I was fifteen in 1985.
Who Stabbed T.R.?
After class, Pierre, Charlie, Tyler and I were hanging around in a room on the first floor. With no teachers around, Tyler pulled out a pair of nunchucks and started swinging them. Tyler’s hair was feathered with the bangs pulled forward. It looked bad, but I didn’t say anything.
Pierre and I had gone down to Chinatown, where I had bought a butterfly knife. A butterfly knife is a folding pocketknife with two handles. When closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles. I had seen other kids playing with them and they could do tricks. With one hand you could flip out the blade or put it away. Chinatown in DC was the length of a block, with an ornate arch that crossed over the start of the street. The clerk in the store didn’t care how old I was when he sold me the knife. He didn’t even bother to look up at me. At home, I had been practicing flipping it open by holding the lock on the base. With a quick dip of the wrist, the handles opened, revealing the blade, and swung around to meet its other half. I flipped the blade out and into circles, spinning and spinning it, as if I were doing some demented yoyo trick.
Tyler was showing Pierre some moves with the nunchucks. Pierre was a natural athlete and quickly picked up anything physical. Tyler kicked me with a round house, but it didn’t look like the movies. His kicks had been like an old man, drunk on cheap wine. He had been taking Tae-kwon-do from a school called Woo’s. I flipped the knife open when Tyler kicked me. I blocked the kick, forgetting I had the knife in my hand. The knife plunged a few inches into his leg before I realized my mistake and pulled back my hand.
“Holy shit man, I’m sorry!” I said. We both looked at the spot where I had stabbed him. “It’s okay, it barely cut me”.
I looked at the blade and I could see a wet mark that went down the blade more than an inch and a half. “I don’t know. I think I cut you more than that. Why would you kick me when I’m holding a knife?”
“Well I didn’t think you would stab me with it!”
Pierre came to my house and Charlie went with Tyler. Charlie called a few hours later. “Hey, I’m at the hospital with Tyler. I guess you cut him pretty badly.”
“Are you serious?” I said. I pictured the cops showing up at my door, then my parents being told what I had done, then the school kicking me out. I felt flushed.
“When we got back to his house, there was just a drop of blood. I guess the doctor said that when his muscles relaxed, it made all kinds of blood come pouring out. I mean it was all over his sock and shoe, the floor. So we took him to the hospital.”
“Is he going to be okay?”
“Yeah. The doc asked him what had happened and, after Tyler told him the story. The doc says it’s good your friend doesn’t play with guns.”
I hung up the phone and didn’t feel much like hanging out with Pierre, so he went home.
I was still thinking about what was going to happen to me, what Mother was going to do when she found out I had stabbed someone. I barely slept that night. I walked to school instead of taking the bus. I was there an hour early and the first few kids had already heard about the stabbing, but weren’t sure who had been holding the knife.
Andrea walked up to me “Who stabbed T.R.?” She was giggling. “What are you in such a bad mood for? You’re acting like you did it.”
“Shut up and leave me alone.”
Tyler hadn’t made it to school. By lunch I had heard the “Who stabbed T.R.” line about twenty times. I was walking back to class when Mr. Rivera intercepted me and led me into a room with the principal, Miss Smith, and a few other people I had never seen before. Miss Smith was a large woman with light blond hair who sat at the end of the desk.
“Did you stab Tyler?” she asked matter-of-factly.
“Yes, but I didn’t mean to.”
“Were there any teachers around?”
“Was it on school grounds?”
“Yes, the first floor.”
“During the school day or after?”
“Okay, we just needed to know for insurance. You can go back to class.”
They didn’t even ask for the knife, and I didn’t hear a word about it from my parents. I doubt they ever found out. When Tyler came back to school, he said he didn’t care and wasn’t mad at me, but after I stabbed him it was rare that we hung out.