After celebrating the hell out of a friend’s birthday, well into the wee hours of the night, I find myself in a popular late night food destination. And just like an ugly fat girl at closing time it’s a destination that can thank alcohol and poor decision making for 100% of their business.
The Gravy Spot. Ugh, there’s just no way to make that sound classy.
After purchasing a ridiculous amount of food because alcohol/poor decision making, with the ridiculous amount of loose change I have because alcohol/poor decision making, I become aware of the demeanour of 90% of the patrons. Patrons who happen to be 90% male.
I loudly acknowledge the unnecessary aggression in the air and question its validity. In an admittedly less verbose manner than that. Although I receive no answer from the unnecessarily aggressive I am subsequently stopped by a fellow patron. A fellow patron who steps out of line to follow me, and my wing dings, outside…
Wing dings that I’m not too proud to say sat in their grease-stained brown paper bag in my jacket pocket for days to come.
Given the time and the place this guy had obviously been out for a night on the town. Yet contrary to the prevailing standard he’s dressed well, he isn’t staggering, and his speech isn’t slurred at all when he asks if my name is Travis Nevers.
“Yeah man, that’s me,” I reply.
I take a better look at the man and force my admittedly Bourbon and Galliano clogged brain to run a visual recognition scan of all available memories for a match, and can’t do it.
“I heard what you said back there,” he continued, apparently referring to my comment regarding unnecessary aggression, “and I knew it was you.”
I ask this guy, who appears a few years younger than me and I now come to realize is a good half foot taller than I am and at least double that in shoulder width, how he knows my name.
“I went to high school with you,” he states and I immediately refine my brain scan parameters.
“Look dude,” I begin, “that was fifteen years ago. Whatever I did was because I was young and didn’t know any better.”
“No. You knew then, and you know now.” Shit. My night of eating, drinking and being merry is about to come to a typically male end – losing my teeth in a completely unnecessary brawl at The Gravy Spot. Sigh. How passé.
“You don’t remember me do you?” he asks.
I admit the truth, I don’t.
“Well, I remember you,” Here. We. Go. Punch incoming in 5, 4, 3, 2… “I remember you well man. I’m James, James *******. I was in Year 7 when you were in Year 10. You were always doing your thing man! You always seemed completely removed from everything. I’d see you around, always wearing that black leather jacket instead of the uniform, and sunglasses. Always sunglasses.”
I think back to my time in high school and this guy has nailed it. And, for better or worse, this combo is more or less what I still wear to this day.
“Yep. That’s a pretty accurate description,” I offer.
“Yeah, well, you probably don’t remember but you saved me.”
My natural reaction when being in close proximity to a big ass dude questioning who I am at 4:00am while at The Gravy Spot is to be in a state of cat-like readiness. This dissipates as I listen to James’s story.
“I was being bullied by this guy in Year 8 and had been for a while. It was pretty bad. I was a little kid man, I was in Year 7, so there wasn’t much I could do about it. And I’m sure you remember how ineffectual the teachers were.”
“I remember enough to know you didn’t learn the word ineffectual from them,” I interject.
“Ha! Yeah, well this day he had me bailed up against my locker and was smacking me around with a ruler. I hadn’t done anything to deserve it but that kinda thing was part of my daily life back then.”
I look at this mountain of a man in front of me. “I guess you don’t have that issue now?”
“Haha! No man, I don’t. And because of you I didn’t have it again after this day. As I was saying, I was trying to get my books out of my locker. Near the science rooms. In the Year 7 corridor. You remember.”
This was a statement, not a question. I remember.
“This asshole was smacking me around with a ruler, knocking my books out of my hands, giving me a hard time. You just happened to be strutting down the corridor, saw what was happening and, out of nowhere, you grab this kid by the back of his neck, slam him into the lockers and tell him that if you ever see him giving me a hard time again you were going to be pretty dark about it. You also told him you were taking his ruler. And you did.”
“The thing is man,” James continued, “he never bothered me again after that. You stopped it then and there. You didn’t know me at all, you just saw someone giving a little kid a hard time and did something about it. And I’ve always remembered it man. And when I heard someone talking about people being angry and shit and how unnecessary it was, I knew it was you. So, I just wanna say thanks man. You changed my life.”
“Ah, no stress dude.” I utter, awkwardly humbled. “It was probably just an arbitrary act of narcissism.”
“No man, in high school you did your own thing. You lived by your code. Whether it was the “cool” thing to do or not. If you saw something that didn’t sit right with you said, or did, something about it. Hearing you just now in there it seems like you’re still doing it. Seriously man, thank you. Anytime our paths cross the beers are on me.”
I accepted his kind words, we shook hands and parted ways. I was, and still am, fucking blown away by this. The only thing I remember about the incident is the ruler. Which I still have to this day.
If there’s a moral to this long meandering diatribe it’s that sometimes when you do, or say, something the effect it has on others can be quite profound and life changing. Even if you can’t remember it.
Or it’s all just a bunch of stuff that happened. Your mileage may vary.