Hard head 

Sometimes you have to learn lessons the hard way

I can't believe I was conscious when my head was cracked open. And, for the record, I'd like to say I've always resented how my family blames me for it and refers to the incident as the time "Holly cracked her head open." It's not like I picked up the brick myself and hit my head with it. The brick was thrown at me by an asshole neighborhood kid. He stood in the courtyard of our apartment building maybe six feet away with the brick in his hand, shouting, "Little girl, you better move because I'm gonna throw this brick."

My sister Cheryl was with him. "Move, Holly, he's gonna throw the brick."

A gaggle of neighborhood kids were there as well. "Move, because he's gonna throw that there brick."

Of course I didn't move, I was 2, for God's sake. I didn't know what the hell they were talking about. Besides, only four days earlier I had taken my mother's cricket cage full of family jewelry and passed it out among these very same kids to ensure their undying friendship. Surely they wouldn't allow harm to happen to me after that, would they?

Those ungrateful, two-faced little shitholes. They let that boy throw the brick. To this day, I think back and I'm amazed, because it's not like the courtyard was small and narrow and my 20-pound, 2-year-old ass was taking up the entire sidewalk. Though I heard him, it still made perfect sense, even to my baby brain, that if the boy wanted to throw the brick, he could easily aim at an empty spot.

My father said he did, but he was happy I survived and joking was his way of showing it. Besides, my head was not empty, it was full of blood and stuff. Our babysitter, a big Hawaiian lady who slept in a hammock in her living room, kept saying, "So much blood in such a little body." She was in a good position to gauge, too, because she'd laid me on the couch in the living room and hung my head over the armrest so the blood could drip directly into a ceramic mixing bowl. Cheryl kept bringing the kids by to see my brains, which I don't think were actually showing, but she kept pointing to the crack in my head anyway, saying, "Her brains!" and they believed her.

The doctor stitched my brains back in my head and when my parents confronted the boy who threw the brick, he just shrugged and said, "I told her to move." In grade school I took to parting my hair directly down the center, which exposed the scar. If someone asked about it, my family would say, "That's where Holly cracked her head open," and I couldn't believe they still blamed me for that.

Later I fell in love with a boy three years ahead of me in high school. He had eyes like wide horizons, and my breath would quicken the second I saw his face. God, did I adore him, with my heart hung out there like a freshly caught fish, all exposed to the air and gasping.

This boy was an adventurist, though, and he was only sticking around, he said, until he'd earned enough money to move to Australia, where he planned to spend the rest of his life surfing and bussing tables at a seaside diner. Though I heard him, I always figured things would work out anyway. Maybe he would take me with him or maybe he wouldn't go after all.

He used to take me to the beach in San Clemente so we could surf next to the nuclear-power plant, where the waves were supposed to be really awesome. I never did catch on, though. Surfing has got to be the hardest sport known to man. To this day I don't understand the appeal of bobbing around in big waves with a bunch of wooden torpedoes darting at your skull. So I would sit on the beach and watch, that way I could still call myself a surfer chick. When he came in from the ocean, I would cling to him like locks of his own hair.

He would always tell me about Australia, how the waves were bigger than buildings and people still lived off the land like pioneers. He had visions of himself sleeping in a mud hut off the highway, which ran along the beach, and in the mornings he would roll up his meager belongings, stash them behind a tree and surf until it was time to clock in at the diner, where they wouldn't mind that he showed up for work soaking wet every day.

They were big dreams, but not big enough for me to fit in there anywhere. He dumped me after driving me home from one of those San Clemente excursions. I remember when he extricated himself from me, crying and stuck to him like I was. "How can you do this to me?" I blobbered. He shrugged and said, "I told you I was moving."

And I'd heard him, too, but I figured he wouldn't throw the brick with me standing there. He did, though, and looking back, I'm amazed at how many times -- back then and since then -- I've continued to get hit in the head with the same brick before finally getting out of the way.

hollis.gillespie@creativeloafing.com

Hollis Gillespie's commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered." To hear the latest, go to Moodswing at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.

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