[Ok, this is a really long post. It's a memoir from when I was a kid. I hope you enjoy it]
Today, for some unknown reason, I found myself thinking about a kid I went to school with. To protect the ignorant, I'll call him Jerry.
My first memory of Jerry was when I was talking to a friend about 'Double Dragon' that I'd just got for my Nintendo. It was lunchtime at school and Jerry was sitting at the same table as me and a few of my friends.
"Double Dragon?" he interupted, out of nowhere. "I beat that last week."
"Really?" I asked.
"Yeah, I beat it the day I got it." He said. "I'm playing 'Advanced Double Dragon' now. I'm right near the end."
Now, if you've never heard of 'Advanced Double Dragon', don't be too surprised… because it doesn't exist. In fact, the computer Jerry claimed to have played it on didn't exist either. Apparently, he'd played 'Advanced Double Dragon' on a top-secret Commodore prototype, the 'Commodore 6000'.
"A Commodore 6000?" I asked, incredulously, "There's no such thing."
"No." Said Barry, looking offended. "My Uncle works as a games developer for Commodore. It's his computer and game, they're not out yet. They're top secret, so I'm not really surprised you haven't heard about them."
I think every school had a kid like Jerry. The kind of guy who you can tell is lying because his lips are moving.
Jerry got so angry that we didn't believe him that he swore he could prove it…so that day, after school, I stopped at his house on the way home. While we were walking I honestly wondered what he was going to do when we got there. It was like that episode of Seinfeld where George lies that he has a place in the Hamptons and ends up driving people there to 'prove' it.
We got to his house, and he asked me to wait outside in case his 'Mum was asleep'…and came out two minutes later looking theatrically disappointed. Yeah, you guessed it, by an amazing coincidence, his Uncle had turned up that morning and had taken the 'Commodore 6000' and 'Advanced Double Dragon' back home with him.
Over the next few years, it was amazing just how many uncles would bring really cool shit over to Jerry's house, only to spontaneously leave and take their cool stuff back just before anyone visited. The other thing was that Jerry would always get really upset and angry whenever anyone told him they didn't believe him, no matter how outrageous the lie was. We nearly came to blows when I told him I didn't believe that he had a real, working hoverboard at his house…or that his next door neighbor was a stripper who often invited him over for parties with all her stripper friends.
Looking back, that was the scary thing about Jerry…when you called him on his bullshit, he'd get angry… but not because you were calling him on a lie, but because he was genuinely upset that you didn't believe him. You could look into his eyes and see that he wasn't just lying to you, but that he was mainly lying to himself.
Now, you're probably thinking that it's not unusual for someone to embellish a story a little bit to make themselves sound better. It's something everyone does (especially teenage boys), but Jerry never even bothered to keep his stories even remotely plausible.
You remember those kids in highschool who'd claim to have a girlfriend that no-one had ever seen? Well, Jerry had a fictional girlfriend as well…only whereas most guy's fictional girlfriends just 'went to a different school'…when Jerry was 13, he claimed he was dating a 26 year old underwear model. I remember he came out with that little chestnut right after gym class and got really pissed off when no-one believed him…the same genuine indignant rage that no-one believed his totally true, completely plausible story.
That was one of the things I never understood about Jerry. I can understand someone telling a small lie to make themselves look a bit better, but Jerry was a compulsive liar, and even lied when it was absolutely obvious that he was lying, and stuck to his guns even when he'd been obviously busted.
Much later, in college in the mid 90's, some of my friends pranked him by pretending to be a girl from another college in an internet chatroom. One morning, pretending to be this girl, they asked him to meet 'her' in town for lunch that afternoon…and he went, and came back… claiming that he'd met her and she'd given him a blowjob in the back of her car. Then, for about the next week, they got him to go into town every lunch time to meet her…and every time he came back he had another, more outlandish story.
Now, okay, that's a pretty mean 'joke', (that I can honestly say I had nothing to do with), but the joke isn't the point. A few days later, when he was in the middle of his latest story about how he'd met her for the third time and had a threesome with her and her model friend, the guys who were pranking him finally told him that they had been this girl all along.
They told him the screen name they were using for her, they quoted some of the things he'd said to her. They even pointed out how they'd followed him into town one day and watched him stand outside the McDonalds for an hour waiting for her.
How did he react? Did he call them assholes? Punch one of them? Storm off in a rage?
Nope…he stood there and to the people who had
created this fictional girl, he swore blind that she was real, that he'd met her every day he'd gone to town and had really had a threesome with her and her model friend.
As I said, this was a pretty awful and downright cruel 'joke'… but I only mention it because, to this day, I can't understand how he could stand there and keep lying when he knew for a fact that everyone he knew was talking shit.
Of course, Jerry had become a joke years before that incident, but to be honest, I always felt kinda bad for him. He came from a single parent home, his younger brother was a genius (he got taken out of regular school when it turned out he had an IQ over 170) and his sister was the exact opposite with pretty severe physical and mental difficulties…so it was hardly surprising that Jerry would do anything for attention…but on top of that, he honestly scared me a little bit.
You see, whenever Jerry came out with another of his 'stories' and someone called him on it, he didn't get angry or upset because he'd been found out…he got angry, because you didn't believe him. You could see it in his eyes. I remember the day I worked that out. We'd been talking about videogames again and he'd claimed he had full Virtual Reality system in his bedroom.
He got really pissed off when I called him on it and I remember thinking: Holy shit. He's not upset because I'm embarrassing him. He's upset because he actually believes what he's saying
It's like getting genuinely, honestly upset that your wife doesn't trust you when you're screwing her best friend behind her back.
Eventually, the way your dealt with Jerry was just to ignore him, because after ten years of his constant bullshit, it wasn't worth arguing anymore…and as I said, I felt pretty bad for him.
Then, one day, things changed a little bit.
I was 14 or 15. It was the end of a really long day, I was in a foul mood and Jerry had been hanging around all day and had been really getting on my nerves. You see, one of the things I haven't mentioned yet is that, as well as being a compulsive liar, Jerry could also be a real asshole, but as I mentioned above, I tended to give him a free pass on a lot of things, mostly because I felt kinda sorry for him.
It was the end of the day, we were sitting in French class. That night, some friends and I were getting together with our guitars for our regular jam session. I'd just got my Gibson SG, and I was looking forward to trying it out on my friend Dave's Marshall amp (I had an awesome guitar, crappy amp). While we were talking about how we needed a drummer, Jerry butted in.
"Ugh, I'm so tired." He said, yawning theatrically.
"Uh…right." I said. "…Anyway, I know Anthony's got that little drum machine, but…"
"Yeah, I was up really late last night." Interrupted Jerry again, with another theatrical yawn.
"Really?" I said, dropping every hint I could that I wasn't interested. I continued: "Ant said he could…"
"Yeah, I was out 'til 5am this morning." Said Jerry. "Me and my band had a gig at this nightclub…"
I just lost it.
"No, you didn't, Jerry." I said. "Firstly, you've never set foot in a nightclub in your entire fucking life, Secondly, you don't have a band and last, but by no means least, you don't know how to play any fucking instruments and you can't fucking sing."
He started the usual tantrum, and I was so pissed off I just cut him off.
"Shut the fuck up Jerry!" I said as loud as I could without the teacher hearing me. "You're talk nothing but shit and you've been pissing me off all day. Say one more fucking word and me and you are gonna settle this after school."
"Any time, any place." He said.
I was flying on a mixture of anger and good old teenage testosterone.
"Ok, right after school, on the all-weather pitch…behind the school where no teachers'll see and break it up."
I know it sounds like I was the asshole here, but imagine someone pissing you off nearly every day for ten years, someone you've made excuses for and sometimes stuck up for when they didn't deserve it, getting right in your face after a really bad day.
The fight was, well…I'll tell you.
I'll be completely honest and say that by the time the fight started, I'd almost complete calmed down and was back to feeling sorry for him again. The guy was a real asshole but, as usual, he was lying because he was starved for attention and was desperately trying to impress people. I wondered what kind of life he must have to make him escape into fantasy so often…So, I just told him to fuck off, turned to walk away…and suddenly I stopped feeling so charitable when he tried to sucker-punch me the second my back was turned.
Five seconds into the 'fight' and it quickly dawned on me that Jerry had no clue what he was doing. At some point he'd claimed to be a 'gold belt' in karate, but all he was throwing were those ridiculously wide haymakers that do nothing but actually make the punch weaker…while giving me roughly a week and a half to react.
Now, I'm far from a skilled fighter, but I quickly realized that Jerry could literally throw all day and hit nothing but air, while I could punch him at will…but the problem was I just couldn't bring myself to.
If he was any kind of threat, I could have fought him, but this wouldn't be a fight, this would just be me kicking his ass. I blocked four or five more wild punches and just pushed him away.
"You know what? I can't be bothered, just fuck off home, Jerry." I said, dropping my guard. He was breathing like he'd run a marathon, his ridiculous punching style had already worn him out.
Sadly, I think Jerry thought he hadn't been hit because I was too intimidated (or just plain unable) to hit him, and he also mistook me taking pity on him for me being afraid of him. He actually thought he was doing well. He launched at me again…more ridiculously wide haymakers, punching with completely stiff arms, throwing from the shoulder. He looked ridiculous.
If I'm completely honest, wanting to let him go without hurting him was only half 'noble'…the other half was I'd never been in any real trouble at school, and I kinda wanted it to stay that way. If I beat the shit out of him, someone would obviously notice when he turned up for school the next day with a couple of black eyes, a thick lip and a broken nose…If this had been an actual fight, we'd have just been two kids getting into a fight after school. But if I turned up the next day without a scratch, that's not a fight, that's just me picking on him and beating him up.
However, Jerry was still swinging and probably playing the Rocky theme in his head. I realized what I had to do: I'd fight him, but go for body-shots only. I'd attack him, but avoid his face and not to do him any real damage…that way I could win the fight without actually hurting him. So I told him this was his last chance to walk away…and he laughed. Why should he walk away? He was winning.
So, I started throwing punches, not as hard as I could, but definitely as fast as I could.
Within seconds we were at the other end of the pitch, Jerry with his arms covering his head while I landed hundreds of fast, hard blows on his stomach, chest and arms. I was beating him back so fast that he quickly lost his footing and fell.
"Just fuck off." I told him as I stood over him. Unfortunately, Jerry had turned into a bad movie cliché. He was angrier than I'd ever seen him and as he stood up, he charged at me with his head down, going for a tackle. Unfortunately, he didn't think to, you know, actually keep his head up and watch where he was going and I just took a step to the side, stuck my leg out and sent him tumbling again.
On my way home, I felt almost good about myself.
You see, I'd been provoked, I'd faced a guy who'd given me every justification to beat seven bells out of him and I'd controlled myself. I could have done the guy some serious damage but instead I gave him the opportunity to walk away, twice, and then only used the amount of force that I had to in order to end the situation.
Yeah, Jerry ended up a little dirty and humiliated but, in the logic of a typically arrogant 14 year old, I also figured I'd helped him in some way.
You see, if Jerry was unpopular and a school joke simply because he talked shit all the time… and I figured that maybe the reason he lied so much is because he'd never faced any consequences for doing so. I thought that maybe he'd get home, think about what had happened and maybe decide not to lie so much.
…I arrived at school the next day to find out that he'd told everyone who'd listen that he'd dragged me to the all weather pitch after school, 'beat the shit out of me' and I'd 'run away crying'.
That day I had my first fight during school time. It didn't get broken up by the teachers, simply because Jerry was knocked out cold 15 seconds after it started, I ended up with my first detention…but I felt it was worth it.
I bumped into Jerry years later, just a few weeks before I moved to America. I asked him what he was up to.
He told me he couldn't tell me because it was all 'top secret', but he was 'working for the government'.
Some people never change.