At the age of six, I was a lanky stringbean full of energy. My parents enrolled me in ballet, swimming and eventually, gymnastics in hopes of calming me down. Every day after school I'd hop on my bicycle and ride down to the empty lot at the bottom of our street. We lived on a circle, somewhat like a cul-de-sac, hidden away from the bustle of any roads with a double yellow line down the middle - this is how my father judges whether or not he would ever live on a particular street. The neighborhood kids gathered at the empty lot to ride bikes and play tag whenever the weather was nice.
The majority of the children in our neighborhood were within two years of my age in either direction. It was the mid 80's, and our parents were more concerned with us falling off our bikes than being abducted. It wasn't uncommon for us to go hours without adult supervision, though the neighborhood parents took turns peaking through their curtained windows at the herd of kids storming down the road.
One sunny afternoon, the summer before my first grade year, I was playing Mother, May I? with the kids in the neighborhood. If you've never played this game, the basic idea is that one player is the boss, the other players take turns asking, for example, "Mother, may I take three steps forward?" The player in charge, dubbed Mother would either answer "Yes, you may", "No, you may not", or "No, but you can take one small step", for example. The person that reached the player designated as Mother first, would win, and be Mother in the next round. In retrospect, it was a completely unfair game with no real rules, rewarding the most popular child by allowing them to boss the others around.
On this particular afternoon, I had a turn giving orders - standing on a bright yellow fire hydrant, as a declaration of my dominance. One of the other players in our game, a girl name Becky, was a year older than me and could best be described as a bully. She had always been domineering and rude; my parents never liked her, but her backyard was adjacent to ours, so by proximity my older sister and I fought over the right to declare her our best friend. That particular afternoon, Becky was not given a chance to be Mother yet, not that it mattered - she told us what to do whether the game appointed her worthy of such a responsibility or not. I did not oblige her desire to win the game with no rules, and she was not hesitant to share her unhappiness. By that I mean, she charged at me and affirmed, "It is my turn to be in charge!" pushing me backwards off of the fire hydrant I had been perched upon.
I hit the grass head first, landing on my back. I was completely disoriented and after reaching up to feel my stinging face, realized that I was bleeding profusely. The impact from the fall to the ground had pushed the bone in my chin through the skin, and split the skin above my upper lip, just under my nose. To this day, I don't completely understand how this happened, but it did, so obviously it's possible.
Immediately, Becky began backtracking, "Are you ok? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to push you, it was an accident. I tripped" The oldest of us, a girl named Jill, whose house was cattycorner to the fire hydrant I had just been ejected from, ran home to get her dad. He came out with a clean kitchen towel and held it on my bleeding face, while carrying me, hysterical to my home, six houses up.
My father asked how it happened, as I screamed through sobs, "Becky...pushed...me...off...the...hy-drant."
"Yee-eeesss!" I cried, and cried.
My dad assessed my injuries and revealed, "I think you're going to need to get stitches."
What are stitches? I remember thinking, while simultaneously crying, "NOOOO! I...don't...want...sti-tches!"
Needless to say, I got stitches that day. Five under my chin, where practically every adult I know has a scar, and one between my upper lip and nose. I held still, not crying while the Indian doctor with the heavy accent stitched me up, afraid of worsening the pain if I moved while the needle was in my face.
I don't remember what happened afterward, if my parents spoke with Becky's parents about the incident. I assume they did, as our parents frequently downloaded the events of the day. By the time my stitches were removed, we were playing together again.
Four months later, at Becky's birthday party - a sleepover - my foot was caught under a rocking recliner while another girl was sitting on it, effectively breaking my right ankle. It was purely accidental, but my parents hastened to believe that. Mounting circumstantial evidence led them to the conclusion Becky had deliberately caused another injury. They decided that neither my body, my fragile psyche nor their medical bills should be subjected to the wrath of Becky any longer. We were banned from playing together without intense parental supervision.
In middle school, Becky became increasingly cruel. Formerly her best friend, she took to referring to my sister as "Cow", contributing to her adolescent nightmares. When I was in sixth grade, Becky, a friend of hers and the friend's mother were in a car accident involving a tractor trailer, and Becky suffered a fairly severe concussion. When she returned to the bus stop we shared she had a dark circle under each of her eyes. The boys we had played with as children, now twelve and boisterous as ever, threw snowballs, barely missing her head. I yelled for them to be more careful although we were not friends, knowing that she was in pain and unable to defend herself. A few weeks later, after having recovered from her head injury, Becky started a nasty rumor about me gossiping behind the back of one of the most popular girls in our school. Though it was untrue, it effectively ruined my sixth grade year.
It's been 13 years since she graduated from high school, the last time I saw or thought about Becky, however I learned a few weeks ago that her father, apparently an engineer, works at the same small office as my uncle. The discovery was made at a holiday party, where my aunt and uncle exchanged stories with this man and his wife. They still live on the street my parents moved away from 16 years ago, a fact which delighted my aunt, who goes garage-saling in the area. She told them about her brother and nieces who had lived on the same street, but moved away to a larger house in the same suburb. Becky's parents were thrilled, finally meeting the Aunt Pat and Uncle Dave they had heard stories about all those years ago.
Perhaps my aunt and uncle learned what Becky is up to now, but frankly, I'm not interested. I had enough of her antics back then, and I certainly don't need any fake friends now. Though I do find myself wondering what kind of co-worker her father is: considerate, helpful, oblivious, underhanded? I've learned that people who behave badly are either taught that behavior, or never have bad behavior corrected, and I am curious to know which it is. I may never know.