"Hey, wimp, get away from my sister. I thought I told you to stay the fuck away from her."
He had told me that, several times. I remember that, because he had been punching my belly while he said it.
He was Bruce Godwin, captain of the baseball team, older brother of Michelle, who was my age and who was my crush.
She had been a geek girl along with us geek boys. Then she blossomed beautifully, and stayed her self inside. She was gorgeous, and I could talk to her, make her laugh. Especially when she wore those hiphugger jeans. She knew there was no way I could resist that.
So she invited me over to take a walk with her, and I biked around the block to her parents' house, and down in the suburban basement who should be there but Bruce and his pals.
I was a pot-bellied geek in the judgment, spoken or unspoken, of all the athletic guys. Bruce had a sick sort of possessiveness of his cute little sis. On top of his ego-preening, which would not tolerate the idea of his sister going out with a pot-bellied geek.
And here I was, trapped in a basement with Bruce. I was caught, completely. I had violated his very specific instructions to me. And his punishment was coming my way.
But I did myself one worse: I earned it. It wasn't the pain that I was afraid of. I was mortified at the thought of her seeing me, watching me, feeling me -- as a pot-bellied wimp, as a humiliated bellypunch victim. I had to look tough.
So I answered Bruce with a swing at him.
Oh, I was so lame. In spite of my size. I don't even know what part of him I was aiming for, or what damage I expected to do with so feeble and slow a punch. All that mattered was the "ooh!" reaction from his friends.
That confirmed I had commited a foul, an ungentlemanly attack, on him. And he was now honor-bound to give me my beating in reply to my insubordination.
Right in front of my Michelle! What a fool I was. She was the kind of girl guys like me get beat up for.
My heart sank in my throat as soon as I saw him easily duck back from my wild swing. I whiffed, and my heart sank. I saw his eyes light up. I had handed him a green card to beat me up.
Naturally, he went right for my belly. The very first punch, yes, and the one he used to finish me off, and every punch in between. Right in my belly.
Look, I'm not fat, alright. I'm tall and mostly thin. My belly just naturally sticks out.
And now I was serving it up to him like a slow round pitch over home plate.
For the first few seconds, it looked like it might not go that way.
Without moving he flicked a fist toward my face. It never got within a foot of me, nor was it meant to, but my hands instinctively rose, and I deluded myself to thinking I had dodged it. He feinted his left fist again at my face. But this time when I raised my hands and shut my eyes, Bruce took a big step with his right leg and, with a "hah!" put all his weight into a solid punch in my belly.
My breath blurted from me with a forceful UH! I stood in shock, then the sense of being penetrated and the pain of being bellypunched flooded my mind and overwhelmed whatever control I had. I let out a sound, wailing OOOOOOOO!! and put my hands over my stomach and folded far over.
My eyes felt like they were bugging out, cartoon-style. My mouth felt sick and I opened it wide. My stomach feels like a crumpled beercan, and I can't keep mt hands from clutching at it desperately as I double up from a punch in my belly.
It's the humiliation I dreaded, acted out right in front of her. I'm now doubled over, making sick-baby noises, from a legitimate punch in the belly. Being mocked by the man who did it to me, and jeered by his friends.
Being not the star, no longer a potential Romeo, but being a mere stunt-man in life. That guy who tried to fight but couldn't take it in the belly. Forget him.
But Michelle wasn't like that, I knew. "Leave him alone, you bully," Michelle yelled -- cluelessly adding fuel to my fire, "Stop hitting his belly!"
Bruce had almost a buzz cut, but I had affected long, hippie-boy hair. Long hair and a pot-belly are a bad combination to bring to a fistfight.
He grabbed my hair, and in one smooth swing he yanked me from doubled over to arched back. My hands naturally flew to my hair. I made no attempt to resist or fight. And now I've got my back arched and my belly stuck out, and Bruce is holding me up to the room full of his friends.
"Look at his belly!" one says.
"Stop, you bullies!"
The other boy tells Bruce, "You can see your fist-print on his belly!"
Bruce laughs. "You give him one!"
The boy lines up his shot to my helpless belly, and swings hard, overhand, and whomps a punch down onto my bowed-out belly, near the solar plexus, and after that I don't remember anything for a bit.
Michelle told me later what they did to me. The punch in the gut had scrambled my brains. I stood voiceless and defenseless while they punched my belly at leisure. They took turns: A left, a right, an uppercut, a big overarm jab. All straight into my belly. While she was demanding, "Stop punching his stomach. It's not fair!"
At least that's what she told me.
All I know is, the next thing I remember is rolling on the floor, cradling my belly and crying, while Michelle berated Bruce.
"Look at him, he's crying," she said, as if to draw Bruce's sympathy to my suffering and humiliation. But of course they all only laughed at me.
I was lost in my own world at the moment. It was the slow, suffering world of a belly-punch bellyache. I was on my knees on the carpet. My body had folded over as far as my pot-belly would allow, and my arms cradled my bullied, beaten belly. I had no control over myself now, I was possessed by the bellypain that flooded me.
My suffering was a comical show. The old cliche: big guy who can't take it in the belly. I brought it to life. On my knees, bent forward, face flat to the floor, gripping my belly, in the agony of feeling winded. I became him. A one-punch fight-loser. A big bellywimp. Still down and sucking air long after the 10-count has ended.
He got tired of waiting. He started kicking at me, and instinctively I stood up, as best I could. But he just grabbed me at once by the collar and started punching me in the belly.
I do remember some moments from that belly-beating. Mostly I remember that horrible "splatted" feeling when the fist sank into my stomach. The terrible displacement sensation so deep inside me. That flatted feeling.
Sometimes my tormentor would give me enough time to fully pull myself together, dry my eyes, catch my breath. Then I was bound to make an effort to attack him, or else I must quit in utter disgrace. Taking my beating was better than quitting.
My efforts never amounted to anything but embarrassment for me. I was just too slow, too bulky. Even before I got the wind knocked out of me. I had learned fighting by reading about it in a book.
But Bruce encouraged me, told me to swing at him, taunted me, "swing at me!" And I would, though I knew he just wanted to show off his skill in dodging a feeble blow and counterpunching hard to the belly. He was exceptionally skilled at it, and he made me suffer for the sake of showing off.
My lunges at my rival also reminded the crowd that, no matter how cruelly he beat up my belly, I was the fool who had challenged him.
The bully would mock and berate me, while I stood breathless from his punch in my belly. The moment I found my breath again and was able to inhale, Bruce lashed out with another fist, or a flurry of jabs, and he knocked the wind out of me again with a sock in my stomach. I would groan and go back to silently gripping my belly.
It ended only when they were tired of beating my belly. It ended with a kick in the stomach that made me writhe on the floor, silent. Then Bruce told me in front of everyone, "Don't go starting a fist-fight if you can't take it in the BELLY!" and on the word "belly" he kicked his boot into mine. OOF!
They trooped out of the basement. I could tell Michelle wanted to stay, but he glared at her and beckoned for her to follow him, so, with many glances back down at me, she did.
It was, to put it bluntly, a humiliation beating.