So I was walking down the road a few weeks ago, and I see a guy approaching me. A stocky guy, few inches shorter than me, staring me down, almost snarling, and with his fists clenched by his side. As he got closer I saw his was a face that had been punched more than a few times. At least judging by his nose.
As we close the distance between us, I start to get very concerned that I am about to be swung on, so I prepare, and raise my left to my face, just in case I need to block. He just walks past me, however, maintaining angry eye contact, without swinging on me, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I just chalk it up to the weird energy in the world. This repeats about four times over the next two weeks. Finally, I have had enough, and want to know what is up. Have I previously offended him and do not remember it? Do I even know the guy?
“Excuse me, Bro, can I ask you something?” I gently inquire.
“What?” he replies while adopting a defensive stance.
“Do we know each other?”
“Well I need to ask, every time I see you, you look all angry and stare at me and make me think you are about to punch me. May I ask why that is?”
Then he said just about the saddest thing I have ever heard.
“Because I don’t know you, and you might punch me.”
“Why would I do that?” I was incredulous.
“I don’t know. People I don’t know just punch me.”
And then I realized, I was dealing with a guy who most likely suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, or had some other form of cognitive developmental issues, and has been bullied and battered his whole life and this was his coping mechanism. Until he knows who someone is they are seen as a threat cause that has been his experience since childhood.
“ Aw.. shit dude, I would never punch you for no reason.”
“You promise?” he asked like a five-year-old seeking confirmation of a promise of an ice cream cone.
“I promise. I will never punch you or give you a reason to punch me. Deal?”
So then we made introductions and Mr PunchyFace’s name I learned is ‘Richard Not Dick’ and he does not like being called ‘Dick’. I told him my name was ‘Robert Not Bob’ cause I don’t like being called Bob. We made a little small talk, and he told me that he likes to play video games, and seemed disappointed when I told him I never played them and knew nothing really about them. And then we went our separate ways.
I saw him yesterday for the first time since then, and as he saw it was me approaching, his whole stance and demeanor changed. His fists unclenched, and he was still staring intently at me, but he had the softest most tentative smile.
“Hello Richard!” I hailed.
His face erupted in a smile, and he almost rushed at me, all excited to talk to someone. He then spent the next ten minutes telling me about his newest video game conquests and challenges. Apparently, level 20 is a real bitch. Now I think whenever I plan my walks in that neighbourhood, I need to factor in an extra ten minutes. Just in case I see him.
So that is how I made friends with Mr. PunchyFace.