It was a rivalry like few before it and none since. I had hated him with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. While some cross-gender hatred burns with a wild, hidden lust, this one burned with something else, something darker and far more dangerous: the heat of a red rubber ball sketching across the black steaming asphalt of my grade school playground.
His name was Micah and if he was the school’s king of four square, I was the queen he loathed and secretly plotted to murder and replace with another. Though we were young students at a Catholic grade school, the religious beliefs had yet to set in and all we knew, during our first 15 minute and second 45 minute recess, was that God was a red rubber ball and the anointed one was the disciple who could play four-square like a motherfucker.
Each day we would meet in our Four Square castle, as the previous winner would take their rightful place in the servers throne as the rest lined up in anticipation of a chance at glory. When the four squares were taken, the server would start with a set of personalized rules. This doctrine would survive until another took the prized position in square number one.
The moment I began playing four square, Micah had it in for me. I was by far the strongest girl in our grade, and possibly stronger than most of the boys. I was marked from the very start, as no boy likes to be beaten by a girl, especially those Christian boys. They gotta keep their women in line, don’t you know? It didn’t take long before the guys started ganging up on me, led by the Micah, taking over three of the four squares to fight against me until the recess bell rang or they cheated me to the back of the line. This madness would last until we graduated from the eighth grade.
There were more battles besides those during recess. During gym class we would pick on one another in a game of dodge ball, throwing the Nerf balls a little harder than necessary. Soccer was only worth playing of one of us was able to trip the other and make them bleed. Baseball was fun if we could bean one another with the hard, cloth balls and give them a welt lasting into the following week. Kickball became a war where victory was claimed when one would kick the ball into the other’s face before they could put an arm up.
In fourth grade he called me names, but only because he was mad that I’d stolen his Dead Fred Garbage Pail Kid during recess and it was torn up by the teacher later that day as I snuck a peek at it during Reading Rainbow. I admit it now, that stealing it was hardly a very Christian thing to do, but I didn’t hesitate to laugh about it then, or bother to ask forgiveness during our confessionals to Father O’Brien later that month.
When one was Hall Monitor, we would write the other’s name down for talking or swearing just to hear the sweet sound of chastisement coming from one of our teachers. The sweetest day of my life was when he was brought to Sister Joanne’s office (our manly and frightening principal) for a dreaded spanking with the metal ruler.
We moved from our Catholic grade school to the same public high school. While Micah became more involved in church and Christianity, even taking a personal vow during our freshman year to never swear again, I became more involved in being a subversive and brooding young girl who started to believe that the bible was a beautiful book of fiction. Our paths parted and we saw very little of one another until several years ago.
Micah, the darkest enemy I have ever known, worked in the same company that I did. He’s married, has two children and a kind and beautiful wife. He is the most wholesome and Christian man I know, but somewhere, in the dark parts of my mind that counseling has yet to rid me of, I still hear the sketching of that red rubber ball and I want to kick it in his ugly face.