Bloodshed, screams and fights for the amusement

A blurry screenshot of Windows 98

Some events in your life get imprinted you like it or not. My short miserable life gets no exceptions.

Patches of grass still spotted the “beach” of our pond. There were more people around, most of them were sunbathing. Pond after all was not the cleanest place. Couple of us dipped our toes and now we enjoyed the hot summer sun. It seemed there was nothing better than to relax and have a cigarette, but only if adults did not see, God forbid our parents knew.

There was another “crew” on the beach, but we did not notice them until now. Couple of guys were laughing and disturbing the peace. They seemed to be of the similar age, one of them was wearing camouflage pants others had less contrasting features. We came to a conclusion they were not from around, so it began. My memory escapes the details but someone from us started searching for a reason to start a fight. It took just couple of moments, there were hits, shouts, and eventually we ended up running after them. At some point we stopped, laughed and got back to a usual meeting spot where we shared our experiences.

It was not the only fight we had, far from it. There were more, and we were not always winning. Most of the wins were only on our own turf, that was when you had most of the supporting power from around to fight back. Otherwise, there was a story you had to make up to explain the black eye to your parents.

What could trigger a bloodshed? Well it was purely a location thing, if you lived in the locality nobody would touch you, unless you were from the “outside”, say in another area of the suburb. In cases when friends visited you, you’d be meeting them in the bus stop and then leading them back to avoid the risk of them getting into situations. The inverse applied when you were away, maybe you were visiting your friend and then had to walk a bit to get to the bus (good luck). Maybe you thought it was a great idea to walk home from school and cross all those areas (a sign of bravery?). Things happened.

Another day, sunshine and the pond. The only bit missing was a cigarette. Pocket money spent on ice cream and fizzy drinks left me without a choice but to be nice with Edward - he had a whole pack of those. I was honest to myself, there was nothing to do otherwise. The best alternative to hanging outside was watching a telly which had 7 channels, neither of which had anything of interest to a young teenager. I could have picked up Nintendo but all the game cartridges were used for a thousand times already.

The day moved by, some new faces appeared, others left, we remained. You could see enemy blocks of flat not that far away to the East. You had to squint due to sunshine, there were more people coming to the pond, the whole group of youngsters to be precise. That was not a welcoming sight as today we scored only four of us. One of those approaching boys was wearing camouflage pants… “Look! It’s them again!” someone shouted. It took us moments to gather wits, but we put on our t-shirts in a blink of an eye. That crowd started shouting and moving faster towards us. Around 100 meters still separated us, there was still hope we’ll run away. But we still had to run into the same direction as our enemies to get to the main road which led home. My flat was closest, but it was still 500 meters away. We ran like never before, it felt as though they wanted to tear us apart after what happened the previous time. We got back to the main road and almost got caught, but the adrenaline did its job, the distance between us increased a bit. After another hundred meters only 4 chasers remained behind us, including the guy with the camouflage pants. I thought there is a chance to fight and started to slow down, but my peers were smarter and ran away. I could not run anymore, wanted to face the destiny or even try winning this somehow.

Four guys were approaching me, they looked mad, but exhausted. “You’ll pay for what you’ve done, kid!” one shouted. “You’re a dead man!” joined another. Camouflage guy pulled the hand out fo his pocket - he had a gun. The 6-shot pistol was all black with a short barrel. I got strangely calm, there was no running away - he’ll shoot, I just had to survive this for everyone else. There was a hope my dad will see this through the window which was not that far away at this point. “Do you want to die, kid!?” they asked and pushed me a couple of times. After those pushes they just stood, “the time has come” I thought. The camouflage dude just said to never try fighting them again, and mentioned that he’ll kill any one of us if he sees us again. “Now run!” I was told. I ran.

Day after day summer was passing. The pond did not interest me that much anymore. The time has come to go back to school. It was necessary to get to the bus and then do a change in the city. At that point you had to be careful before getting onto the bus. You did not want to enter the third (back) door and find couple of old enemies circling and ridiculing you, second door was a wiser choice.

Computer class was one of those I liked, but it was only once or twice a week. There were a couple of PCs, I could only dream about having one at home (it was not your regular Sega!). The keyboard, mouse, monitor, floppy disks, UI - it was all giving me weird emotions and a feeling, a connection to the machine. I could forget all the issues in the world, but the class was a class and not all of it was pure fun due to the assignments.

Another great thing about school-time was the proximity to the city you had every weekday. City had various events and one of those was an annual tech trade show. School kids could enter for free - it was another way to run away from home and school to the undiscovered world of computers. To be honest the primary reason was to get access to the internet and chats.

After enduring the 5 lessons (each 45 mins) I left the school and went for a bus. It took me to the complex of buildings for the show. There were lots of people around, sales people I guessed. The goal was to cruise around and find some “demo” computers, there were more kids doing the same. Half an hour of cruising around and I saw a line of PCs integrated into portable walls. It was a long day and there was never a better prize than to get access to those machines and just explore them. When getting closer I saw one PC was being occupied. The kid had a familiar look, he wore camouflage pants! My heart sank, but it was too late to turn back, he was staring at me. “Whatever happens” I told myself. There were maybe 5 steps separating us, we looked at each other and then started smiling and laughing. We did a handshake, and I joined a neighboring PC. Like nothing ever happened we talked and browsed, and browsed, and talked. Who knew we’ll have so much in common, if only there was a PC at the pond.

The above story connects me to the beginning of a relationship with a computer. I still remember the feeling I got when touching the keyboard, dragging the mouse, browsing screens on Windows 95, searching for a chat.

The guy I mentioned here (Edward) has died fairly recently due to the liver failure. He was not able to steer himself away from the destructive behavior that started early in our lives. If only he was interested in computers…

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