I play this e-mail game with some friends of mine from junior high, where we send out an e-mail that contains the name of someone from our class and nothing else. So I’ll get a letter in my inbox from one of these guys, and all it says is “John Smith” or something, and I’ll know the gauntlet has been thrown down. The idea is to think of the most ridiculous person we can remember from those days, and then someone else responds with an even more ridiculous name.

I don’t mean to say the people behind these names are ridiculous. Back then, practically everyone was ridiculous, or at least most of the guys were. We generally don’t ridicule girls, for some reason.

Junior high was the worst. You’re not a cute kid anymore and you’re not a grownup. This whole business of calling 13-year-old “young adults” doesn’t sit will with me at all. It may have applied when life expectancy was something like 39, and kids quit school in the eighth grade to work on the family farm. There are still plenty of places like that today, but the suburbs of Washington, D.C. has not been such a place in a long time, not even when I was growing up there.

As a boy in junior high, you are trying to figure how to wear your hair, how to avoid wearing stupid clothes, wondering when your voice will stop cracking, all the usual misery. I looked so ridiculous I threw all my junior high yearbooks away.

We’ve been playing the e-mail game for several years now. You’d think we would have run out of names by now, but it was a pretty big class. Or maybe we’ve been playing the game for so long now that we’ve forgotten we might have already used someone’s name five years ago.

Today’s name, from a correspondent who now resides on the West Coast, brought back some not-so-great memories, however. The person attached to this name, we’ll call him “Eduardo,” made my life very difficult one day. As I’m trying right now to help another family member deal with a bullying problem, I thought the following recollection of that day might help somehow.

I’ve got more where this came from, because people have been giving me s*#! pretty much right up to the present day.

It was in fourth grade. I don’t know what I said to set him off, but all he said was “Meet me after school.” I tried to take back whatever it was I had said, but he wouldn’t budge. So I was sh—ing bricks all day, and when the final bell rang, I just sat there, all alone except for the teacher, Ms. Karamanlis, who didn’t like me very much.

She finally asked me what I was doing there. I told her Eduardo wanted to beat me up. I thought she would’ve called the principal or something, but all she said was, “Sometimes you just have to face these things.” So I just thought, “Thanks a f— of a lot, bi–h.”

I’m trembling as I go outside, and Eduardo’s there, ready and waiting. I have no friggin’ idea what I’m supposed to do, so I just hold my arms straight out in front of me, and Eduardo bolts up the front lawn to the corner where the crossing guard is.

In the process, he drops his jacket. I pick it up and run to give it to him. I’m panting because I was out of shape even then. I hand him his jacket, and all he can do is imitate me panting. What an obnoxious little s—. The next day, he acted like he kicked my butt. I had to decide between setting the record straight and possibly facing his wrath yet again, or just dropping it. I chose the latter. Even then, I knew I was letting him save face. What a great guy I am.