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You know that kid in high school? The jock? Great at sports, good looking. He gets the girl. Well, I wasn’t that kid. But I knew that kid — and his name was Andrew Boyle.
A few years ago I told our story at a Moth StorySLAM:
Everyone just called him Boyle, cause he had the personality of a festering wound.
I was an art kid in high school. And I had flaming red hair, which made me an easy target for Boyle and the other high school elite. They called me "ginger," "carrot top," "day walker." But I played sports. I played soccer, cross-country skiing — yes, a thing in Vermont — and I played lacrosse.
Boyle stuck to football, hockey and also lacrosse. So we played midfield together ... except he was on first string cause he was good, and I was on third string because I knew what tertiary colors were.
Besides being a jock — besides acting like an alpha gorilla in heat — what made Boyle even more annoying was that he was really, really smart. Like, you’d call him out for being a jerk, and he’d humiliate you with logic. He’d point and laugh.
He had this awful laugh. It was like a dolphin, like, "hehehehehehe."
Boyle and I were nemeses.
Now, here’s where things get interesting. Boyle and I had some weird, mutual respect for each other. Because I knew under the sludge coating around his heart, he was actually a good kid. And even though he called me 'Vincent Van Gay' — which, if you think about it, that’s a compliment — I think he respected my artistic abilities.
And our grandparents lived close together, so sometimes we would actually hang out. And we wouldn’t tell anybody. Because we were nemeses, and we had an image to uphold.
In school, I could deal with his insults. I just let him run out of steam, and I could go about my day. But there was one insult, one word that got under my skin every time — and he knew it.
He’d wait 'til there were a bunch of people around, and he would yell as loud as he could: “Firebuuuuuush.” This made me livid.
And one day, when I was at my wit’s end, he yelled “firebush” across the entire cafeteria. And something snapped. And I decided: Boyle’s gonna die.
'Settle Your Beefs'
Every month or so, our lacrosse coach ran a drill called “Settle your Beefs.” Basically, if you had an issue with someone, this was your chance to call them out — and they had to go one-on-one with you to the goal.
And I usually did not participate in this, because I was not good. But today was special. 'Cause I had just gotten a brand new stick. And I was contemplating murder. So I step up ...
... and I call out Andrew Boyle.
The team goes berserk. Boyle just looks at me and he smiles ...
... and I know exactly what he’s gonna do. He does this one stupid dodge every time. He runs up, he, like, spins and throws his arm over your head. It’s horrible. And I know he’s going to do this. And I am going to decimate him.
So I am down. And I am ready. And he starts his run. He’s coming at me faster and faster.
And he does not stop. He plows straight into my body. And I feel this crunch in my chest as I’m sent through the air like a weightless ginger rag doll.
And I’m on the ground, gasping for breath, looking up at the sky. And I hear the dolphin laugh.
And Boyle steps over my dead body and places the ball into the goal.
The team was in tears laughing — even the coach could hardly stand up. And I looked over at my new stick, which he had hit so hard that it bent in a V-shape across my chest.
Next time, Boyle. Next time.
'Where's Boyle Now?'
That’s kind of where the story ends. There was no next time. When I got off stage at the Moth StorySlam, people immediately came up and asked me, ‘Where’s Boyle now? What’s he doing?’ And, at the time, I didn’t really know or care.
Two long years passed. I decided to dig up this story and pitch it to this show. They essentially rejected it, and they had the same questions many others did: ‘Where is Boyle?’ Well. Funny story...
"Before we start recording, you gotta tell me what we’re doing," Andrew Boyle tells me as we sit together. "Because you gotta tell me where this is going, who’s gonna listen to it. What the rules are."
Unlike most humiliating high school memories, this one had emerged from the deep annals of history — where it belonged — and was now sitting in my family home in Vermont with his German Shepherd, Diesel, 10 years later, pouring me a glass of rye whiskey.
"I'm Andrew Boyle," he says. "I work for the power company in Vermont, and I coach hockey."
After The Moth
I first told this story at a competition in Philadelphia. It won. A video of me telling the story went online. And then it got published in Philly Weekly. People all over Philly would write me on Facebook or email, saying things, like, “LOL. Boyle eats boogers.” Or, “Haha. Boyle is a [*beep*] [*beep*] loser [*beep*] waffle. U rule, Otis.”
I felt ... a little bad. I’d like to think I decided to post the video on Facebook and tag him in it for ethical reasons — to let him know that I used his name. But if I’m being honest, I felt I may have finally defeated Boyle. And I could not wait to tell him about it. Instead ...
"Pumped up, loved it," Boyle says.
He shared it with everyone he knew.
"Oh, everyone, yeah," he says. " 'Course. Somebody told a story about me on a big stage and won some money. 'Course I’m gonna share it with everybody ... And then I think my parents shared it with all my grandparents and cousins ... And then it was shared, like, instantly by my entire fraternity in our group ... I remember dating somebody, and they showed their family and their parents ... Everyone."
We ran into each other at a bar around the holidays about a year back. He bought me the most expensive whiskey in the bar, and he thanked me for telling the story. Told me he showed his little siblings, too , and said if they acted like him, people would tell stories about them someday.
"Do you vividly remember that day?" he asks me.
"Yeah," I reply. "Do you?"
"I don’t remember you calling me out," he says. "I don’t remember breaking your stick. I remember always joking with you, calling you 'firebush'. But that’s about it."
These last couple years, I thought telling this story gave me the upper hand with Boyle. But it’s hard to feel like you’re winning a feud that one side doesn’t even remember they’re in.
"Did you want me to be upset about it?" he asks.
"I didn’t have any intention at all," I tell him. "I just didn't think that you would love and share it with everyone you knew ..."
"Oh, knowing my personality, you didn’t think I would love it?" he laughs.
"It didn't surprise me, but I was, like, 'He won again,' " I say.
"But I was happy! I loved it, and I was happy for you," he says. " 'Cause it was, like, ‘Otis is killin' it. He’s doing well, and he’s making me famous. This is awesome.’
"Like, I always knew you were gonna be successful, because you’re just crazy creative — and also someone I didn’t understand, because you didn’t care about competition. You were just someone that fascinated me, because I had no understanding of how your brain worked."
The Real Andrew Boyle
I ask Boyle how he would describe himself in high school.
"I don’t know," he says. "Not ... I definitely didn’t ... I told you how I thought of you. I would not sugarcoat anything. And I did not care how you felt about it if I told you."
"Do you think you could mess with me more than other people?" I ask.
"Oh, absolutely," he says. "Because you were just, like — you were always good. Whatever was going on, you were just Otis."
Somehow, sitting in front of Boyle right now, I feel like the jerk. For making him infamous as a bully. A tormentor. A jock.
"Would you ever care that people thought you were just a jerky jock?" I ask.
"No, that’s fine," he says.
"Why don't you care?" I ask.
"Like, if you go through your whole life living your life based on what people think of you, that’s not gonna be a productive or happy life."
"High school’s good for people like you," I tell him. "You were good at sports. You were good looking. You were smart. Teachers liked you a lot. Like, you had a pretty good run of it."
"Maybe," he says. "But I was good at those things because I worked extremely hard at them. So it wasn’t like I was just good at them. Before practice I’d be waking up at 4:45 and going to workouts three days a week. Wasn’t like I was just good at it. There was a reason I was good: it’s because I worked.
"Looking back now, I think hearing you call me out, for me, was shocking. It was shocking because, like, ‘Why is — why is my friend calling me out? Why would Otis call me out? What is he mad about? We joke around in the cafeteria, sure. But, like, why would he be upset at me?’ But then, probably feeding off everyone’s reaction, and being like, ‘Well ... If you’re gonna call me out, Otis, OK. But I’m gonna show you why I’m the one waking up at 4:30 every morning and working my ass off.’ "
'I'll Bring The Whiskey'
We ended the interview. Boyle got in his truck with his dog, Diesel, and backed out of my snowy driveway into the night. And as the taillights disappeared into the darkness, I couldn’t help being a little bit jealous of Andrew Boyle.
Here’s a guy who knows who he is. He has a code he lives by. He always has. He’s sincerely confused about the notion of caring what people think. I can’t say the same for myself.
I remember when my good friend’s dad passed away in high school. My friend, she has celiac — she can’t eat gluten. Boyle barely knew her, but went over to her house the morning after to cook her gluten-free mac and cheese, a memory that she still holds really close to this day. I asked him about this, and he doesn’t even remember it. But he says it sounds like something he’d do for someone on the worst day of their life.
Boyle’s personality sometimes made him a real [*beep*] [*beep*] loser [*beep*] waffle. And I know that hearing all this will only make him more cocky. But it’s also nice to know that someone that unabashedly sure of themselves has always believed in me, without a doubt.
I don’t know. What I do know is this time, he won again. And he’s annoyingly undefeatable. Next time, Boyle, I’ll bring the whiskey.
This segment aired on January 19, 2019.
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