I’ve only been punched once in my life, when I was a freshman in high school. I was sitting at Burger King with Brandon M___, Scott G___, and Stephanie R___. It was a very odd congregation of people for me to be hanging out with. Stephanie was my friend Jeff’s older sister and as far as I know, this was the only time I ever hung out with her. She used to wear a shirt that said “Hug Therapist,” but the letters were spaced out kind of weird and it looked like it read “Hug the Rapist.” Scott was a senior and the second gayest kid in school. He wasn’t out then and for all I know he isn’t out today, but he was still clearly the second gayest kid in school. I’d been friends with Brandon since I was a kid, but we weren’t really in the same clique. So it was a weird group of people for me to be spending time with on a Friday night. The other weird thing about the night was that we had gone ice skating, which is something I didn’t know how to do then and still cannot do. It was clearly a disaster waiting to happen.
We were sitting at a table and some drunk dude and his friends sat down next to us. I knew something bad was going to happen the minute they walked in. They just looked like trouble. And Brandon, Scott, and Stephanie were not the people you wanted to be with when the shit went down.
The drunk guy started talking to us. “Hey fag,” he said. “Hey faggot.” I would assume he was talking to Scott, but it’s possible we were all just one big ball of faggot in this guy’s eyes. My table mates became very quiet and pretended that it was not happening. “Hey faggot.” I didn’t really know how much further we could go like this, so I turned to him and said, “are you talking to me?”
The dude exploded. He leapt out of his seat and grabbed me by the coat. “Yeah I’m talking to you, faggot!” he shouted. He really didn’t like gay people, this guy. The Burger King workers stood behind the counter and watched us, making no move to stop the assault that was occurring in their restaurant.
And then he punched me. Right on the forehead. Which is probably the dumbest place you can punch someone, because foreheads are really hard. I know because the next year, Randy Zeihm head-butted me in the hallway when I was walking to my locker. That was a lot more painful than getting punched. I’d never had any other interaction with Randy Zeihm, but he was a known psychopath. Still, it was very embarrassing. I’d rather get punched in an empty Burger King than get head-butted in a crowded hallway any day.
It didn’t hurt, but a giant knot swelled up on my head almost immediately and I felt incredibly stunned by the whole strange incident. I didn’t fight back. I wriggled out of his grasp and ran outside. I don’t really regret not punching him back. There are lots of people I regret not punching in my life, but this did not seem to be the time or the place. My friends were no help in a pinch, and I have little doubt that the malicious Burger King workers would gladly leave me for dead.
My friends followed me out of the restaurant soon after. It wasn’t even immediately after; that’s the kind of night it was. They like finished their fries. The drunk guy stayed inside, where I’m sure he was greeted as a conquering hero by the Burger King staff. I was pissed that my friends hadn’t bothered to help me in the moment, but I guess they were all in strict survival mode. Regardless, I did not ever hang out with them again. That’s a pretty bum move to leave a guy hanging when he’s taken a punch for you.
I’d never seen the drunk guy before in my life and I never saw him again. I told my sister about it and she thought she knew who he was. She said she was going to send some dudes to kick his ass, but I’m not really sure she had that kind of power. Still, it was one of the kinder offers she made me when we were in high school.