Looking back through the years, it is a wonder how I have become a well adjusted adult. Childhood wasn’t a walk in the park for me. Yes I had both parents who loved me, at one point. Yes I had food shelter and clothing. But the torture I went through every day is the one reoccurring memory,(or nightmare,) that will never go away.
As I sit here in the comfort of my own cottage watching my wife and kids play outside near the docks, I thank God every day for allowing me to surpass the torture and live through the pain. I guess the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, is true.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of an event that had changed my life forever…
I remember waking up on the sunny September morning. My clothes freshly cleaned, pressed and ready for wear, lay out on a chair in the corner of my room. Brand new Chuck Taylor’s over by my bedroom door. The warm fall air rushing in from the windows, all around me. And then reality hit me. Today is the first day of high school.
Excited and no longer able to sleep I hurried into the shower. I put on my glasses and began to choose from all the new clothes I had for I, the best outfit to impress my new class mates. I thought this will be different; it’s not the same as elementary school or middle school. In high school I will have friends and I won’t be a loser anymore.
Once dressed I made sure my hair was at its finest, freshly cut with just a bit of gel to give it that ‘just woken up’ look that was popular. As I bent down to tie my new runners, I realized the one thing that was missing from this picturesque morning, was my mother.
Earlier that summer my mother had left us without so much as a goodbye. She was ill, not the physical kinds that you can literally see suck the life out of someone but the mental kind. She would forget where she was, how she got there, who you were and that would cause mental break down which would involve us calling the cops or the hospital which ever could come first. In the middle of the night I heard the shuffling of a door lock, and her car take off out of the drive way. We contacted the officials, and posted missing posters but no one ever brought her home.
Wiping tears from: my eyes, I skipped downstairs to see my father, a strong, educated man, preparing my favorite breakfast scrambled eggs, bacon and French toast. We ate in silence; I assumed we were both thinking about the same thing- her. As I lifted my plate off the dinner table my father looked up at me. Pensive, he didn’t say much for a while until I returned from the sink where I had carefully placed my dishes.
The words that slowly escaped from his mouth were full of promise but you could hear an underlying tone of worry. He told me he was so proud of me for overcoming all those years of torture from my peers in elementary school and middle school. He promised me that the pain of seeing a child coming home every day in shambles, tears, bloodied was not the reason that my mother disappeared. He told me that this time it would be different, fresh start, new school and new peers to hang out with.
Oh how I wished he was right….
Standing on the street corner waiting for the big yellow school bus to arrive felt like an eternity. My hands were clammy my knees were shaking and all I wanted to do was go home lie in bed or vomit. Then there it was. Bright, shiny and new, it turned around the corner and pulled up right in front of me. My father did not come to the bus stop with me since he felt I was too old for that and a fresh start meant, something new, waiting on my own like the ‘big boy’ for that dreadful bus to arrive.
The dreaded bus doors opened, and I slowly stepped inside. Once at the top of the stairs I took a look around the bus, left, right, to the back. I saw no familiar faces. A wave of relief washes over me as I sit down on a bench alone and take out my favorite comic to read on the ride. Leafing through the pages of my comic, I kept a steady eye on the door of the bus hoping not to see anyone from my past. As we pull up into the school drive way, the calm left my body and a panic attack ensues. I tried to breathe calmly but nothing seems to work.
Slowly we all marched; left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, to the big metal doors that may hold years of learning and fun or more years of torture. I found my way to my locker, look around for potential threats. I see no one in the hallways as I slowly emptied my school bag into the designated locker was to be my ‘home’ until graduation. This used to be a beacon of fear as on a weekly basis I was shoved and locked in my own ‘home’ for most of my life.
The morning continued in this blissful manner. Class after class, simple introductions of myself and new peers, coupled with small amounts of homework. No name calling, no shoving, no pushing or beating. Finally I seemed to relax and wonder, is it all over?
Finally, the dreaded lunch bell rings. For the first day of high school my father had given me 5$ to purchase lunch… Normally by this time I would have been shaken down and all of my money stolen which resulted in tears and an empty stomach until I returned home. But not today. I ordered a small lunch of a slice of pizza with fries and carefully pulled the 5$ bill out of my running shoe. No one was around to see my secret new hiding place and that made me feel just that much calmer and reassured that this was in fact a new beginning.
Boy… was I wrong… As I walked through the cafeteria searching for a place to sit in solitude and eat my lunch, a leg popped out of nowhere and all I remember seeing was food flying through the air and the floor on which my face hit so hard I was sure I split open my skull. The roar of laughter was loud enough to shake the entire school. As I tried to get up, believing that this was an accident or misunderstanding, a heavy foot placed itself on my back and pushed me back to the floor. More laughter rippled through the cafeteria. I was told to lick my lunch up off the floor and then I will be allowed to stand up.
Tears filled my eyes, painful memories returned and all I could do was scream for my long lost mother. Finally the principle arrived, dragged me off the floor and brought both of us to his office. The screaming and cussing I heard as I waited my turn in the big office scrambled my stomach. As who seemed to be the captain of the football team left the principal’s office, he gave one look my way and stuck his thumb to his neck and made a cutting motion. Right then, I knew this was going to be a very long road for me, as all the other years of my educational and childhood have been.
Patiently I awaited my turn trying not to pay too much attention. Once inside the principal’s office I tried to state my case but he wanted to hear nothing of it. I was informed that maybe my attitude towards others or the way I dressed oh so proper could have been what set off the ‘bully radar’. Ultimately no one was on my side. And then he did something very despicable. He brought up my mother. How it must be hard not knowing where she was or why she left, although if she was as ‘psycho’ as everyone said maybe it is best. As I got up to leave because I had had enough, the principal warned me to watch my behavior and not disrupt the quiet educational institution that he had run for many years.
Alone again, and forever. I left the principal’s office with a feeling of despair. Sadly, the captain of the football team and his buddies heard the entire conversation. They started calling me ‘one flew over the coo coos nest’ and saying things like by me being such a loser it caused my mom to run away, she couldn’t bear to look at her loser of a son.
The day continued on with more torture, tripping, books stealing and my personal favorite being locked inside my locker is how the rest of my new start unfurled. The time I spent in there on my first day of high school somehow changed my outlook. No longer did I want to be a victim… I wanted to be the victor. I needed to come up with a plan to finally show the world I was not one to be bullied.
When the concierge finally came to cut the lock off my locker, I was no longer hurt or scared. I was enraged. Something had to be done and if no one at this school would help, then I would do it on my own. The bus ride home was as torturous as my day had been. Once the secret of my mother was spread to the entire school, my new life was over. Everyone on the bus was whispering about her, me and my father. Maybe my father beat us senseless maybe he was a drunk and she left, maybe her son was too much too bear. … Maybe the speech of how my mother was a looney locked away or dead in the woods somewhere was too much for me to bear and caused my brain to snap.
The bus stopped in front of our small broken down house. I was too scared to get off the bus but the pain was too much for me to endure. I waited for the next stop and ran home from there hoping that no one would find out where I lived.
My father was working late at the mill that night and left me some money on the table in case I wanted to order pizza. Honestly all I wanted to do at that point was go to bed or move, anything to forget this day I had anticipated for almost my whole life. How could one person ruin someone else’s life without so much a thought for how that person felt.
My blood ran cold as I heard screaming from the front porch. All of a sudden all that I could hear or see was the smashing of the windows in the living room. Howling of boys screaming WE’RE GONNA GET YOU rang through the entire house.
Frightened and alone I watched them circle the house taunting me to come outside. I had two options. Stay inside and hide like the coward the world believes I was or stand up for myself. Once the bullies had reached the back yard I had had enough. Locked high above the fire place; the answer to my nightmares, my father’s prize shotgun. I took a deep breath, unlocked it and loaded the shells. I could see all three of them slapping base ball bats into their big palms, walking up the steps of the patio. That’s where I snapped. No one would come in my house and disrespect my family who has done everything to give me a life I deserved, and the bullies were going to take that away.
I don’t quite remember the exact sequence of events that happened so I will do my best to recount them. I flung open the patio door and a shot rang out. Whether it was my finger on the trigger I have no recollection, I felt as though my mother had taken over in spirit and was shooting a warning to my bullies to leave the premise.
Lucky for me the two scrawnier ones took off in a sheer panic. They hollered to their ‘leader’ the captain to come along but he did not budge. He stood there on the porch looking at me with fear in his eyes. His mouth however spitted out the most horrible things one has ever heard, that I chose not to include here, as that is not the point of this story. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and pointed that shot gun right at him. I only meant to scare him really I did. But he lunged at me and I pulled the trigger.
The sound that was heard was blood curdling. The bang of the gun, the wet sound of blood splatter and the smack of what I thought was an arm hitting the floor. Not a sound came out of his mouth… finally … silence… But the look in his eyes as the blood and life slipped from his body was gratifying enough for me.
As I stood there in awe and wonder not knowing what to do next I heard the front door slam open and my father screaming, just screaming my name over and over and over. He picked up the phone immediately and called 911. Not knowing the exact details of what had happened he managed to spit out, dead child, shot gun, back patio.
My father held me in his arms rocking and shaking until the ambulance arrived. It was too late… Neither of us said a word to each other but the look in his eyes as we were locked together was enough. I could see the hurt but also a glimpse of pride that I stood up for myself, then a wave of fear.
In a brief moment of silence, the world rushing around us I heard not a sound. Not one until the police barged in and hand cuffed my father. I pleaded with them saying it was not him it was me, however they wanted to hear nothing of it. I, to this day, still don’t know when this happened, but my father had managed to pry the shot gun from my hands and was holding it as the cops rushed in.
Dazed and confused I passed out. I woke up in the hospital being treated for shock when I was informed that my father was in jail and would stand trial for the murder of the captain of the football team. I kicked and screamed and tried to tell my story but no one would listen. My grandparents showed up looking more somber than usual. I was going to live with them out of state where no one knew my name. A dream come true for some I guess.
Weeks, months went by without any correspondence from my father. I missed my parents so much. I spent most of my time in my room alone doing homework. My grandparents thought it would be best to be home schooled so they could keep an eye on me. ‘Insanity runs in the family’ they would say.
Finally the day came. My father would stand before the judge and plead not guilty. Waiting in the court room hearing the buzz of whispers and the shuffling of papers was enough to drive anyone crazy. But the words that came out of my father’s mouth would haunt me for years. He recounted how my mother had picked up and fled that summer. He told the court of the years of bullying I had been subjected to. He poured out his heart. But most importantly of all, he claimed to have had enough of the torture being subjected on the family and someone had to pay. My father was a brilliant man, and it baffled me that he would take the fall for a murder he did not commit. I screamed LIAR LIAR LIAR through the court room I rushed to the judge and told him the truth. I am a 13 year old boy who murdered the captain of my football team because I had had enough.
Sadly no one believed me. They believed I was a sad little boy with no parents who was trying to save the only thing left in this world that he had…
Years have gone by, and the more I think about it the more I realize it. This world is a crazy messed up place and we all have to adapt. Survival of the fittest I believe the term is. My father would give anything to save me and I would do the same for my two beautiful children. After years of monthly visits I began to understand his logic. He lived his life, and now it was time to live mine. The torture I went through would have never stopped especially if I had been thrown into juvenile detention. My father lied to save a child he thought he would lose. He could not stand to watch his only son waste away after his wife left.
In essence my father gave me the life I had always dreamed of but would never have if I continued on the path of destruction. My children do not know their grandfather and I cannot bring myself to tell them the truth of the events that transpired thirty years ago. Come to think of it, this is the first time I have told anyone.
If there is one lesson to be learnt from these events, it would be unconditional love. Love they neighbor or so it says in the bible and none of this would have happened. The world is a cruel place but I still believe that there is hope for a future generation.
There is one thing that still baffles me however… I may never find clarity or an answer to this but my quest remains…
Some say honesty is the best policy. However in some cases whether the truth was told or not, the outcome may be the same; deceiving, disappointing or maybe a second chance…