Tomorrow night in an American stadium when I see The Boss step on stage, I’ll briefly think about the guy who bullied a couple of us on my high school bus when I was in Grade 9 and 10. A jock from the football team for whom the rules that bound the rest of us didn’t seem to apply. Punk rock hair insulted his smalltown senses. Also, we got on before him – at the first stop – and sat in what was supposed to be his seat at the back.
He loved Springsteen. Always wore a shirt with the Born in the USA album cover on it. His quote in one of my yearbooks is a Springsteen lyric. Once, after the usual name calling and intimidation, my friend found his Springsteen cassette tape on the floor of the bus. Sitting beside me, he proceeeded to hold it up and pull the guts out of it right in front of bully guy. It was terrifying – and maybe a little electrifying – to take back that little bit of power.
As far as I know, he’s still in my hometown. His family has been through some hardships now. As we all have. I don’t wish him any more of a hard time than this life already is a lot of days. It was kid stuff. We were each finding our way.
I do remember though what it felt like to be different in that town and to begin to be noticed in the wrong ways back then – almost more than I remember getting noticed in the right ways. That kind of thing makes people start wanting to blend in. To not be noticed at all.
Not too long after the incident on the bus, I went out and bought the Born to Run album. Which is ironic to me now. Because the bully on the bus didn’t make me feel like I wanted to run. I really didn’t do anything differently because of him.
Every day, I still sat in the imaginary seat of this strapping dude who didn’t like me for who I was. And, in doing that, I realize now, I was being even more of who I was.
Glory days, man.