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The Cocoon: "Courage"

There are precious few moments in life where you’re given the chance to act courageously. To stand up for someone. To be heroic and noble and show the true mettle of your character. And for me, that moment came in 9th grade.

 

Greg Holstein wasn’t a popular guy, but he wasn’t a total loser either. He just tried too hard. He had an open, honest, simple face. His eyes were trusting and vulnerable like Bambi on his first day of school.

Now, I’m not sure who amongst our friends first circulated the idea of egging Greg’s house. I do know that nothing prompted it. He had done nothing wrong to any of us, certainly nothing to warrant this treatment.

But the idea was out there, and it started to gain traction among my friends.

“Let’s do it this weekend!”

“Yeah, he’ll be out of town!”

“Let’s get that fucker.”

As this plan started to grow, with my friends working up to a frenzy around the lunch table, one person had yet to weigh in: me. They noticed my stoic absence and things slowed down to a halt.

This was my moment. To show everyone what kind of man I was. All eyes were on me.

I stared back at these so-called friends of mine. Looked them right in the eye, each one. Then I said: “I’ll buy the eggs.”

Now I can’t tell you where I found the courage to say those words. I mean, it just came naturally, like it was just meant to be. But I stood by my words then, and stood by my words a couple of days later at the corner store, as I bought 4 cartons of eggs.

Outside, we opened the cartons and I doled out 4, 5 eggs per person. My friends took the eggs with weak, trembly hands. I guess not everyone can be as brave as I.

We stashed our eggs in our coat pockets and hurried off down the street towards the Holstein’s house.

As we rounded the corner onto their street, one of my friends murmured “do we have to do this?”

His name was Ifti. He was Pakistani, and a bit heavy-set. We all loved him, but it was clear throughout his childhood, he at some points must have been the butt of the joke, or the target of some kid’s ire. If anyone knew what it was like to be picked on, it was him.

“This is dumb. Greg’s done nothing to us. Let’s leave him alone,” he said. “Why are we even doing this?”

We left Ifti on the street corner. He’d need a head start because he wasn’t a strong runner.

We lined up in front of the darkened house, each of us scoping the street like bank robbers. My heart was racing like crazy, but courage made me hold my ground and steady my hand as I reached into my pocket to pull out the eggs.

“On the count of 3, OK?” “1… 2… 3!!”

I wish I could give you a poetic description of how we watched our eggy projectiles sail through the night sky, erupting like yolky fireworks onto the side of the Holstein’s beautiful Victorian townhouse.

In reality, we were running as soon as the missiles left our hands, tripping over each other as we fled the scene of the crime. We passed Ifti in a matter of seconds.

We regrouped after several turned corners and sprinted blocks. The deed was done. We congratulated ourselves for our heroism by attempting to buy some beers at a handful of pubs — from which we were all rejected.

On Monday, Greg returned from vacation looking stressed. Not only did the Holsteins return from vacation to find that their house had been remodeled into an omelet, but apparently they’d left a window open, and some of the eggs had improbably found their way inside. Onto some antique rugs. And furniture.

Greg was distraught. He looked at me, his wounded doe eyes tearing up lightly. “Who would do this?”

“I dunno,” I courageously mumbled, averting his gaze.

Now, I can’t say if it was nature or nurture that endowed me with this gallant heroism. But I can say that once you start acting courageously, it becomes easier, like a virtuous habit. So much so that we actually went to egg Greg Holstein’s house again that next weekend.

So Greg, if you’re out there and you hear this — shh, you don’t have to say a word. You’re welcome.

William Tran