over a table!' I was like, 'Yeah.' But every other fight I've ever been in was really short and I lost miserably."

One fight stands out in his mind. Scott was hanging out with friends at a park, someone insulted his girlfriend, and Scott punched the guy in the face. Scott said, "That's all I remember. I remember hitting him once, and the next thing I know I'm waking up in the field in this park and everyone, including my girlfriend, had left. They all just left."

I think of Scott waking up alone like that, his anger having driven away even the people he meant to defend, and I realize how much I'd glorified his toughness all these years. Fighting wasn't something he was good at. It was just the way he dealt with the world. He fought our parents, he fought his teachers, and when he heard how my first girlfriend had broken my heart, he was ready to fight her too.

Scott said, "I don't remember you telling me, but I remember hearing the whole story and just being furious at that bitch. Just wanting to kill her."

He thought he could use his power for good, to avenge his little brother's heartbreak. He had no idea that it would turn me against him. And I had no idea how much guilt he still carried about our fight until I finally got around to asking him what he remembered of that day. He choked up, and said, "I didn't want to do this now. Because I knew I'd do this. But I am so sorry. I felt so bad about that for so long. I hated that day."

That's why we never talked about the fight. It's the only fight he really regrets. The weird thing is that I've never been angry at him about it. I'd always wanted his toughness to rub off on me, and I felt like it did that day, when I was forced to stand up to him. I'm disappointed to learn he wasn't as tough as I thought he was. But he let go of that idea of himself a long time ago, and I guess I can let go of it, too.

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