So, yeah, it was probably that day that painted a big target on my back.
I continued to keep to myself; entertain myself through reading what I could about my interests; but that wasn't enough to make the other boys leave me be anymore. The occasional shoving about, but mainly verbal taunting at the beginning. Mostly because they knew they could get away with it, because I wasn't the type to tattle. I put up with it for a few weeks; squeezing and unsqueezing my fists, taking deep breaths, repressing my anger, remembering all the times that the caregivers had said that bullies only wanted a reaction.
But, even back then, I was a very irritable child, and I could only keep going like that for so long. So, one day, I was walking and another boy trailed behind me, calling me every name in the book, and I stopped, quickly turned around, then slammed my fist into his nose.
The rest of the fight was a blur, as all fistfights I would get into would come to be. Just sweat and bruised knuckles and panting and the muffled demands from the other kids to lay off, before I'm being whacked with a yardstick as punishment from a caregiver a few minutes later. (A form of corporal punishment, not an all-over beating. One can argue that corporal punishment is its own form of a beating, but I digress.)
I was the one punished because, even though it was one of the boys who had been taunting me consistently over the past few weeks that I had been fighting with, I had been the one to throw the first punch. So, according to them, I was the one who "started it".