The moment Dave lets me up, I swing for his jaw and land a glancing blow. Later, aer we’ve retreated to ourrooms, our father comes to check on me. I’m lying on the blue rug, crying. He tells me Dave has a broken hand,from when he hit the coee table. He’d been aiming for my skull.
I ght with my twin brother, Mike, too, unl he hits a growth spurt and becomes too big to tangle with. Our
nal ght is especially vicious. We grapple and punch and tumble across the bed. We can smell each other—ourskin, our breath. The inmacy is disorienng. Not so long ago, the two of us walked to school pressed togetherat the shoulder. But the prohibions of boyhood have torn us apart. These days, the only me we touch iswhen we ghtHaving pummeled each other to exhauson, we stand face to face. Our chests heave with adrenaline. We’reconfused, not sure how to bring this to a close. My hand ies up and slaps Mike across the face. It’s a loud,
clean blow, delivered so quickly neither of us can quite believe it. Mike bursts into tears and runs from the
room. I stand, staring down at my hand. My palm sngs, but the rest of me feels nothing.Around this me, I become convinced that Peter Guerrero wants to kick my ass. I have no idea how this noonhas taken root, but I spend every lunch period obsessing over it. Peter is a pudgy kid with a rash that makes theskin on his arms red and aky. I am constantly thinking about where he is, where I can and cannot walk, what
to say if he approaches me.
This is how I understand masculinity to operate: Either
you are a bully or you are bullied. You fnd a weaker boy
to absorb your humiliation, or you are that boy.
A few years later, the bully is a kid named Sean Linden, who organizes a posse of his friends to antagonize me.For months, they call me names and issue threats. Linden never gives any indicaon of why he has targetedme, and I never ask. All we know is that because I’m too frightened to ght back, I’ve consented to this ar
The only arena in which I enjoy some measure of physical pride is the soccer eld, where I’m small but quick,a star. One year, I lead my team all the way to the city championship game. I score a goal early and assist on asecond, which puts us up 2–0 at halime. Then a teammate tells me that the toughest kid on the other team isgoing to beat me up aer the game. I spend the second half in a silent panic. We lose the game 3–2. I’m con
-vinced my cowardice is to blame.
It’s 1981, and Sugar Ray Leonard is ghng Tommy Hearns. It’s one of the rst ghts on pay-per-view, and myfather has agreed to buy the telecast. We’ve moved the TV into the living room because a bunch of friendshave come over. There are maybe a dozen of us, men and boys ung across sofas and chairs.I’ve been at the park, walking our hyperacve Labrador retriever. Dave, my older brother, is a senior in high
school now. Mike and I are sophomores. As I approach our house, I can see our mother through the full-length
window next to the front door. Her expression is grave, her complexion heading toward ashen.