The morning bell rings, and I plop down in my usual seat in the back of the classroom. Mrs. Roberts, the most boring woman on the planet, begins taking attendance in her nasally voice.
"Devon Turner?" she says. I can't stand listening to her talk, she reminds me of Janice from the sitcom "Friends". I raise my hand.
"Here!" my voice cracked near the end of the word, making it sound as though "here" had two syllables instead of one. I hear a snicker coming from somewhere to my left, and try to ignore the red hot feeling that creeps up my neck to my ears as I curse puberty. Mrs. Roberts begins to hand out booklets of blank paper to the class for our in class essays, I take mine wordlessly. I tap my pen on the desk a few times, contemplating which topic to choose for my essay. "Discuss the use of imagery in Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold can Stay"" or, "Discuss Yeats' use of metaphor in, "The Second Coming"". I don't find either topic appealing. I rest my head in my hands as my mind starts to wander to the UFC fights from last night.
I remember watching anxiously as my favourite fighter, BJ Penn, forced his opponent into submission. The arm bar was perfectly executed, Diego Sanchez had no choice but to tap out as his arm was pulled further and further away from it's socket. The ref blew the whistle, and the fight was over. I was always amazed by the sportsmanship and respect each fighter would show towards his opponent. After breaking a nose or snapping a shin bone, the fighters would shake hands and help the other up off of the bloody floor mats. It has been said by numerous sources that MMA is a barbaric sport, but I've never really agreed with that. I mean, there are so many rules and regulations, it would be nearly impossible for someone to come out of a fight with a permanent injury. Plus, these guys know what they're getting into as soon as they step into the caged octagon.
Someone behind me sneezes. I am pulled away from my daydream and back to reality, where five blank pages still sit upon my desk. I try my best to hold back a yawn, but it comes out anyways. Leaning back in my seat, I absent-mindedly glance around my 11th grade English classroom. Next to me is my best friend Tim. I try to catch his eye, but he's too busy throwing wads of paper at the back of Lawrence's head to notice. I laugh
appreciatively out of obligation, but I don't really find it all that funny. I've always felt bad for Lawrence to be honest. He's tall with gangly limbs, and an awkward personality to match. I squeeze my eyes shut and let out one last yawn before finally picking up my pen and starting my assignment.
"How do you think you did on the assignment Devon?" asked the blonde girl to my right. I let her through the classroom door ahead of me before joining the current of hundreds of student bodies flowing through the school hallways.
"I honestly have no idea." was my reply, "what topic did you choose?"
Michelle started to tell me all about her essay on a documentary we had watched a few weeks ago called, "Who Killed the Electric Car?", but I stopped paying attention to what she was saying before she could reiterate her thesis. I was too focused on the crowd of people that had formed around a section of lockers. With Michelle in tow, I made my way through the growing crowd to see what everyone was looking at. There, pinned against one of the peeling yellow lockers, was Lawrence. The body attached to the arms that held him there belonged to a senior named Jackson. Jackson was a pretty big guy. His 6' frame didn't quite bring him eye level with Lawrence's 6'2 one, but Jackson easily had 40 pounds on poor Lawrence.
Looking around at the crowd of about 20 students that had gathered, I noticed Tim standing a few people away shouting for Jackson to "knock him out" along with everyone
else. I managed to catch Tim's eyes, and saw that they were full of excitement. I sidled up next to him and crossed my arms, Michelle had been long forgotten. I wasn't even sure where she was. I felt someone bump my shoulder, and looked to my right where my buddy Ryan was now standing. Tim, Ryan, and I have been friends since we were babies, although that isn't a rare fact between friends in our small town.
"Hey guys, fuck I thought you were gunna miss this!" said Tim, his eyes glued to the display in front of us. Ryan and I remained silent as we watched the scene unfold.
"Fuckin' ridiculous." I heard Ryan mutter under his breath, I noticed he was shaking his head.
Jackson had Lawrence pinned up against his locker, shouting at him to "pick up the damn books". Lawrence had gone red, I could see his hands shaking. I felt a pang of sympathy for Lawrence, but that was quickly replaced with the rush of adrenaline. Jackson was ready to explode at any minute and, sadistic as it was, I wanted to be there to see it. I had only ever watched fights on TV, and had yet to see one up close and personal. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of seconds before the two angry boys were pulled apart by Coach Klein. Jackson was big, but Coach Klein made him look like the juvenile he was.
Leading both boys by the collars of their shirts, Coach Klein dragged Lawrence and Jackson down the hallway and out of sight. The crowd quickly dispersed, and I realised that Michelle had been standing behind me the whole time. I could feel the adrenaline that had been pulsing through my system moments earlier start to drain while my head cleared. Michelle walked beside me muttering something about the "sick male fascination with violence", but all I could focus on was the feeling of disappointment that had washed over me.
As the school day came to a close, the almost fight between Jackson and Lawrence had been long forgotten. When the final bell rang, I gathered up my textbooks and made my way out of the busy AP Chemistry lab. I walked slowly, without purpose, towards my locker. The lights flickered slightly above. The hallway was a sea of careless, mundane faces. We make up what you could call the "textbook example" of a small town, I attend the only high school in the city, and you cannot walk five blocks without someone asking about your mother. I always felt as though I belonged in a big city full of excitement. I find this town too boring, too safe.
Absent-mindedly spinning the combination lock to retrieve my backpack from my locker, I failed to notice the fact that the current of students flowing through the hallways had started to move at a much quicker pace. Someone bumped my shoulder, causing me to turn my head and see Tim running towards me at full speed, a look of pure glee across his face. He had started talking before I could ask questions.
"Devon! Jackson, Lawrence, outside, let's go man!", his voice filled with child-like excitement. I quickly gathered my books, slammed my locker shut, and followed the crowd of students towards the park across the street.
"Any idea where Ryan's at?" I asked.
"Nope, couldn't find him, probably finishing up an exam or something. Shitty deal that he's gunna miss this though, Jackson's pissed."
I could already feel the adrenaline start to course through my veins again as we neared the circle that had formed in a secluded section of the park. After pushing our way through the throng of people, Tim and I found ourselves the perfect "ring-side seats". There was Jackson, pacing like a wild animal. He would shake out his hands, jump a few times, walk a few steps, and repeat. I could feel his pent up energy radiating, and wondered if this is what it would feel like to be sitting ring-side at a real UFC fight. A few minutes later, his opponent was shoved into the circle.
Tim vocalized what I had been thinking. "What the fuck?"
The person standing opposite Jackson in the circle was none other than our friend Ryan. I noticed Michelle standing a few feet away, arms crossed and shaking her head. I had to find out what was going on.
"Hey Michelle!" she turned at the sound of my voice. "What the hell is going on? I thought Jackson was fighting Lawrence."
"Apparently Jackson was giving Lawrence a hard time during second period, so Ryan decided to say something about it. At least one of you meatheads isn't completely sadistic." she said, poking her long finger into my bony chest, "well? Don't just stand there, do something!"
I honestly had no idea what I was supposed to do. Should Tim and I go into the circle with Ryan? No matter what we do, one of us will get his ass beat. That's just the kind of guy Jackson it. I glanced back towards Tim, the look of confusion on my face must have mirrored his. I took my spot next to him, and we each stood silently with our hands in our pockets.
Each of the boys had begun pacing the circle. I half expected to hear a whistle blow to signal the start of the fight, as I had seen it happen so many times before whenever my MMA fighting heroes would step into the ring. Jackson was the first to make a move. He began to step closer to Ryan with his fists raised. I imagined what the ring-side UFC commentators would be saying if they were here, Joe Rogan's voice boomed in my head. Jackson took a swing at Ryan but missed by a few inches. He swung again, this time grazing my friend's cheek.
The crowd of students had started screaming and egging the two boys on. There was no way Ryan would win this. I quickly looked around at the crowd of faces, but my attention was brought back to the fight when I heard a snap. The crowd nearly silenced. Ryan had made some serious contact with Jackson's nose. The red of the blood matched the red rage that coloured his skin. Ryan stepped back, shocked, as Jackson rushed towards him and knocked him on his ass. Jackson had pinned Ryan to the ground, and delivered a swift elbow to his right cheek.
Then something I hadn't expected happened, a cheer escaped my lips. I wasn't sure where it had come from, but my guilt only lasted a moment as I joined in with the rest of the screaming crowd. I could once again feel cool adrenaline rushing through my veins as I egged the two boys on. Ryan struggled against his opponent's weight, as Jackson made a few more connections with my friend's now bloody face. Jackson managed to lock his forearms around Ryan's neck, and soon had him in a choke hold - a common submission in UFC fighting. I could see Ryan struggling for a breath, and waited for him to tap out and the referee's whistle to blow. That's when it hit me. This
was not a UFC fight, there was no referee here.
The feeling of excitement had turned to a feeling of sickness and dread as I watched Jackson's arms crush Ryan's neck, cutting off his air supply. The crowd had grown silent as Ryan began to claw desperately at any part of Jackson he could reach from his position. Jackson wasn't about to stop any time soon, the look on his face was purely animalistic, there was no logic or reason in his eyes. Three of Jackson's friends quickly jumped into the circle and pulled Jackson away from Ryan, something I now realized I should have attempted before the fight could reach this point. The crowd at the park began to disperse as quickly as it had in the school hallway earlier that day.
I have never though of myself as a violent person. Sure, I like to watch the fights on TV, but could I really take pleasure in someone else's pain? Are people really that sadistic? I walked slowly towards where Ryan was laying on the ground. I stood over him and offered him a hand to his feet. His left eye was swollen shut, and dried blood caked his forehead and chin. He smacked my hand away and struggled to his feet on his own.
"You asshole. You sick, voyeuristic asshole." his voice was calm and even as he stared at me with his one good eye. I felt my face pale. "I heard you cheering, what the fuck man? I just got my ass kicked for some guy I don't even know, but you can't step in to help your own fucking friend? I didn't even want to be in that god damn circle!" he was shouting now. The feeling of guilt was overwhelming, he was right. I felt his now weak hands shove me with whatever strength they had left, and made contact with the cool, grassy ground.
"Look at me you prick!" he yelled. I was too ashamed to meet his glare, and wouldn't raise my eyes even as his foot made hard contact with my side. I lay on the ground with my eyes shut, listening to Ryan leaving the park and cursing under his breath. My side throbbed as his words echoed in my head. You sick, voyeuristic asshole.