I started hitting things when I turned nine. Now I am ten, and in between, I’ve hit about as much as someone my age can hit without getting sent to boot camp—though I’ve been threatened many times. I hit the cat when it sat in my lap and I didn’t want it to sit in my lap. I hit my sister on her way up the stairs. I hit my sister when she was on the floor, watching TV. (I also gave her a kick to the ribs.) Then I said I was sorry and offered her some candy, but when she reached for it, I punched her in the arm—right on the bony part of her elbow so I could hear the impact. Outside my house, I punched the tree until my knuckles turned red. I whacked my neighbor’s tetherball to prove that I am a normal kid, that I hit things that other kids hit. But the tetherball deflated so I hit the metal pole because it was shiny and also because it was there. In class, I hit all the kids who brought their tie-wearing dads to Career Day. I hit the new kid from across the room with a box of crayons and that pissed off the teacher. During recess she made me sit in the principal’s office, where I scowled at the bug-eyed secretary. One day I hit everything yellow that I saw. The next day I hit everything that was blue, including my mom’s mini-van. I hit every wooden fence I passed when she made me walk home. In my head, I was hitting the bastards on the bus that laughed and passed me by. For weeks, I hit my mom every time she tried to give me the pills that make me stop hitting. Inside, she told me, I am all folded up like a piece of origami—and that’s when I hit her. On a day off from school, I smacked my old grandma because she never moves from her corner spot by the window. She sits in the same position, just like the figurines I broke when I hit the legs of the table and they fell off. I got real close and she smelled like tangerines and then I hit her. She squawked. She shifted in her seat and that surprised me enough to make me want to hug her. Mom says everyone needs a hug sometimes, even Grandma, even me. I didn’t give her a hug. Instead, I hit the couch cushion where my father used to sit. I punched his old dresser drawers, and then ripped up the few T-shirts that were left. I hit a pillow on my bed until the feathers were everywhere and my sister asked me if I killed a bird. I pummeled her until she squealed and then I flipped her the bird. That will teach you a lesson, I said. At dinner once, I hit my spoon against my glass of milk, tink tink tink, because it got too quiet at the kitchen table between my half-deaf old grandma and my bruised sister. I hit my fork against the ketchupy edges of the meatloaf. I massacred the green beans. After I got sent to my room, I lay on the floor and pounded my fists onto the blue carpet. I jumped up and boxed with an imaginary man, swinging my fists at the air. I hit the cat again. And my sister, too. I’m running out of things to hit. Soon, I will be eleven.
June 7, 2001