The two of us sat in the elementary school principal’s office awaiting our doom. Convicted of fighting on the playground, all that remained was our sentencing. It hadn’t been much of a fight. Chris had charged at me, and we wrestled around a bit before our fifth-grade teacher broke us up and led us away like prisoners of war. Silent and motionless, I sat down beside Chris, now wrestling with my guilt. The whole thing was my fault.
Chris was an outsider, a strange and lanky kid who kept a safe distance from grade-school society. He mistrusted us, and for good reason. He spoke in a screechy voice, and whenever he answered a question in class, we erupted in laughter. I think even the teacher had to work at keeping a straight face. Chris was the sad clown of our class. His reality was our greatest fear: being rejected. Chris was alone.
That day on the playground, I had teased Chris. I wasn’t looking for a fight - I was only fighting to fit in. Though I sat with the cool kids at lunch, I suspected that I wasn’t truly one of them. But I knew I had it better than Chris, and I wanted things to stay that way. So like the others, I teased him. Chris, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less about knocking me off the social ladder. At that moment, all he cared about was knocking me off my feet.