Sunny scared me. He was mean. I once witnessed him harassing a cat, poking it with a stick while another kid held it by its tail. They laughed hysterically and that look in their eyes. I didn’t understand it, but it made me afraid.
Sunny rode the school bus with me. I was in second grade. I could tell that Sunny was poor. He had a slew of brothers and sisters, all of them dressed in the other’s hand-me-downs. Sunny was the youngest so his clothes had sifted down to him through his siblings and consisted mostly of tattered shreds. Sunny and I were not in the same class together, but I knew he got in trouble a lot. He got in trouble a lot on the school bus. He picked on smaller kids, stole things from them, and cursed. I had developed my own strategy for dealing with Sunny; complete and total avoidance. For the most part, this worked for me until that one morning.
I got on the school bus like I always did. I sat in the same seat like I always did. My seat mate, however, had not shown up that day, so I sat alone in the 4th seat from the back. Sunny got on the bus, walked passed his regular seat and proceeded to sit directly behind me. My heart sank. I just might throw up. He was up to something.
It didn’t take long before he made his intentions known. He started to kick the seat, trying to get my attention. Then he pulled my hair. He started to make remarks directed at me, but in my great fear, I have no recollection of his exact words. He stood up behind the seat, reached over, and grabbed my chest from behind. And that’s when I lost it.
I grabbed my bright yellow Garfield lunchbox and swung it over my head feeling the satisfying thud when the plastic connected with his face. I turned to see the damage that I had done. Did I really just hit him? He laid in the seat behind me, clutching his face, wincing, whining, crying. It’s possible that my first thought even at the age of 9 was, oh shit! I was going to be in so much trouble. I had never ever been in trouble before and a great dread fell over me. The bus driver was going to report me, I was going to get suspended, and then when I returned to school, Sunny was going to kill me.
Except none of that happened. The bus driver didn’t notice a thing and if he did, it’s possible he ignored it and Sunny didn’t tell on me. Sunny didn’t ride the bus for a few days and I almost forgot about the incident. On the third day, he showed up. When I saw him, he was looking down at the ground kicking lightly at the dirt. I clutched my lunchbox tightly. I just might have to use it again. He looked up at me, ashamed, and what I saw around his right eye was a giant glaring purple shiner. He looked away quickly, we got on the bus, and he never bothered me again.
After all of the mean things that I had seen Sunny do, I was surprised at my lack of feeling justified for hitting him. I actually felt incredibly remorseful. I felt sorry for Sunny with his tattered clothes and that shameful look on his face. I was mad at him for making me have to act that way. He made the bully come out in me, not because I defended myself that day, but because sometimes I picture that shiner around his eye, even 30 years later, and I smile.
Photo credit: Jimston Journal