Back in my office, I texted my friend Larry to see if he could meet for dinner. I couldn't wait to tell him what had happened.
I'd met Larry in middle school. Back then I was thin and very introverted. The combination made me an easy target for bullies.
Between classes one afternoon, I was taking a drink at the hallway water fountain when one of the school's worst bullies, Chris Flaggart, held my head down on the spigot to the point where I felt like I was drowning. I flailed my arms in panic, but he wouldn't let me go. I can still hear him laughing and saying, “I think he's thirsty,” to a few kids who laughed as well. I was in complete shock and was sure I was going to die. He let me go suddenly, and I fell to the floor, gasping for breath. I woke up in the nurse's office.
“Are you okay?” the nurse asked. I could hear her but couldn't speak yet. After a little while, I managed to nod and then eventually sat up in the infirmary bed.
“Do you remember what happened?” she asked, looking squarely at me.
“I … I'm not sure,” I said, looking away, my first thought being not to rat Chris out because things would be worse if I did.
“Well, I heard Chris Flaggart pushed your head into the water fountain,” she replied, already knowing the sequence of events.
“Does that sound right?” Before I could respond, she continued, “Your friend Larry Phillips came along and intervened. I don't think you have to worry about Mr. Flaggart bothering you again.”
I didn't know what to say. Larry Phillips ...