Message from John Carter

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hitting the Mats

I was not a jock in school.  I was thin and lacked athletic ability, but I played sports--primarily football and baseball.  In my neighborhood there were a lot of kids my age, and it was not uncommon for disputes to be settled by a wrestling match.  I took part in these and found that I kinda enjoyed them.

There was one boy on my block named Tommy who was a year younger than me.  Tommy was blond and sort of short.  I would love to report that he was built, but actually Tom was sort of tubby.  Tommy wasn't really a friend.  Because he was a year younger, he was actually in a whole different social grouping from me.  Such is the social life of a twelve to thirteen-year-old.  But he was often involved in ball games with my friends and so he was around.

One day, during a baseball game in one kid's backyard, the pace of the game lagged and somehow the baseball and bat got thrown to the side and everyone began wrestling.  It was hot outside.  Humid.  Most of us had on cut-off shorts or just grass-stained jeans.  I found myself facing Tommy and we locked up, hand to hand.  Tommy, as I said, was a year younger than me.  I suppose he was probably a few inches shorter, and he was certainly somewhat weaker than me.  When we locked up, I realized quickly that I could control him.

Tommy looked me straight in the eyes and I saw for the first time a look of determination another guy's face as we wrestled.  Tommy struggled against me with all his might, but I held him easily, pretending all the while to be just barely holding him back.  He braced himself--he had gained a sense of parity with me that was not really real--and tried to take me down onto the grass.  His blond hair was matted with sweat and he had his tongue out.  He shot under me but I dropped down onto his back and swung myself around so that I had him from behind.

I could feel him almost shudder as I closed my arms around him.  He drew himself up and tried to power out of my bearhug.  I let him almost break free, and then clamped down again.  He swelled out his chest and I think in his mind he was like Tarzan or Hercules, ready to escape his enemy and turn the tables.  But I wouldn't let him get away. 

There was something unbelievably satisfying about wrestling Tommy.  I wanted to dominate him, to hold him down, to force him to submit.  He was equally determined to break free.  We wrestled on the grass for what seemed an eternity.  We were covered in sweat, me bare-chested, him in a less-than white T-shirt.  Suddenly we were aware that everyone was up and had stopped.  I reluctantly released Tom and sat back on my ankles.  He sat up, a goofy smile on his face, and I saw him look from one boy to another as though looking for some confirmation that what had happened had been as much fun for them as it had obviously been for him.  His smile faded, quickly, and he grabbed a handful of grass and threw it ineffectually at me before climbing to his feet.