The Day I Started a Gang

I had issues in elementary school. I could sit here and justify it by saying that my parents were abusive, that I was neglected and living in abject poverty in the Bronx, that I had difficulty adjusting to a new country, but the fact of the matter is that I was a little asshole. I was the smartest kid in each of my schools, so I was often bored, and those kung fu documentaries on the Discovery Channel were getting to my head.
I remember telling everyone in Mr. Finer's 7th grade English class that my imaginary older brother was a Shaolin monk who had a tenth degree black belt and was at-the-time living in China. The ruse worked because I often carried a copy of one of those newspapers they sell in China Town and because I also memorized a bunch of sentences in Cantonese, often convincing even other Chinese people that I was fluent in not-Mandarin, which only served to reinforce the myth of my super-Shaolin brother, and of my inherited kung fu skills. 7th and 8th grade in New York City is middle school, but most of the students in my middle school knew me from elementary school, where I had developed a reputation.
I used to tease everyone, so I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I was good just because I only beat up the bad kids. However, in elementary school I believed myself to be doing a good deed in beating up the bad kids in the school. I was also the tallest kid in my class and I had learned hand conditioning from those kung fu documentaries I recorded and re-watched on VHS. Allow me to quote from one of those documentaries: "The monks believed that if body hit steel in a daily and consistent basis, that body itself would... eventually become like steel." The camera then panned to a monk punching a steel plate while the announcer bragged about the calluses on his knuckles. To this day, I still have giant calluses on my knuckles [ I just hope I don't get arthritis, but at least I'll have the Discovery Channel to sue.]
There was a month in 6th grade that I fought everyday against a big, black motherfucking 5th grader who coulda been a high school linebacker. I mostly just kicked him wildly while he repeatedly tackled me. Then during one fight, a Puerto Rican guy came over to the crowd of kids and started coaching me. "Don't use your legs 'cause tackling is his power. He's coming at you now, jab him with the right! Asi mismo, coño, ahora con la izquierda en las costillas!" I was in my ADHD mode so every instruction just went down smooth and that poor kid's face got battered like Rihanna. So, after a month of getting tackled and arguably losing, I learned to used my calloused fists [thanks, random Puerto Rican guy!]
After that fight, they knew taking me on one-on-one was a liability, and I knew a group was gonna plot against me. I'm now a peddler of conspiracies on the internet, but as a child in the Bronx I was a gang paranoiac. Looking back, I can kinda see that they were just elementary school kids with issues who wanted to defend their battered friend, but at the time I believed them to be Latin Kings or an allied Blood, perhaps Crips gang; all conspiring against me and on the verge of plotting a drive-by while I played wiffleball in the space between my brickstone building.
At one point as I'm entering school, El Chino, Ganesh, and a third lackey jump me from behind. I had been preparing for a month, so I had my extra-heavy-duty Skechers boots ready to go. When they jumped me they pushed me to the floor, and I began using my long-ass legs to deliver kicks. I kicked the lackey in the testicles, and he fell back. I delivered a brutal kick to the face of El Chino that would send him to the hospital. El Chino was a troubled Puerto Rican kid that I hated with all my guts, but the massively-swollen eye did actually make him look Chinese. His nickname would come back to prove true.
Once the lackey and El Chino had been neutralized, it was only the Guyanese Ganesh. I was still kicking on the ground when Ganesh made the mistake of trying to jump on top of me. I dug my thumbs into his eyes, and neutralized him. After that I stood up, and security came to protect those three kids. Even though I got jumped by three kids, I still got in-home detention for 5 days because "I fought back." I spent those 5 days at home watching more kung fu documentaries because I knew that a three-man attack was going to escalate to a weapon. I began carrying not one, not two, not three, but four serrated, flexible kitchen blades on me that I purchased at the 99 cent store; this was back when pennies weren't on the verge of extinction and when the dollar had value, but anyway, I digress. If only Mr. Torres knew that the Discovery Channel had taught me to use those knives very well.
In 6th grade I feared for my life on a daily basis, until the day that I invited all the kids in my building for a little get-together in my apartment. My father was away working, so we had the kitchen and those knives all to ourselves. I had been watching a documentary where a monk picked up a giant, burning piece of metal. The burns imprinted a dragon and a tiger into his forearms; I was impressed, to say the least, and dreamt of being able to do that.
However, I had no giant piece of metal with dragon imprints, so I had to settle for a hot knife. I fed the kids in my building some lines from the Three Musketeers: "All for one, and one for all," and also some classic kung fu lines. Eventually we came to settle on a cross. One by one, we all burned crosses into our arms, laughing maniacally at each other's pain and screams. Say what you will, but I have the power to motivate people. All of those kids walked out of that room motivated and with a purpose; we called ourselves the Hellraisers. The next few weeks we would scour the Bronx, wood and aluminum bats in hand, while looking for a place to play ball.
One day we were standing outside of my school waiting for some friends of El Chino and Ganesh who I had heard were plotting against me, and thus against all the Hellraisers. One of the teachers presumed that we were there to beat her up with bats, when we were there to invite Ganesh and El Chino's associates to a conciliatory game of baseball. One little investigation later, and all of our parents found out that we had burned crosses into our arms. My father beat me up with a broom stick, teaching me a life-long lesson about the dangers of kinetic wood. The other parents convinced their kids to disassociate with me because of some perceived dark influence that I supposedly had. Nonetheless, word around the elementary school was that Jose had a bat-wielding syndicate of masochists and sadists. I didn't have to worry about anyone jumping me for the rest of the school year.