ONE! MORE! TIME!

College sucked. The end.

Oh. You want more. Okay. Um…

I spent the time between graduating from high school and starting college doing nothing in particular. Really, I don’t remember. It must not have been a big deal. I was probably locked in my room playing video games the whole time. What else would I be doing? The real world was a terrible place. My room wasn’t.

Got my grants together and finally it was time to begin a new chapter in my life. Orientation was interesting. They tested us for placement. I was never strong in math so I ended up starting with basic Algebra but I nearly screwed myself with the English test. I was one question off from required Honors English. By this point I was lazy. I wanted to avoid extra effort if at all possible. They also wanted me to sign up to be an English tutor, something that I avoided like the plague as well. More personal interaction with strangers? No thanks!

The personality test that they had us take was really, really strange though. It was based on that letter system. I think it’s called Myers-Briggs? Anyway, my test came back 80, 20, 80, 20, based INFJ? I can’t really remember the last letter. Though the main reason I remember it is because they singled it out. They pretty much held it up in front of the group as such a strange result that they were going to have to actually look into how it happened. No one got such even results. The numbers were always different. Mine though, being exactly the same across scores like that, was apparently amazingly rare.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I purposefully threw some of the questions, specifically asking about social situations, because I didn’t want to look like a complete weirdo. And yet here I was being held up before my entire orientation group as some kind of weirdo. Did that backfire on me or what.

After that we got the chance to, briefly, chat with a counselor about our classes and major. We didn’t really go over anything other than to state the fact that I would be taking a lot of math and computer classes. What really sucked was that I had to take an introductory class my first semester so I wasn’t even going to be able to take anything towards my major until the second semester. All the other required classes seemed to be ensuring that I was never going to be able to actually study anything having to do with computers.

Classes started shortly after that and I very quickly realized something: College is high school but where the teachers care even less about their students. I can’t stress that enough. Outside of my Algebra teacher (who’s class I got an “A” in) none of my other teachers seemed to give a damn about anything. Did you show up? Some cared, most didn’t. PoliSci was basically daily lectures completely ignoring the $70 book we were required to purchase with three quarterly tests and a final. I passed with a “B”. The intro to computers class was such bull I don’t remember what grade I got in that class. And they let you take bowling for your PE credit, which I took happily as it meant less physical activity. I don’t remember my grade for that class either but the teacher literally looked like a bodybuilder and seemed very uninterested in the class, as if he was being forced to do it, much like the rest of us. He was terrible at teaching as well as my bowling skills seemed to degrade over the course.

I had some other classes that semester as well. I took acting hoping it would help break me out of my shell. It didn’t. For our midterms we were required to do a monologue for the class. I don’t know what happened but I actually volunteered to go first. I think I was hoping to get the terror out of the way as quickly as possible. Backfired again as we were required to perform our monologues a second time on video in the same order. Ugh…

Our final involved me having to do a love scene with a girl. I don’t know how to approach this but I’m not sure… Okay, I’m gay. Period. I have zero attraction to women. Add in the fact that I’m absolutely terrified of sex and interpersonal relationships and things went down hill very quickly. I spent weeks avoiding going to class so I wouldn’t have to work with my scene partner directly. I learned my lines and there wasn’t really any blocking but there was a kiss, something that simply wasn’t going to happen. Somehow I had walked myself into a situation that I had spent the better part of my life trying to avoid at all costs. Sure, this was an elective class but it was still college. This was the real world now. I couldn’t just avoid it, right? My future was at stake here.

We managed to pull off our scene without actually kissing. The teacher kept telling us how it was this innocent little scene, the most innocent he had ever given out. I just wanted to vomit constantly. I got a “C” in that class.

Now what else did I take that semester… Algebra, PoliSci, Bowling, Intro to Computers, Acting. Ah! Speech. Another required class. Why, I don’t know. I think I got a “C” in that class as well. I’m actually amazed that I passed it at all. We lost our teacher a few weeks into class (cancer) and ended up with a replacement who pretty much changed the rules. The original teacher required you to perform, I think it was four speeches in class and one final. The new teacher passed me even though I think I only ever performed three in class and the final. I was even given extra credit for performing unprepared when another student didn’t show, hence why I think I got a “C” rather than outright failing.

I had a strange incident with my first Speech teacher, the one who developed cancer. We were performing an activity in class, something that I think was supposed to increase our self-esteem. He was trying to teach us how to juggle using handkerchiefs when he suddenly asked who else was left handed. In a class of nearly forty students no one else but me was. It was very strange and kind of surreal. I mean, I know left handed people comprise a much smaller subset of the population than right handed people but really, only myself and the teacher? I ran into another similar oddity during the next summer when I started (but dropped) another computer class in an attempt to try to get a bit further toward my major.

So that was my first semester. I think it was the fall of ’97. Jesus did I hate writing that number. Twenty-one years ago and I still feel trapped in the same place. In the same cage. In the… I’m the same. That’s all I can really say. I’m the same person. I’m just the same.

I’m just…

I can’t deal with this right now.

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Ending It

We moved again after that. I’m not certain when but it was warm and it was after I had officially become a high school dropout so it had to have been near the end of the school year. The owner of the complex just showed up one day with an eviction notice. He had sold the complex to a government organization that was going to be refurbishing it and rent them out to low income families. Of course we were a low income family but apparently that didn’t matter.

I don’t think I ever mentioned how my family survived. For as long as I could remember my mother had been on SSI and all of us kids were on welfare (later re-dubbed AFDC). There was never any child support or alimony or anything like that. We had always survived off the graces of government programs. I was picked on at school because of it but I couldn’t understand why. I wasn’t even legally allowed to work up until fairly recently in my life, and by that point I was so broken that it would have been impossible for me to do so anyway. But I digress.

The owner of the complex literally looked like a troll or goblin. He was very short with a huge belly. Wore a long beard and the ugliest cowboy outfits you ever saw. The day he showed up to evict us he was wearing a sky blue one covered in sequins. It was all I could do not to laugh. He refereed to my mother by her first name though, which told me that she had probably slept with him.

Did I mention that my mother was a giant whore? Did I mention that she slept with nearly everyone? She even slept with my friend Charlie’s dad. Did I mention that that was a direct cause of his parents getting divorced themselves? No? Oh well. Must have slipped my mind. You’d think I would remember something so out of place for my mother to do even though it wasn’t and was actually a rather regular occurrence.

Let me run on a little tangent here to explain just how bizarre this all was, and one of the reasons I have such an unhealthy outlook on sex. My mother and older sister were constantly fighting over men. I don’t know why. They just were. For some reason they picked this absolute piece of trash to really go at it over. Eventually my sister won out but that wasn’t really anything to celebrate. Both of them were sleeping with him. Eventually my sister gave birth to a daughter for him. Still, the stupid had only just begun.

Imagine your mother and sister are fighting over the same man. Strange enough, right? Now, imagine that same man kills his brother in a fight. At trial he’s acquitted by self defense. They continue to fight over him. He then kills another of his brothers. This time he’s convicted of murder and given a heavy sentence. They continue to fight over him still. The real kicker is that there was yet another brother. And that brother was a cop who just happened to be the one that arrested him.

You literally cannot make my family up. This stuff is so insane that no one would take it seriously if it were a fiction novel. Except it wasn’t fiction. This was my life and the people around me.

Wow I went the long way around. Anyway, we moved again. My mother signed me up for adult school at some point, which I began attending during the following summer. How long was it going to take me to make up a year and a half of credits and graduate? Summer and one semester. To be accurate, less than that, but my mother told me to stretch it out until after I turned nine-teen. Apparently she could continue to collect AFDC for me until then as long as I was still going to school. I officially graduated high school I think two or three days after my nine-teeth birthday.

My adult school teachers loved me. The summer teacher put me up for an award with the local Shriners lodge because I had completely an entire year long course in less than a month. I really didn’t see what the big deal was about it. We went to a dinner with an awards ceremony and everything. I remember it well because of my anxiety. I was sitting in a broken chair but was too afraid to say anything about it. I had to sit in a very awkward position for hours trying to hide it. The funniest thing was the pictures afterwards. When they finally came back and my teacher gave me a copy of mine, it was like seeing myself in munchkin land. There I was towering over everyone else. Now 6’1″ isn’t that tall, is it? Apparently it is.

I still have my first ID from when I was eight-teen. It’s the only picture I have from back then. You were required to get your state ID in order to take your GED, which I did and of course passed easily. That shaved a lot of required credits off for me to get my diploma. The picture is hilarious. Again, I was eight-teen at the time but I looked twelve. Throughout my twenties most people thought that my sister, who was only two and a half years older than me, was actually my mother! Of course the flip side of that was it was nearly impossible to get anyone to take me seriously. I looked like a kid to them so I was a kid to them.

I remember one specific incident when I was in my twenties that pissed me off to no end. I had gone shopping with my brother for… something. Can’t remember what anymore. I was talking to the sales person about it when I noticed that he was slowly, but deliberately, turning to face my bother. My brother looks older than me. Always has. There’s a picture of him online from over a decade ago where he looks ten years older than I do now. Anyway, point being, the sales person wasn’t taking me seriously in the slightest. He was more interested in my brother, who was only there because he had decided to come along, than in me, who was actually there to purchase something. He kept answering my questions but he would answer them to my brother rather than to me.

Okay, let’s get back on track. I seem to be meandering right now, though that’s pretty much what my life was like after that. I had no purpose. No aim. I still don’t. But back then I still had school, for a while anyway. An odd thing happened one day shortly before I graduated though. I was called into the office and told that my mother had called to inquire about my grades. The woman seemed strangely upset about it. She told me that she had told her that she couldn’t divulge that information without my permission because I was over eight-teen. I started to tell her that it was fine but she quickly cut me off and told me that maybe doing that wasn’t the best idea. She looked very concerned when she said that. It was years before I finally understood what she was trying to tell me.

In the grand scheme of things it didn’t really matter. I graduated not long after that. My teacher gave me a form that said I had completed all of my required classes. I took it to the front office where I was given another form with an embossed seal on it affirming that I had officially graduated high school. I went back to my classroom to show my teacher. I was finally finished. Right there on the spot she offered me a job at the school as a tutor. A real job. She had been waiting to offer it to me for months but couldn’t until I was no longer a student there, and of course I had received my diploma. I was blown away. So much had happened to me that day that I needed a little time. I told her that I would absolutely be back.

I never went back.

My mother had decided that I was going to go to college so that’s what I did. I went to community college. The thing was, the next semester was eight or nine months away. I still wasn’t allowed to work at the school. I think she was worried that if I was working, or had been, that it would effect any grants that I might receive. Honestly, it still took me several years to realize that it wasn’t actually me that she cared about. It was what I could do for her. Up until then I had been a source of AFDC. Now I would be a source of grants for college tuition. After that, I don’t know what she was expecting, but I know what she got. I know what I got too.

Junior… Again?

It’s hard for me to accurately describe what really happened  my senior year because everything sort of blended together into one massive hurricane of misery and destruction. I do remember though that I was back in regular classes at the start of the year. I never should have been there. It was probably the dumbest thing my mother and the school could have ever done with me seeing how much better my grades were and well I was doing overall on independent studies. But the decision had been made. I was back in regular classes and the dominoes had begun to fall one after the other.

My counselor had started putting me in piano my senior year, again claiming a lack of space in any other classes, a lie that had been put to rest the previous year by one of my own teachers. I didn’t fight it though. I didn’t have any fight left at that point. I remember I had been taking the Clarinet at some point as well, but when my school assigned instrument was stolen I kind of… stopped? I’m not sure what really happened. I can’t recall. But I was in piano this year and there was no way someone was going to steal that.

Here’s where I say someone stole my piano, but that never happened. Instead my counselor, once again, had me take a full year of piano knowing damn well that I could only get credit for one semester. Again, I was sick and tired of fighting so I simply didn’t. I just grinned and bared it. What else was I going to do? This man had been trying his best for the past three years to try and screw me over. It was better to simply bend over and take it than try to resist any longer.

The ultimate “FUCK YOU!” from him though was when he informed me that I actually didn’t have enough credits (in large part thanks to him) to actually be a senior. Instead I was to be demoted back to being a junior again. Now, remember how I talked about how the counselors rotated each year so they stayed with you throughout your high school years? Well, I had been demoted to being a junior. He was no longer my counselor. I was the responsibility of the junior class counselor. Except, and there is always an exception when it comes to me, he had made the unilateral decision to ignore the existing system and keep me anyway. Because he liked me was his reasoning. Because I was still breathing is what I’m sure it really was.

I remember the morning of THE panic attack. The one that pretty much ensured I was never going to graduate. At least not from a traditional high school. I remember waiting at the bus stop, my anxiety already near peak levels. All I wanted to do was run away and hide. What would happen if I did though? Something even more terrible I was sure. My distress was very obvious. More than one person asked me if I was alright, including the driver. The ride to school was absolutely exhausting but the worst was yet to come.

At school I started to feel light headed and dizzy. The bell rang but I couldn’t bring myself to go to class. I could hear my breathing and my heart rate blasting in my ears. I’m not sure if I was trying to reach the nurse or if someone had gone to get her for me but I remember collapsing outside on the edge of a planter with her. She was asking me so many questions. Was I having tingling or numbness? I sure as hell was. Dizziness? Too true. Hard to breath? My chest was heaving and yet I still couldn’t catch my breath. I was so scared and all she was doing was heightening it. The more questions, the worse it got. The worse it got, the more worried she looked. It was a cycle driving me deeper and deeper into my now uncontrollable anxiety.

I was helped to her office where I laid down. It was determined that it was necessary to call an ambulance. For some reason it took a while for them to get there. I had my first IV as they drove me to the emergency room. It was not fun. It was my first ambulance ride as well. That wasn’t fun either.

The emergency room was, as they almost always are around here, packed. I was there for the better part of the day having tests run on my heart and blood drawn. Apparently the school nurse thought I might be having a heart attack or some other cardiac event. If only I had. No one really told me anything. Hours and hours later my mother came and picked me up. Well, both of us up. They had decided to send my brother with me in the ambulance. I had had no idea as he had been in the front while I was in the back. He said it was a lot of fun being pulled out of class so he could take a ride in an ambulance. At least one of us enjoyed it.

I don’t think I missed much school after that, but when I finally did go back things were very different. The school staff, who had always been caring and understanding, were suddenly cold and withdrawn. I was no longer allowed to see the school nurse under any circumstances. If I had a problem in class I was to come to the front office and wait until school was let out, then take the bus home. I had a minor freak out once after that and they did exactly what they said they were going to do. I was sat in the front office and told to leave when the bus showed up.

I stopped talking about anything with anyone after that. The school psychiatrist dropped by one of my classes to ask if it was alright for him to grab me once in a while. I told him sure. I never saw him again. I started missing two, three days of school a week. My mother even seemed less resistant to it. My English teacher told me outright that he wanted to give me an “A” that year but wasn’t allowed to because of how much school I had missed. He literally had no choice but to fail me. At that point, I didn’t care. I told him I understood though. He seemed more upset about it than I did. I had forgotten all about his hopes for me.

Eventually I got sick and was pretty much bed ridden for about two weeks. That was when I received a letter that stated I had been dropped by my high school due to absenteeism. No one had talked with me about it. I hadn’t seen my counselor, the one that liked me so much, in months. Not a word from anyone. A phone call even! Absolutely nothing. Just a form letter in the mail one day from out of the blue. I think they were all too happy to be rid of me.

And so ended my adventures in high school. I was a year and a half behind on credits to graduate at that point and had nowhere to actually take the classes needed to make up those credits. My formal education was through. I was officially a high school drop out.

Well, there was always adult school.

Junior

My third year of high school. When everything really began to fall apart. I was beginning to have, what no one seemed to realize (not even me), were panic attacks. My stomach grew worse. Psychologically I was completely falling apart. No one would help me. No one could help me. How could they? They all thought I was just sick. They never once thought it might be a different kind of sickness.

With my stomach continuing to worsen my doctor eventually prescribed me an ulcer medication. Terrible, terrible idea. It not only didn’t help but the one day I actually took it I had stabbing pains in my stomach. I never took it again and instead decided to stick with my trusted Maalox.

My family life was beginning to fall apart as well. One night, while we were watching a film in the living room, my sister literally snuck all of her belongings out of her bedroom window and was gone. No note. No good-byes. No anything. She was simply gone. This, of course, sent our mother into complete outrage mode that she took out on me and my younger brother. I bore the brunt of it though as he was still the baby of the family. To put things into perspective, I was making his bed for him at eighteen because he didn’t know how to do it still. The bastard ran with it as hard as he could. I hated his guts for it.

As we got older my brother realized just what position he held in the family dynamic. There was pretty much nothing he could do that would upset our mother for more than a short period of time and all he had to do was insinuate that I had done something to him to draw her eternal rage towards me. One of his favorite things to do was to throw himself against the wall and pretend to start crying. Whatever was happening would be stopped immediately while our mother comforted him and chastised me.

By my junior year in high school though, he was a freshman. A freshman on the high school football team that had his own weight set and was a bit taller than me. Yet he could still use that same tactic and get away with it without question. One day we were arguing over something or other and our mother decided that she had had enough of our fighting. She called us into the living room and told us that we were to fight it out if we were going to continue arguing. There was no way I was going to do that. Physically, I couldn’t deal with fighting. I told her that it wasn’t going to happen. My brother, on the other hand, immediately started punching me. Instead of stopping it, she actually encourage it.

I know I should have said something. I know I should have talked to someone. I was just so afraid of everything. By this point my English teacher had actually talked with my mother and had a better idea of what was going on with me. He actually told me one day that I should roll my mother down a hill into Dr. Kevorkian. My English teacher literally told me to do that. I assumed he was joking but…

This year was when I realized just how screwed I was because of my counselor. Not only did he make me retake the entire year of sophomore science, even though I had only failed the first semester, he put me back into typing. Again. At this point I was two semester classes behind where I should have been even though I had come into the school a semester class ahead. All the while he kept telling me that he was going to put something into the system to ensure that I received credit even though I was repeating classes that I had already taken. He never did.

Second semester sophomore year things went even further down hill. I had discussed the issue of me retaking classes with one of my teachers who told me that they actually had plenty of space in their class. If they hadn’t have intervened for me I would have ended up taking typing for two solid years. Instead, they managed to get me into their class, which is sad because of how everything eventually turned out.

I had a breakdown in their class one day. I walked into the classroom and just sort of stood there. After a while the teacher walked up to me and asked if I was alright and it just happened. I started crying and I couldn’t stop. Nothing particularly different or bad had happened that day. I guess it was just time for it to come out. I was sent to see my counselor of all people. Things seemed different today though. He seemed concerned. I mean really and genuinely concerned. We talked a little bit and he told me some about himself. He encouraged me to get a weight set (again with this?) and build up my self-esteem. Eventually he called my mother and discussed the situation with her.

Honestly, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had been suffering in silence for so long and now it was all out there. It was actually being talked about by and with people who could help me, or at least help me to learn how to deal with it. My mother would never have listened to me if I had told her about my problems. But coming from my school counselor she would have to believe it.

I got a beating when I got home that day. I had, in some way, hurt her by being broken and being open and honest about it. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t believe me, I had been wrong about that all along. It was that she had chosen to be willfully ignorant about it. She kept screaming about how they were going to take me away and I’d never see my family ever again. Of course I was terrified of that as my family was all I had ever known. I simply wasn’t strong enough to do what needed to be done in the face of all that. So I went back to school the next day and pretended nothing had ever happened. It was just one of those emotional blips that teenagers go through. I was screaming inside though. So loudly that it was hard to hear much of anything else.

About half way through my second semester I was suddenly put on independent studies. I think my mother was trying to “hide” me by this point. Honestly, this was where I should have been all along. Once a week I would come into the school to meet with a teacher for a few hours to go over my progress. It was absolutely heaven. I could work at my own pace without having to worry about everything else. And my independent studies teacher loved me. After a few weeks she started bumping me up in books. She told me outright it was my decision if I wanted to work with the more advanced material and that she couldn’t give me credit for it but that she could tell the material I was working with was well below my abilities. I agreed whole heartedly. I saw her for about three months and she told me I was one of the best students she had ever had. The bad news though was because I had only been her student for half the semester, the best grades she could give me were “C”s. So for my second semester my sophomore year I got straight “C”s. It was the best report card I had received since sixth grade.

Now that everything had been sorted and it was obvious that I worked much better through independent study you would think everything would have been fine, right? There was no reason to send me back to regular classes after that. I was working in books a year or two ahead of where I was supposed to be. My independent studies teacher actually brought some college level materials in for me. Everything was going, not great exactly, but better than it had for years.

So why in the ever loving FUCK was I back in regular classes come the beginning of my senior year?

Sophomore

I was fourteen now, I think, when I began my second year of high school. Apparently the waver from the school district ran out when my sister graduated and so I was transferred to a closer school. Surprisingly I would spend the rest of my high school life at this school.

Note: I did not specify that I graduated from this school. That is an important distinction that will become clear with time.

So second year of high school, new school again, continuing my unbroken streak of being an outcast. First things first is to explain how this school was set up. Each grade in particular had a counselor. There was one specifically for freshmen, one for sophomores, and so on. An interesting distinction though was that the counselors rotated each year so that they stayed with you throughout your high school years. The counselor you began with as a freshman would still be your counselor when you graduated. I’m not really sure why they needed that specific distinction but they did and it actually became an issue of contention for me when I became a senior.

Into this new school system I went. Because I was ahead now a semester of English, my counselor decided to stick me in typing because he said there wasn’t any real space in any other classes. I would end up taking a year and a half of typing because of him while the school would only credit me for two semesters at best. I’m getting a little a head of myself here but I think it’s important to state right from the outset that my counselor seemed intent on screwing me.

As usual I didn’t fit in with anyone. I still couldn’t eat. I don’t think I once even stepped foot in the cafeteria at that school. My stomach issues had grown so sever that I was able to procure a note from my doctor absolving me of any real need to participate in PE classes. That, and I was the only kid at school with a note allowing them to carry Maalox on them at all times. I nursed it religiously during the day. I never knew when I would start feeling sick. I actually carried three bottles with me at all times in my backpack.

Outside of my stomach getting much, much worse and my counselor screwing with me (although I wouldn’t know that until later) the year was rather quiet. My grades were still shit and my nerves were still unraveling. I spent most of my lunch period sitting in the hallway waiting for my next class to begin and writing, while sitting in same said hallway. Once in a while someone would come by and try to strike up a conversation but it was all for naught. No one ever stayed. No one ever returned.

It was a quiet existence, while it lasted.

My new English teacher loved me though. He pretty much lazered in on me, constantly encouraging me to write. I remember one day he asked me to write him a short story that he would have published in the school paper. I spent the day writing several different ones between classes. Eventually he picked one and asked if they could publish it. I agreed as long as my exposure was kept to a minimum. I really enjoyed his encouragement but I didn’t want any outside attention if I could avoid it. He told me that only my first name would be attached to it. He seemed to understand a bit better about where my head space was. The day the paper came out he gave me a copy with a wonderful, if not overly optimistic, quote written on it: “A wonderful beginning to a literary carrier!” it said. I felt absolutely terrible knowing that I was going to eventually let him down.

Now, what else happened that year… I ran into my gym teacher from my last high school. I think he had me confused for someone else as we had a very strange conversation about if I was going to be working over the summer again or not. Never saw him again after that. I failed my science class that year, again mostly due to absenteeism. The work was nothing to me. Being there was the real challenge. I ran into several teachers I had had over the years. It was kind of strange as I had never seen teachers move from one school to another and yet here several of them were. I was actually beginning to build up a stable of “kind of” friends with some of them. Especially my freshman computer teacher who had followed me from my last school.

These were more halcyon days, the calm before the storm if you will. My health was a disaster and I was still missing school at an alarming rate but if things had continued as they were I might have been able to adapt.

Things did not continue this way though. Things changed. Dramatically.

Freshman

I remember we were still living at the town house complex when I began high school. Oddly the middle school and high school were back to back and even shared the same field between them. I was in ninth grade now. My younger brother was just starting junior high at the school I had been attending just before summer vacation.

And then we moved… again. Anyone else out there sensing a trend?

I’m a little foggy on the details of where exactly we lived at this point as I think we were living at the same place when I started school the following year, my sophomore year, and yet I was attending a different school at that point. I think it was my sister confusing the situation for me. We moved so often that you could say we toured most of the schools in the area. A secret student sort of situation where we were more evaluating the schools than actually attending them. I’d say that makes far more sense than the reality of being poor and living with a crazy woman who was willing to uproot her children on a whim.

My sister did not take well to that and, once she reached high school, did everything in her power to stay at one school rather than continue to be moved around. I think she lied about our address one year but it was impossible to do so this time because of how far away we really were. Somehow she was able to get a waver from the school district in order to remain at the school she wanted to attend rather than to have to transfer. It was her senior year as well so that probably had something to do with it.

This was my freshman year of high school though, and I had already attended a different school for a month, yet I was somehow grandfathered into her waver and ended up spending the rest of my freshman year attending my sister’s favorite school with her. It was not a nice school, poorly taken care of and older than dirt. There were still bomb shelter signs pointing towards long abandoned bunkers in many of the hallways. The place looked like something straight out of Grease. An old and filthy version of Grease anyway.

Strangely enough a lot of stuff happened at the school that year, ranging from police bringing in drug sniffing dogs to search lockers to people being stabbed in the hallways and even riots out on the football field. I was so rarely there though that I happened to miss all of that. PE wasn’t a huge issue there either as everything was very blase. They didn’t seem to care one iota if you actually did anything. When we were doing basketball I just sat on the bleachers and read. The teacher would come in once in a while but never said anything to me about it. When we were doing baseball I simply paced off to the side reading again. The teacher was there the entire time but said nothing. None of them really ever taught so much as just watched.

The one sport I did engage in was when we were doing bowling, as it was impossible for anyone not to suck horribly at it. The school had two gyms, one larger, one smaller. The larger gym was used for things like basketball. The smaller gym was just plain terrible. The floor was horribly warped. Why they had us bowling in there I’ll never know. It simply wasn’t possible. It would have been more productive to have us do it in the parking lot.

I did get into trouble for being late however, and ended up in detention because of it. It was an unavoidable situation as we were taking the city bus from across town. There was no way to ensure that we would be able to catch the bus at the right time nor that it wouldn’t end up running late. You were allowed a certain number of late arrivals before you were given detention. It was the first time I had ever been given detention. It didn’t really bother me too much at this point. School had become such a nuisance for me that all of my effort was being put into figuring out ways simply not to have to go at all. I really didn’t care about grades or anything else.

 I ran into the second teacher in my school career who I am certain absolutely hated me: My freshman English teacher. Honestly, I think she hated everyone. I once got a peek at her grade book and I couldn’t see anyone with anything higher than a “C”. She was a very angry and cold woman. More than once she admonished me for taking “creative liberties” with a creative writing assignment. Let that sink in. I got into trouble because I was creative with creative writing assignments. She failed me the first semester but was grudgingly forced to pass me with a “D” the second. I’m certain she would have failed me for the entire year if she had been able. Too bad we had our school wide writing assessment test that year. I came back within the top three for the school. Not top three percent, top three period. I’m sure she was rather upset when that result came down. She made me read my essay to the class. I hated it. It was a throw away piece of trash. Still, it burned her up I’m sure.

Acne finally became an issue for me my freshman year. As if to continue the fact that the universe had it out for me, my first ever zit was right on the tip of my nose. After that it completely covered my cheeks. I would sit in the shower scrubbing my face daily, blood and tears washing down the drain. My insurance wouldn’t cover acne medication as they considered it to be cosmetic and my mother would certainly never pay for it out of pocket. It didn’t matter if it was physically painful or not, let alone the psychological issues involved with being a walking pizza face. Acne was cosmetic and that was that. One more reason to hide my face from the world.

I was in band again that year as well. Clarinet all the way. I didn’t stay in it the entire year though. Second semester I was forced to take a self-esteem class. Apparently the district had just begun to require it that year and it was mandatory for all freshman. Most people took it first semester. The second semester course was to catch the stragglers, like myself and a handful of other students that missed it for various reasons. The teacher didn’t seem to know what the hell he was doing and none of it really seemed to have anything to do with self-esteem.

One of our last projects in that class was to write an essay about someone you admired from the same faith or background as you. I was super into Stephen King at the time so I wrote my essay on him. I didn’t know what his faith or background was or how it related to mine. Who really cared anyway? We were then required to read our essay to the class. Everyone loved mine. People were actually hanging on my every word. The teacher gave me an “A” but when he returned my paper to me he told me that he wasn’t going to actually mark it like everyone else’s just in case I wanted to use it for another class. My self-esteem teacher actually encouraged me to cheat at school.

There was one really bad incident that happened to me at school that year though. I was walking through the hall one day when someone I didn’t even know waved at me and said: “Hi, Corky!” I was dumbstruck as they walked past. Most people didn’t even seem to know I existed. Of course they didn’t seem to know my name either but they had responded to me like I was a real person rather than simply as an affectation of my sister as most people at the school did. And they weren’t the only one. Several people began calling me Corky over the next few weeks. It was quite a while before someone explained to me that Corky was not a nickname. They were simply making fun of me. Corky was the name of a character on a prime time television series with Down’s Syndrome. So, obviously, they were all telling me that they thought I had Down’s Syndrome. I wasn’t devastated or anything, it just taught me to care even less.

Because of my English teacher failing me first semester of freshman English I was forced to go to summer school. This, actually, wasn’t that bad. No one had time to be jerks as there were only two periods a day, both extremely busy as they were trying to work trough a semester’s worth of work in something like a third of the time. I had passed second semester English (with a “D” mind you) so they wouldn’t let me retake that. Instead I took the first semester of sophomore English as my second class. I blew through both with flying colors. Got “A”s in both, I think.

The city bus that ran past the school only came once an hour and the driver obviously didn’t want to have to pick up any of us. She would usually be barreling down the street, several minutes ahead of schedule, well before the bell rang. I managed to catch that bus a few times but almost always I would have to wait an hour for the next one in often hundred plus degree weather. I usually despise the heat but I got used to it then, somehow. I even miss it from time to time. Usually I would be alone at that stop, everyone else having chosen to either walk or wait at the school for most of that time. It gave me space to be alone with my thoughts, a mirage of heat rising up from the sidewalk as I was. I don’t know why but that’s one time and place I sometimes wish I could go back to. Not summer school or anything else during that time. Just the blisteringly hot summer afternoons at that bus stop.

You can never go back though.

I know that all too well.

Eight

I attended three schools that year as well, my eighth grade year. We managed to stay at the same motel through the summer and into the first month or so of school, but then we suddenly moved again and I found myself in alien surroundings for more times than I could count. At least this time we were in an apartment. A few years of motel living seemed to be the limit for my mother.

The worst of this year was, you guessed it: PE. At least the school allowed me to wear my own clothes as long as they were the right colors. A lot of kids actually did just that rather than buying the school’s gym outfit. I didn’t feel too terrible or out of place for once.

But the other students seemed more… competitive. I got yelled at on a near daily basis because I wasn’t as physically capable. From volleyball to street hockey. It didn’t matter the sport. I sucked at it and everyone was more than willing to let me know in no uncertain terms. I had always been the kid picked last for teams throughout my younger school years. It was reassuring to see that certain things never changed.

One day, after a particularly nasty round of personal attacks, I simply yelled out “I QUIT!” and walked away. I headed back into the locker room followed close behind by the PE teacher. Again, I don’t think he knew how to deal with me. I was sitting there bawling my eyes out. At least he didn’t try to give me a pep talk or told me to suck it up. Pretty much he just left me alone.

Other classes were fine. I was still missing a lot of school though, which caused my grades to suffer. Certain teachers took a shinning to me, like my English teacher. She was always encouraging me to write. I took wood shop that year as well… kind of. We really weren’t allowed to use the equipment so the teacher did most of the work himself. He gave me a “C” on what was essentially his own work.

I found out another terrible family secret that year. You see, my mother had six kids all together. She had a girl and two boys and then about a decade or so later had another girl and two boys. I was basically the middle child of the second group. I knew my sister and one brother from the first group but had been told growing up that my other older brother had committed suicide at military school, that he had shot himself. This, of course, was a lie. He was alive and well and living in I believe Tennessee. He had disowned the family when I was very little and had only recently gotten back into contact with my older bother and sister, the ones he had grown up with. So now all of a sudden I had a new sibling that I had never known and most likely would never meet. Why she told us he had committed suicide I’ll probably never know. What I do know is my mother hid one of my brothers from me for a good chunk of my life. You have to be a special kind of sick to do something like that.

I saw a picture of him once, my “dead” older brother. He looked an awful lot like me for some reason.

One of my most well remembered incidents that year had to be when I had an ambulance called on me at school. It was the first time anything like that had happened to me. Note the word “first”. We had been running laps in PE but I had started feeling dizzy. My teacher had me go sit down in the locker room until I felt better or the end of the period. I never did so I eventually ended up changing and going to my next class. i think we were reciting the Preamble to The Constitution in class that day. We were taking turns standing up and saying it. When it came my turn I was having a very hard time remaining erect. My teacher quickly had a couple other students help walk me to the office and an  ambulance was called.

Embarrassing didn’t begin to cover it. I was apologizing up a storm. From my teacher to the students who helped me to the office to the office staff themselves and even the paramedics. I was incredibly contrite. I felt like I was nothing less than an absolute burden on everyone. My mother had a neighbor come and pick me up after a while. The paramedics didn’t seem to think it required a hospital trip but they did think I needed to go home for the day. I got an earful later about how she had to pay the neighbor’s gas money to come pick me up.

As always, we moved again. It was the last month of eighth grade and we moved into a town house complex. It was filled with mostly foreign families from some Asian country. For the first time in my life I had my own room though. It contained little more than a mattress on the floor and a poster than came with my SNES on the wall. Ah… Zelda III before it was given the subtitle “A Link to the Past”. I mostly slept on the couch downstairs in the living room though.

My sister became more violent while we were living there. She was beating me up rather regularly. Our mother did nothing about it, instead opting to simply ignore it.

I had a rather terrible incident with my oldest sister who’s family had also moved into the town house complex. I had stolen a package of Polaroid film from her and taken photographs of my genitalia. I was a stupid kid but I still had sexual urges and strove to understand them. My sister found the pictures and all hell broke loose. I remember my mother screaming at me demanding to know who took the photos refusing to accept that I had while she forced me to cut them up while crying. Once again my mother had taught me to be absolutely terrified of my sexuality.

The last few weeks of school were rather easy. My mother had somehow gotten the idea that I had become sick and lost my voice, which I happily went along with, and let me stay home most of the time. When I did go to class there wasn’t really anything for me to do as the school was in the middle of finals and they didn’t feel the need to include me what with me having not have been there for most of the year. I don’t even remember having to deal with PE.

Eighth grade actually came to a relatively nice and quiet close. The next year though I would be starting high school. Junior high had been little more than a microcosm of what was to come. More schools, more PE, more depression and anxiety, more Maalox.

Sigh…

My Stomach Ate Itself.

No really. Well, digested itself I should say. And really only the stomach lining. I should really have just said that, shouldn’t I? But it’s not as bombastic. Look, which sounds more interesting:

My Stomach Ate Itself!

or…

My Stomach produced too much acid and digested its own lining.

The first one sounds better, right? Anyway, it was the summer before I started junior high. It was also the summer I got my first NES. I spent most days playing Super Mario Bros. until I suddenly started having incredibly sharp stabbing pains in my stomach whenever I would eat. Within days I was in tears begging my mother to get me something, anything, that would help. Nothing did though. Pepto, Maalox, all were as if water. Eventually she took me to the emergency room.

Hours of tests later, including a prostate exam with rubber gloves and a doctor with very large hands, the results were in: My stomach had digested its own lining and I couldn’t eat anything that would cause me to produce any real amounts of acid or it would continue to eat away at itself. The doctors were perplexed by it though. They said they usually only ran across something like that in people under unusually high levels of stress. I wasn’t really listening though. I just wanted to get back to Mario. Of course, neither was my mother. A few weeks of Saltines and water while my stomach lining regrew and I was back to my old self.

And then school started.

We were pretty stable during my fifth and sixth grade years, living arrangement wise anyway. But starting junior high all that went right out the window. I ended up attending three schools during seventh grade. The first one was… weird. Firstly, I was the only kid that got on at my bus stop. Secondly, the first day of school they had apparently forgotten to even assign me a stop on the way home. It wasn’t until the driver was heading back to school that she noticed me still in the back of the bus. One day the bus simply never showed to pick me up. Apparently the school had changed the bus route and completely neglected to inform me about it. I started walking after that.

Beyond the bus situation was, once again, PE. That class was the bane of my existence. Again, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was just that I couldn’t deal with it. Add on the fact that I had to dress and they wanted you to shower afterwards and… Take a kid with huge amounts of emotional baggage and terrible body image issues, then throw him into a situation where he’s expected to change and shower in front of dozens of other kids and even adults on a daily basis. I already hated myself. That made me really hate myself. And my mother refused to buy me gym clothes so I would have to dig through the extras box every day before class. So yeah, add on the stigma of coming from a poor background as well. I was literally a bully’s wet dream. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was twice the size of everyone else by then (both height and weight, puberty worked quick on me) I’m sure I would have been a literal punching bag.

We moved about a month into the school year. To a motel. Mike, the man my mother had fled in “terror” from forcing us to leave everything behind, was back. Silver lining: I was also back at the same school with my friend, Charlie. Except, he wasn’t exactly Charlie anymore. He was more interested in chasing girls than hanging out. I was sexually aware as well but I had no interest in having sex. I was too busy worrying about everything else to care about something so insignificant. Apparently there were a number of students I went to fifth grade with there still as well as one of the first things that happened was my backpack was stolen and its contents strewn across campus. I never found all of my books.

The terrors of PE followed me there as well. I would simply freeze up while we were supposed to be changing. I got yelled at so many times for refusing to dress down, neglecting to accept the fact that I wasn’t refusing so much as I was literally incapable of doing so. Eventually they started sending me to the school counselor. I saw the “cool” counselor first, the one everyone seemed to like. He looked me over and decided it was a self-esteem issue. Maybe if I started lifted weights I would feel better about myself. He told me a story about his own son going through something “similar”. Eventually he ushered me off with a line about standing up for myself and that I should ask the football coach to help me set up a weight training routine. Good advice for someone in a similar situation as his son. Bad advice for me. Nothing came of it.

I continued to miss school and have issues dressing for PE. Finally they started allowed me to dress after everyone else was already out of the locker room. Now that was a situation I could deal with. I would change quickly and join the class. We were doing calisthenics in the gym one day. The classes were huge, several separate classes combined into one. Eventually we got into sit-ups. I got down on my back, put my hands behind my head, pulled forward, and released one of the loudest farts anyone has probably ever heard. Everyone laughed. I laid in silence, quietly crying. The rest of the class was punished by having to run laps because they wouldn’t stop laughing. I simply stood in the corner with my face to the wall sobbing. There was nothing even the teachers could do to get me to come out of it. I was back in third grade again being punished by the principle, except I was both myself and the principle this time. The story spread far and wide. Even my sister, who was going to a different high school at the time, heard about it. I was quite literally a laughing stock. One of my worst fears realized in perfect clarity.

They couldn’t get me to go back into the locker room or gym after that. I simply stood outside and stared, shaking. Eventually they sent me to another school counselor. All I really remember about that visit was that I was shaking so hard that she asked me if I was cold and turned a heater on for me even though it was summer still. All I wanted to do was disappear. It didn’t matter either way. They simply weren’t equipped to deal with someone like me. We moved shortly thereafter.

I did learn one interesting thing from that school. When we moved I actually got to see my transcript, and by association, my GPA. It was a .78. Not a 1.78 or a 2.78 but a literal 0.78. I’m actually kind of proud of that. I mean, who’s ever heard of someone having a 0.78 GPA? I didn’t even know it was possible. But again, at this point my grades were the least of my worries.

From one motel to another we went. And I started another completely new school. This one was a bit strange as well. Instead of my mother taking me in, they had a school bus come and just pick me up. It dropped me off and I walked into the office. I’d had several years to perfect my hiding-in-plain-sight skill so I used that. The woman at the front desk didn’t notice me standing right in front of her for hours. I was too afraid to say anything either. When she finally did notice me she seemed taken aback. As if she had somehow known I had been there the whole time yet couldn’t quite grasp that. She printed out my class schedule and had another student take me around to all my classes.

I had a lot more issues with my mother at this school. Unbeknownst to me she had contacted the school and requested that I have only female teachers because, in her mind, I didn’t get along well with men. This, of course, was not true. Just because I had had issues with my sixth grade teacher that did not mean that I hated all men. I had plenty reason to, from my absentee father to her unending line of drunk or druggy sex partners, but it didn’t really bother me.

I also had the pleasure of her signing me up for band, yet again. I didn’t really go into detail about this before but my mother was obsessed with all of us taking band. In particular, all of us taking the clarinet. I pretty much defied her in fifth grade and took the trombone instead because, when I went to sign up for band class that year I saw my friend Charlie taking it. In sixth grade I was given a coronet as the school was already out of clarinets at that time, something she couldn’t argue. I hadn’t signed up for band at the first two schools I had attended that year because I really hadn’t had the time. I had plenty of time at this school though so mother insisted. I went to sign up and the teacher asked me if I had any experience. I told her I had taken the trombone and the coronet. She seemed so happy. They didn’t have a trombone player for their school band. I’m sure that happiness vanished when she got an angry call from my mother demanding that I be given a clarinet instead. I don’t recall anything about band class beyond that that year. I might have quit or something.

My mother had apparently played the clarinet herself when she was younger. Once in a while she would pick up one of our instruments and play for a bit, rather well I might add. But I could never quite understand her obsession with us playing it as well. She almost never played herself, didn’t even have her own instrument, and never took the time to sit down and teach me anything. It was as if I had to take it just because she had. It was family tradition. And there was no breaking that. Except if you were my little brother who got zero push back when he decided to take the saxophone instead. Apparently family tradition only applied to me.

Grades were poor at this school as well. So poor that at one point they started putting me in special education classes. The special education teacher would have me for a few weeks, look at my work, and then approach the administration and ask why I was there. I wasn’t behind and didn’t seem to have a learning disability so what was the reason? Then I would be put back into regular class where my grades would suffer due to absenteeism and a simple lack of giving a shit. So back to special education I would go. It was like a game of hot potato. No one wanted to take responsibility for me because no one knew how to deal with me. And putting me in special education wasn’t helping anyone because the teacher had neither the time nor the resources to teach what was essentially two classes: Me at a regular or even advanced rate, and everyone else that actually belonged there because they really did need help.

Not that I was a normal student to begin with. I was very odd and was, once again, often picked on. It was actually surprising the lack of physical bullying I had to endure. Again, my size certainly played a direct factor in that. But the psychological and emotional bullying was relentless. Returning to fifth grade once more and the incident with Jolene and the coat. My mother had terrified me so much about it that I never took it off, even in the dead of summer. I wore it to school religiously every day and only took it off for PE because I was forced to. After more than two years of constant usage the coat had become old and tattered. One of the side pockets had actually warn though so that stuffing was hanging out. I remember a kid snuck up on me and threaded a padlock through that hole. He said he didn’t know the combination so I had to have the custodian cut it free with some bolt cutters. Imagine wearing a torn-up bright yellow jacket that looked like something someone might wear on a ski trip with a padlock attached to it and the custodian cutting it off. Yeah, that was me.

PE was still horrific. From, once again, having to dig through the extras box for gym clothes every day because my mother continued to refuse to buy me my own, to the near endless teasing about my weight. I really didn’t want to be there. I just wanted to go home and hide. So I started missing even more school, which no one really seemed to have much of an issue with for some reason.

I did make one mistake though. I still tested too well. There was an incident in my science class. The teacher was upset because everyone was getting such poor grades. Surprisingly, I became the center of attention. While castigating the class he suddenly turned and pointed at me and said: “He’s never here and he still gets Cs! What’s wrong with the rest of you?” I felt  myself shirk at the attention. Without realizing it he had painted a very large bullseye on me. Not only was I getting better grades than a lot of the class, I was doing so without even having to attend. The rest of that year was not pretty for me.

Beyond that seventh grade was more of the same. My interest in school continued to wain. I spent more and more time at home playing video games or writing. I didn’t want to interact with the outside world at all. If it was anything like school I knew I’d never be able to survive it. I wasn’t even in high school yet and I was already barely hanging on by a thread. Could things get worse? Would things get worse?

Yes.

Something Sarcastic… Sixes!

Eh… I guess I’ve kinda trapped myself at this point. I’ve made it through fifth grade and now I suppose, after promising, that I should continue on with this horror train and discuss sixth grade. Still not 100% sure why I’m doing all this, for myself personally I mean. It just started out with me wanting to vent because I was in a really bad place. Now I’m just kind of documenting my mental collapse over the years. I’ve no allusions that others did not have it worse off than me and yet managed to weather their own personal storms and come out relatively unscathed. Just that these are the events that happened to me and how I feel they ended up shaping the disaster that I eventually became.

We had actually moved into a house over the summer between fifth and sixth grade. This wasn’t completely unheard of but it was rare enough that the last time before that I remember us living in a house had been in third grade for a short while. Mostly it was apartments, or crashing with other people, or living in condemned duplexes. You know, the usual. But this time we lived in a house, with a yard and everything. And we stayed there for the entirety of my sixth grade year, but only just barely. That’s getting ahead of myself though.

After fifth grade I was little more than a walking pile of neurosis and the universe decided to reward me with surviving the previous year by… handing me off to a teacher who I still to this day think literally hated me. Not that he didn’t care but that he honestly hated me. He was very sportsy and athletic. Got along really well with the other students that were as well. I was the antitheses of all that. Quiet, reserved… terrified. Now he never told me that he hated me but he certainly acted like he did.

Being as sixth grade was no where near as bad as fifth, there are fewer incidents that I fully recall from it. But I do remember a few less than romantic memories. One of the many that really stick out for me was the fact that for the first three months of school the man called me Dennis. My name is not Dennis. It’s Daniel. There was no Dennis in our class. I didn’t turn in my class or homework under the name Dennis. When I was finally able to correct him, while turning in an assignment, he lashed out at me and in a very loud voice berated me with “Well why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I had. I had told him over and over again. It was just that this was the first time he had actually heard me. What did I learn from this? Don’t speak up, even when people are wrong. You’ll end up being blamed for their failures.

I started missing a lot of school during my sixth year as well. I had always really liked school but the only thing keeping me coming back during fifth grade had been my teacher. My sixth grade teacher seemed to resent me. As such, I started missing more and more school. I wasn’t playing hooky or skipping class. I was staying home feeling sick, usually nauseous. I came down with the stomach flu once. Made me miss the better part of a week of school. When I finally stopped throwing up and was able to go back my teacher was on me about my homework. I had literally spent a week lying in bed sipping melted ice cream which I would then throw up. His reasoning was that if I had time to watch television then I had time to do homework. He stated it rather flatly and plainly to me in class and then simply walked away. No explanation required. No explanation allowed.

I think the worst reaction from him was after we had taken our education level tests. These weren’t tests for school but for the district and state to judge how well we were doing overall. I always aced those tests. I remember when the results came back my teacher was acting very strange about them. Basically teasing the class into guessing who had gotten the highest score. In fact, who had gotten the highest score in the entire school. Everyone was sure it had been this kid by the name of Corey. He got really good grades and everyone seemed to like him. But no, it was me, and everyone including my teacher seemed incredulous. With my missing school had gone my grades. What had been mostly A’s with a B here and there had become almost solid C’s. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work. I just couldn’t muster the interest anymore. Several of the students actually accused me of cheating. I learned to better hide my intelligence.

But most of my issues with my teacher seemed to stem from PE class. I wasn’t even a nerd, I was something worse than that. Ostracized by the ostracized. I wasn’t the typical outcast either though. I wasn’t slight or weak. In fact today I’m about 6’1″ and weigh 270 pounds. More than a smidge of fat but I have a very large frame that hides it well. Anyway, my teacher seemed more than a little disappointed in my athleticism. He was always taking us out to the field to play baseball or touch football. I just wanted to sit and read. He would yell at me and become exasperated when I made mistakes, which was always. Today I still don’t really know the rules to any sports. Eventually I started missing school on Fridays more and more often, the days we had PE class. It was better for me to simply not be there at all than to risk his, and everyone else’s, anger.

As I stated before though, school was not the only place where I was having issues that year. The larger world was beginning to intrude on my solitude as well. I can’t tell you how often I was woken up in the night by my mother panicking and sending me down to the corner store to call 911 at the payphone because her alcoholic boyfriend was, yet again, beating her. It happened so often that I learned what the word Caucasian meant from talking to 911 dispatchers. Of course the next morning she would always go down and pick him back up after they let him out of the drunk tank. His name was Mike, I believe, and he was around for quite a while. He was very violent towards her, and very angry towards us, which meant that she was very angry and violent towards us. I really didn’t like him but there was nothing I could do about it but grin and bear it. My older sister was always out with her friends and my younger brother, well, I spent more time taking care of him than our mother did. She was always too busy. Out panhandling to buy him a six-pack or fucking him in their bedroom.

I also realized just how much of a bitch my sister really was. She treated me like garbage but was allowed to rule over me because she was older. I recall one morning in particular. I was getting ready for school and my sister decided to start an argument concerning my hair. She fancied herself my second mother and insisted I cut it. I told her to leave me alone. For some reason our mother agreed with her and before I knew it my sister had me pinned to the kitchen door frame while our mother was literally just cutting random chunks out of my hair with a pair of scissors. I remember crying and screaming but they wouldn’t stop. Eventually they did and she told me to go to school or else. I looked like I had been hit with a weed whacker and wore hats for the next few months. My sister never apologized.

Pretty much the year went on like this. I lost more and more interest in school and found myself more and more isolated from the world. As I stated before, I started puberty that year. I knew the basic mechanics of sex but didn’t understand the details. Hell, I thought I had invented masturbation and couldn’t understand why no one else had figured it out! Yes, I was that stupid. I mention this because… Finally summer vacation rolled around. I was free from school and free from my teacher who hated me, and my classmates who probably hated me as well. All that was over now though. I got on my bike and rode off to have the best summer vacation ever.

For two whole days.

Yes, two days into summer vacation my mother unexpectedly packed us up into the station wagon with a few outfits each and we left that house and everything else behind for good. We ended up at a shelter for battered women and their children. I say “we” but the reality was, they didn’t want to take me. You see, I was twelve at the time. I had started puberty. I was a man in their eyes. A violent man that the other women at the shelter were scared of. At any moment I might snap and start beating them, just because. Imagine telling a very confused, very scared twelve-year-old kid that he couldn’t stay with his family, the only family that he knew, because of his gender. That happened to me. I was told I was scary when I was the one that was absolutely terrified.

They relented when they realized that it was either let me stay or ship me off to a men’s shelter as I literally had nowhere else to go. The next few weeks weren’t much better though. Everyone was very suspicious of me. I was constantly being pulled into the office for “chats”. My brother, less than two years younger than me, did not receive the same attention. I didn’t feel safe at all but there was nothing I could do about it. If I wasn’t afraid of people and the world by then, I certainly would have learned to be.

I don’t remember how long we were there for, a few weeks at most I think, before we eventually moved into this big house with my oldest sister and her family. And that’s about the time when my real stomach issues began to manifest themselves.

Next time on Goddamn Does My Life Suck: Maalox, Maalox Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink! — or — What Kind Of A Twelve-Year-Old Needs A Prostate Exam?

The Year Of Hell

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!