We lived on 23rd street in Park Slope, Brooklyn and life was pretty close knit. All the families that lived on my block were straight from Puerto Rico. All the teenagers and young kids were 1st generation. On my block everyone knew each other. It was predominately latino. There was about 4 families that were white but other than that it was latino. This was the block that was influential from my birth until my pre-teens.
On our block there was a park. It was called Concrete Park. It had a baseball field and 2 handball courts. There was a swing set but the swings were taken out and it was just a pole and a bar that most of the guys used to do their push-ups. Now this little park cut through the block. Any weekend you can pass by and see the park packed with all the teens and kids in the park. When we would play outside the parents stood out on front of the stoops. They would be talking and hanging out while all the while our parents watched over us across the street.
I was a very effeminate kid. I never started problems with people. I stood away from the drama others got into. You always would find me hanging out with the girls. This particular hot summer day the kids on the block wanted to play a game of baseball. Most often they would get all us kids together. There were at least 12 of us. I was always the last kid people wanted on their team. I just never liked playing sports. They finished picking the teams and the sides were mixed of young kids and teens. At this time there was a kid named Johnny. He was sort of new on the block and he was a bully. A real jackass kinda kid. He always had a loose mouth with people and always had smart comments with us young ones. For this game we ended on the same team. We commenced the game. Now for any of you who have played baseball that didn’t involve a real field you know that the ball would stray. Someone would hit a foul or the catcher wouldn’t catch it and it would roll away from the field. There would always be someone who had to get the ball. It wasn’t a particular person but once in a while no one wanted to get the ball after so many times it went to the far left. Well someone had hit the ball and it went over the fence and landed in the high grass in front of the park. No one wanted to get the ball so I volunteered. Now do understand that when you are fetching the ball the game is on pause till the ball was retrieved. In the high grass you also had to be careful because people would take their dogs to do their business in the high grass. You had to be careful or you might end up stepping and dog poo or get it on your hand. I was being extra careful. It must’ve been too long of a wait for Johnny because he started screaming at me to hurry up, taunting me. This made me nervous but I paid him no mind. I was still looking for the ball when he got more upset and decided to throw things at me and spit at me and call me a faggot, a little girl. That I better hurry up and get the ball before he whoops my ass..
What I didn’t know was that my mother was watching this from across the street the whole time. When I was young I was a big babycry. I was always crying when people bothered me or picked on me. So my mother this day decided that today would be the last time I go to her crying. She was going to make sure that I defended myself. Johnny threw me with a ball hitting me on my back. It hurt real bad. I stopped looking for the ball and started walking toward my mother. Before I can get to her I could see on the look of anger on her face. She was already screaming at me.
“No,no,no! Not today. I am sick and tired of you crying like a girl!” I was nervous because this is not what I expected my mother to tell me. She got up from the stoop.
“You are going to go back over there and punch him right back.” I was scared of Johnny. He was older than me. He was already known as a fighter and for the most part no one messed with him.
“Mommy no! It’s OK. Forget it. I sit down mommy, I sit down.” Just as I was going sit down she snatched me up from my shirt. We started walking across the street. By this time the block was already in our business. Johnny saw everything as well as.
“You are going to hit him and if you don’t I am going to kick your ass!” At that point Johnny started to walk away when my mother stopped him.
“Where the fuck you going? I am sick and tired of you guys hitting my son. Today this shit stops. You are going to fight my son and that’s it!” I was so scared. I started to cry harder. Mommy whispered in my ear,
“You better kick his ass or I am going to beat yours in front of everybody! You are no one’s pendejo!” I walked up to Johnny and by this time everyone was around us.
I know that Johnny hit me first. The look on his face was a smirk. He just knew he was going to beat me up and being that my mother OK’d the fight he was going to enjoy it. What he didn’t know was that I feared my mother more than anyone. At my young age I was already a victim of physical abuse and there was no way I was going to get beat up twice. That fight was my first fight. I beat Johnny up real bad out of pure fear. I knew that if I lost this fight she was going to beat my ass just because I didn’t stand up for myself. All I could hear was my mother screaming beat his ass or I beat yours. After the fight Johnny walked to his house.
My mother was very proud that I had defended myself. She took me to the store to reward me and said I can pick whatever I wanted from the store. I took chips and a juice. Guys on the block gave me hi-fives for fighting as well.
When we came back from the store Johnny’s mother started screaming out the window as to why this happened. My sister had gotten back to the block and heard her screaming at my mother. When she heard the lady screaming at my mother she invited the lady to come downstairs and fight if she didn’t like what happened. My sister explained to her that her son was a bully and he got his ass kicked for being a bully. That the fight was fair and Johnny got what he deserved. The lady was upset so my sister invited her again to come down and fight if she didn’t like what happened.
Nothing happened after that. The next day I was in the park and playing handball. Johnny came to the courts. I got nervous. I was ready for anything. He just looked at me and ignored me. I never had problems with him or any of the guys after that.