What can you learn from getting beaten?

I never fought in my adult life.

I come from a peaceful city. There, when random people told they’d beat me up in the middle of the night frustration I’d say “let’s go for it”: and nothing happened. When someone was bullied or hurt around, it was never me. I’d score low on an “are-you-a-victim?” test.

But I wasn’t only involved in random alcohol-fuelled late-night conflicts in my life. In fact, I was involved with girls.

One, in particular, that’s important for us now. She was the sister of my best friend (who else?!) and she had just broken up with her boyfriend. After a couple of drinks we’d make out.

The next morning… …nothing happened. Except that she told me she was back together with the boyfriend. Not that it seemed to mean a lot: we were in Hungary while he was in the US.

Once again, nothing happened. It was very usual in my peaceful hometown. 2 years passed.

Then, one day after more-than-healthy amount of drinks when my friend told me not to go near his house I’d insist on visiting. The boyfriend was sleeping over too.

While watching the computer screen in my friend’s dark room I heard my nickname, turned my head and successfully blocked his first hit with my right cheek. I remember the sudden change of pace from late night sleepiness to suddenly becoming fully alert as the moment slowed down as the swivel chair slipped out from under me and I fell down. I hardly had enough time to take my arms in front of my face while laying on the hard floor.

I’m getting hits to my face like there’s no tomorrow.  I’m hardly able to block anything and I don’t even think about hitting back. Then he stops. (Later I got to know that my friend held his arm down.)

And he gives his hand: “Welcome to my world!” -and helps me up. It’s easy to get up. I feel I could jump as high as ever. Blood is pouring in my right eye. He’s well-built, sober, gym-goer, experienced fighter. Bosnian-American. I have not fought in my adult life.

We start talking. I’m surprised by my lack of courage: I’m not able to walk up and hit him. I’ve never done it to anyone. And I’m surprised by my wittiness. I’m bringing up the fact that I didn’t hit back. I -indirectly- call him stupid. I’m not afraid of him hitting me again. We talk while I’m making the floor more and more bloody. We shake hands at the end.

The next day’s miserable. I can compare the blood loss to the time when a taxi hit me and was taken to a hospital. In a movie this would be a warning of an Italian crime (the one before breaking the fingers.) I don’t go home until the evening. I ignore my mother talking about the police.

I knew, people would ask me for a while what happened. Some would decide not to talk to me. I knew the marks would soon disappear from my face. But essentially things would be back to very normal soon.

I learned something that one can not learn from books. The same way as a 12 year old girl would never understand how her life would be basically the same after her first kiss, falling in love and losing her virginity. Getting beaten up was like one of these things.

That night, unlike many in my hometown, made me stronger: someone who’s less afraid…

nytimes (it’s not me)

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