I had to wait…

High school is a tough time to be a “new kid”. It doesn’t really matter what grade you hop in at though it may be worse the later you join.

I know this because my father, raised as a city kid, had to move to the “boonies” his sophomore year of high school. He hated it. He’d ride his bicycle all the way back to the city to see his friends. As a kid, that story always made me sad.

To be yanked away from your childhood friends into a completely different environment, with different people.

From what I understand, despite the city being infinitely tougher to grow up in than a town – the town kids were not exactly the most welcoming or friendly. We never really got into specifics on that.

My freshman year of high school – a new kid has shown up and prior to school beginning, he’d joined the football team. Now, before the school year even technically started – this new kid already was slapped with labels and developed a bad reputation. I won’t write his “nickname” because it’s identifiable and frankly it’s a shameful representation of the older kids from my town that had donned the name on him.

He was from a nearby town and why he moved here was unknown to me.

I quickly came to know him because he sat at my lunch table and he was really developing a class clown personality. He was ridiculous. He was daring and he was downright kinda crazy.

If someone said “hey – you should go up to that kid over there, point in his face, and say ‘FUCK YOU!’ as loud as possible” – he’d do it. For the laughs. For the attention. Out of some form of desperation he’d do it.

He wasn’t an idiot that you could simply just order around. In fact he was pretty insubordinate to any form of authority. He was a total wild card – and I find these characters impossibly magnetic to me.

I am a very curious person and I am very interested in complicated people. How are you this way? What is this guy’s deal? I have to know, I have to try and understand through compassionate means.

I talked to him a lot, especially at lunchtime. Then, we were teammates when I was thrust onto the wrestling team by my parents (very much against my will).

One of the things he said to me that I’ve never really forgotten came to me this morning.

I believe we were discussing weight lifting. He had been on the football team and part of their training was weight lifting as a group.

Without him saying it and I kinda already knew this or at least suspected – nobody wanted to work out with him. Nobody on that team really even liked him or tried to understand him. He was an easy target. A foolish victim to them. They were forward in their dislike with him yet he kept coming back for more and they couldn’t understand or simply didn’t care to figure out why.

I was asking him questions because I had never lifted at the time and I enjoyed his typical anecdotal responses and his strong Boston accent. It was the music of “home” to me. The happiest home for me is one full of stories told by the Irish/Italian “r” droppers filled with humor and shockingly sharp wisdom.

I asked something along the lines of, “what happens if you run out of strength”, “like what if your chest can’t do any more?”.

“Well, I’ll just sit there with the bar on my chest and wait until my strength comes back and I can lift it off.”

There was so much resilience and self sufficiency in his response, mixed with my emotional processing of “Well, wouldn’t it be dangerous to let over a hundred pounds sit on your chest like that? Surely that has to be dangerous.”

There was something bigger behind this resilience of waiting for strength to come back.

He wasn’t the only one in the weight room. There was a team full of people, perhaps not everyone, but you definitely could not be the only person in the weight room at a given time.

He didn’t mention saying that he didn’t want help from someone. I think they just didn’t want to help.

As someone who’s become accustomed to the gym, the sight of someone struggling with weight is something any honorable person would spot and jump to help out that struggling person.

You can lightly support the lift, allowing their muscles to finish the workout if you catch them quickly. Otherwise, you can quickly lift the bar from over their head and re-rack it.

It’s a courtesy thing. Sometimes you think you can push it for just one more.

I’m a big proponent of “go to the gym alone”. It’s always good to have a spotter, mainly when you know you’re about to push your limits. Just ask someone standing nearby, or also doing a similar exercise and they may ask you to return the favor. Congrats – you’ve just earned yourself a gymbro.

Thinking back, the thought of this brand new to the school kid laying on the bench press with a heavy weight across his chest – it makes me a little sad.

The last time I remember seeing this kid was quite the bizarre scenario. It was probably 1 or 2 in the morning and he was walking down this pitch black road. I was driving up the road behind him and saw a person so I slowed down to get a look.

I recognized him and rolled the window down and shouted “Yo!”.

I knew whereabouts he lived and was pretty surprised that he was walking home this late at night. I offered him a ride and drove him home.

We took widely different life paths post high school. I still occasionally see him on the socials and can tell he’s doing alright.

He was a tough fucker. A little crazy. Mentally tough. I wish him all the best for all the crazy laughs he’d given me throughout our time in high school.

If I had to sum him up in a song:

The energy, the lyrics – it matches incredibly

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