The One Where He Punched Me
by Rich Perez
Note from John: Last year on my 37th birthday I sat around a table of appetizers on the rooftop of a hotel in Atlanta with some of my close friends. When asked about what I wanted to accomplish in the next year, all I could think about was them and their dreams. I pledged to do everything I could to make sure that everyone close to me “wins”! Year 37 was great as I saw the unique joy that comes from spending your life platforming others. So when I was asked the same question during my 38th birthday this past summer, I just ⌘ Cmd + V’d my response from last year. So this morning, I’m glad to start off the week by introducing you to my friend Rich Perez. He’s one of the most insightful storytellers I know. I’m glad y’all finally get to meet each other. Check out what he’s got going on!
He used to lay the pillow down on the windowsill so he wouldn’t scratch or bruise his elbows when he leaned over it. He watched out the window whenever the NYC air was getting warmer or the Yankees weren’t on TV.
Today he was watching me play basketball against the block bully. This kid was bigger than me and had a temper. Not a good combination, especially when I knew I was better than him. But I never turn down an opportunity to hoop. My strategy was simple in those years: blow past them right to the basket. I didn’t need many ‘tween the legs’ and ‘curls’ — I was usually quicker than anyone on the court. He roughed me up a bit, but between my quickness and my jump shot, he didn’t stand a chance. With every basket he grew more frustrated, and the crowd that was now forming kept egging him on.
Drive left. Pound dribble. Watch him stagger trying to recover. Pull up. Game.
I never doubted it. I saw it coming. But what I didn’t see coming was his fist moments after the game was done. While I was grabbing my things after a “light day at work”, the bully—agitated by his boys— walked over and punched me. I guess he couldn’t take the idea of losing in front of his boys. I was dazed for a bit, and everyone’s voice sounded muffled. All but one voice was muffled. A deep, piercing voice came from the third floor window of my building.
“Que tu e’pera! Dale!”
It was my dad, with his pillow shield beneath him from our window yelling for me to retaliate. And I did. And I got washed. He was too big, too strong.
Which pain is greatest?
I can’t reduce my dad to that moment or that piece advice. He has been more than that. But I did realize something about influence from that moment.
It seems impossible to resist the loudest voice when we are our most vulnerable.
Shame overtook both me and Frankie the bully. In Frankie’s case, the shame of not having control in front of your friends. In my case, the shame of not being strong in front of my father. Perhaps neither one of us wanted to act out in the ways we did. But greater was the pain of not being something for someone else than the pain of being an unwelcome self in front of disapproving others.
Boys and their fathers
In one way or another, we’re all shaped similarly— especially boys with their fathers.
This past Friday, I launched a crowdfunding campaign for a film I’ve been sitting with for close to 3 years. A story shaped by my own personal experiences but also colored by the stories of countless other people whose lives I’ve made space for over the years.
IT STAYS WITH US tells the story of a Latino teen who struggles with grief years after a devastating loss. Shaped by a machismo environment, the boy considers his sadness as something he should resist and fails to see that his vulnerable feelings of sadness and hurt may be offering him something new this time. I’m excited to tell this story! And so is the team helping to bring it to life.
I’d love to invite you to be part of the community that helps us get this project financed.
A few ways you can help
Follow me on Instagram @richperez where I will be sharing news about the launch along with some other things.
Visit the campaign page and consider giving. There are some cool incentives attached to different giving tiers. Be sure to work through the whole campaign page. We didn't slap this campaign together. It’s thoughtful and elaborate. We’re hoping that it’s helpful to you as you consider partnering.
Share the campaign with as many people as you can. Not just through your social media platforms, but also your email networks. The more eyes we can get on the project the more possibility we have to find pledgers and investors.
Lastly, sign up to my mailing list, where I share stories and updates on the filmmaking process that we won’t anywhere else.
This was an outstanding read, my brother. Looking forward to the film.
This story hit home in some many ways. keep sharing y’all!