I’m not even sure where to begin. Maybe a little more background into why I’m doing all this. This isn’t a list of excuses for why I am the way I am today. It’s a timeline that traces some of my most ingrained memories and the terrible lessons I learned from them. They’re not my only memories. Like, I remember being sent home from school in first grade for having lice, something almost everyone else caught as well. I remember doing some shellacked pretzel wreath thing for Christmas in second grade. Third grade was about making friends with this really hyper-active Japanese kid at my new school before moving again. Don’t even remember his name.
Fourth grade has to be one of the weirdest ones. In fourth grade I remember the day the shuttle exploded. The one with the teacher on board. Not because it was such a horrible event but because of all the strangeness surrounding the rest of that day for me. Specifically, I was in the school library doing a project on James and the Giant Peach with the rest of my class waiting for my mother to come pick me up, as was everyone else, because there was a sniper on top of a building near the school and no one was allowed to leave without their parents physically coming to get them. So we were all trapped in the library for hours after class had let out. And that’s when they announced what had happened over the PA system. Everyone was both terrified and devastated. I remember seeing teachers actually cry. I still can’t stand James and the Giant Peach.
But even that last memory, a sniper keeping me trapped at school the day the shuttle exploded, is only remembered on par with my other terrible memories. It doesn’t hold the distinction of being my most remembered event. It’s simply one of many horrible things that have happened to me. And the Year of Hell, well…
In my area first though fourth grades were at one school, fifth through eighth at another, and finally ninth through twelfth at another. So when I started fifth grade it was at a new school where I was once again at the bottom of the pecking order. At least I still had my friend Charlie but I only saw him rarely as we weren’t in the same class that year, unlike the years before, when we were going to the same school that is.
Let’s just dive right into this stupid then shall we? The first incident occurred with my teacher. We were in class taking a test. After the test we were supposed to exchange papers with the student next to us and then grade theirs. I did what I was told. The kid got everything right so I gave him a hundred percent. We turned in our tests and everything was good. The teacher then went over them while we read quietly. When he called out angrily asking who had scored such-and-such’s test I was immediately upset and worried because it had been me. I couldn’t think of what I had done wrong. All the answers had been correct and so I had given him a perfect score.
It wasn’t the test that was the issue though, nor the score. It was the fact that I had made a funny face out of the 100 that I had written on his page. My teacher had decided to hold me up in front of the class as some sort of example because of that and stated “We’re not going to be doing that in my class.” or some variant of such. I felt absolutely humiliated. He could have spoken to me privately or at least not been so obviously angry about it but he instead chose to make an example out of me for some reason. Why, I don’t know. I do know that he wasn’t our teacher for long and that a string of substitutes soon followed. Apparently he had gotten sick, don’t know from what, and could no longer teach, but the damage had already been done. He had painted a huge red target on my back and the rest of the class took it as their chance to pounce. Besides, with all the substitutes, who was going to stop them? And so the Year of Hell began in earnest.
When we finally received a new permanent teacher a few weeks later I had already been being tortured for a while. Most days I would have to fetch my backpack from the class garbage. I sat on the other side of the room from the trash so the class took actual pride in managing to get it over there without me or the teacher noticing. I, on the other hand, felt incredibly exposed and terrified. I was in a class of 35 other students who were all out to prove their worth by destroying my own. Eventually it became a game of who could make me actually break down into tears in class. I don’t think I cried more in the rest of my life than I did that year. Everything was torture to me, to the point where I started getting sick at the thought of going to school. I really liked going to school before that but now. I had to quit eating lunch at school even, because my nerves would make me throw up. I never ate at school again after that. Eventually I stopped eating all together any time before I got home.
I don’t remember his name but I do remember the ring leader. He was an ass, always pulling “pranks” on me. Anyone remember itching powder? Anyone actually have it used on you? I did. It doesn’t really itch, not on me it didn’t anyway, it burned. It felt like hot metal filings digging into my back. I actually had to be sent home because of it. He was also the one behind the backpack shenanigans. I remember him and a few of his minions cornered me behind the school one day and just went to town on me. I hated him so much but I didn’t know how to deal with it, and apparently neither did the school, my teacher, or even my mother.
My mother… That was also the year I realized just how insane she really was. Let’s start with a simple one. We were at that age where kids were starting to pair off. You found someone you liked and they became your “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, though I hadn’t turned on yet so found the whole thing silly. Anyway, I was eventually paired off with a girl named Jolene. We were both class outcasts so I assume it was only natural. And we were both trying our best to fit in and appear to be normal. One of the things you did with your “girlfriend” was you gave them your coat to basically mark them as your own. Eventually I did the same and gave Jolene my coat. Not to keep but just to take home for the night. No one actually gave away their coats. It was all for show.
When I got home from school that day my mother asked me where my coat was. I told her I had left it at school by mistake. She blew up into an absurd rage screaming at me. About how expensive that coat was and how stupid I was for forgetting it and how I was going to be punished. Eventually I relented and told her where it really was. Big mistake. She called the school and demanded that they do something about it. The next day both me and Jolene and all of our parents were dragged in front of the principal. Jolene was apologizing and giving me back my coat while my mother stood triumphantly over us. I never talked to Jolene again and I don’t think she was allowed to talk to me anyway. And with that went the last shreds of my attempts to fit in. Things simply got worse from there.
We had a party in class, I don’t remember what for, but everyone brought some sort of treat and the teacher provided snacks and whatnot. I remember being called to the teacher’s desk, she really seemed to like me and care about me. When I returned to my own I found punch poured across everything on top of it, a dirty cup shoved inside. Of course, no one had seen who had done it. I couldn’t take it any more so I just started crying. Eventually the party wound down and it was time for everyone to go home. Everyone assumed I was crying because my food had been ruined. It was actually because I couldn’t stand them. It wasn’t like I could eat anyway. After everyone left my teacher sat and comforted me for a while.
Now, here’s a strange quirk of the school I was attending at the time. In order to get to my classroom you had to pass through another classroom, which meant that if both doors were closed it was nearly impossible to hear someone trying to get in from the outside if no one was in the front classroom. I was in the back classroom with my teacher while unbeknownst to me my sister, who was three grades ahead of me but still attending the same school, was trying to get into my classroom. Eventually she managed to get back there and, from what I gathered later, told our mother that she had seen me in a compromising situation with my teacher. I don’t know why. Maybe to be a bitch. Again, I had no sexual desires and I will tell you outright that absolutely nothing happened. That didn’t stop my mother from trying her best to have my teacher fired or arrested or worse. I was even questioned at one point but there was nothing to tell so nothing ever came of it.
The thing was, I liked my teacher. I really did. She was one of the few people who were kind to me, in a sloppy unable to actually deal with the situation kind of way. Still, because of my mother I couldn’t be seen around her. I stopped helping her after school and even started making fun of her around other kids. My mother had once again destroyed one of the few real connections I had with another person.
Following that I just sort of became numb. I couldn’t be friends with other students and I couldn’t be friends with faculty. I was pretty much cut off from being able to connect with anyone. The torture continued of course. Joy buzzers are fun. Especially when being ground into your back. This group of girls started following me around and tormenting me. They always literally wanted me to give them piggyback rides during recess and lunch, smacking and kicking me. Some older kid eventually took notice of me and started bullying me as well. He would grab my wrists and twist my arms to show how much stronger he was than me. He wasn’t really, but I let him do it anyway. I didn’t really care. All of it sort of blended together. Hell had become the norm and I wasn’t going to fight it any longer. What was the point?
For such a stupendously horrible year I remember what a quiet ending it had, with me in the emergency room.
The last day of school was always pretty much semantics. There was no class work to be done and the school really didn’t care if you showed up or not but my mother was always busy fucking her alcoholic of the month so we had to go to school so we would be out of her hair. My class was out by the field when I got stung by a bee. This wasn’t the first time I had been stung, and it wouldn’t be the last, but it was by far the weirdest. I had been stung on the palm of my hand. It quickly turned red and then a while later I noticed strange red lines running up my inner forearm from where I had been stung. My teacher had me see the nurse who immediately called my mother and told her that I needed to go to the emergency room. What had apparently happened is that the bee had poisoned me. The red marks moving up my arm were caused by the poison slowly working its way through my blood stream and if it reached my heart, it would kill me.
I spent the rest of that day with my mother in the emergency room under observation where they gave me some disgusting yellow liquid with a picture of a bee on the bottle. Considering how terrible the rest of the year had been this was small potatoes. I had spent the better part of the school year, the past nine months, wanting to die. Yet here I was being killed by a bee of all things.
The universe has a strange, sick sense of humor, doesn’t it?
Sixth grade is next I guess. I’ll get to that another day though. It also happens to be when I remember more incidents taking place away from school. Before then, my entire world had been school and home. As I grew older I was expected to begin interacting with the world at large, something that, for obvious reasons, was a terrible mistake.
The end of elementary and the beginning of puberty, next time on oh please just let me die already!