Jerk/Chicken

I went to high school with Sandra Perlmann. She was one of those people who had it all. She was hot, popular, and managed to get good enough grades, but she was a total bitch.

One time at a party, there was this girl who was there through a friend of a friend or something like that. She wasn’t the type to be there at all. I’m sure she had debated about whether or not to come right up until the last moment, finally just deciding to go just to see what it was like.

For some reason, Sandra picked her out as the target of her latest pointless cruelty.

“Oh my God,” she shouted after engaging the girl in conversation for about a minute, “You’re a drug addict?”

First of all, this was obviously untrue. Second of all, it was a completely random thing to say, and third of all nobody even cared. Hell, quite a few people at the party were easily on their way to drug addiction themselves. We went to a pretty rich school, it wasn’t uncommon for people to do blow at parties.

But none of that mattered to the poor girl, of course. She had come hoping to just blend in and try to have a good time, but instead Sandra had picked her out and shamed her in front of everyone. She ran out of the party crying.

I didn’t say anything, of course. I never did. I was good-looking enough and had decent enough social skills that I was never a target. Why rock the boat?

Since graduation, Sandra has moved to New York, become the editor of a fashion magazine, and gotten engaged to a successful lawyer.

One day I was sitting in a bar after work. A group of three very loud women were in the corner, apparently celebrating the fact that one of them had gotten pregnant. Although, of course, it the other two were doing most the celebrating. The proud mother-to-be just sat quietly, smiling, drinking a coke. Suddenly, she lurched out of her chair, her face a mask of panic. She tried to open her mouth to speak, but it was stuck shut.

“Oh my God!” one of the other women shouted, “Someone put rubber cement in her drink!”

Something snapped inside me. I don’t know if I was drunk off of the half a beer I’d had, or if I’d just had a really bad day at work. All I knew was, I was sick of assholes. I’d been sitting quietly for too long, letting them get away with their bullshit, but I wasn’t going to let them get away with it this time.

“Who the hell did that?” I shouted.

An old man sitting next to me pointed towards the door. I caught a glimpse of a very large man walking out with a woman on his arm.

“Why didn’t you do anything?” I growled at him.

He just glared at me.

Tossing some money on the counter, ran towards the door and stepped outside. “Hey!” I called after the hulking mass, “You’re an asshole.”

He stopped, turned around and looked at me. “What’d you say to me?”

My body immediately told me to run, I’d just made a terrible mistake.

“You the one put rubber cement in that pregnant woman’s drink? You’re an asshole.”

He slowly walked up to me and stood just inches away. We’d have been face-to-face if he wasn’t two inches taller than me. My heart was pounding out of my chest, my mouth was dry but my skin was wetter than it’d ever been. I knew what I was doing was stupid, but I was fed up. I wasn’t going to run, I wasn’t going to let them win this time.

“I’m not gonna hit you,” I said, “I weigh a hundred and forty pounds. But go ahead and hit me if it’ll make you feel better.”

I was on the ground with the first punch.

I stood back up and grinned. That’s about all I remember until the emergency room.

Two days later I walked into work, my face a mass of swollen bruises and my teeth loose.

My boss took one look at me and asked, “What the hell happened to you?”

“Some guy put rubber cement in a pregnant lady’s drink. I called him an asshole, he did this to me.”

“Jesus Christ,” he said, shaking his head, “I expected better of you. Go home, take some time off.”

“I didn’t hit him,” I said, “I’m not stupid.”

“Go home,” he said, still shaking his head.

“I didn’t hit him,” I repeated. “I’m not violent. I’ve never even been in a fight before.”

“Go home,” he said.

I turned around and headed out the door.

Did he think I was less of a man for not fighting back? Did he even believe me? I didn’t know. Was he going to fire me? I didn’t know that, either, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. They say the meek will inherit the Earth, but it seems to me like God’s helping out the assholes.

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