“I had ‘friends’ but… as soon as we got to school they were calling me names, they were throwing rocks.”
This is Rob, describing losing his faith in the goodness of people.
Basically I am severely dyslexic and my grandmother told me that if I’d been born 10 or 15 years, just the severity of my disability, they would have just thrown me in an institution. A teacher told my parents that my disability was so bad I would never graduate high school, that I would never be able to hold down a job, never have a license to drive a car. My father says that is the one time that he really wanted to hit a woman.
Growing up in the mid to late 1970’s, being severely dyslexic, I was in a lot of special-ed classes, these were the same that had the kids with Down’s syndrome, and other handicaps. So, naturally, I was called retarded. I’ve also, I’ve always been taller than just about everyone, always been very skinny, got the big eyes. Joked like Gollum from the Lord of the rings–I even have a thing for rings. Also, up until I was 16 I had a really bad overbite. So, I would get fucked with for my physical appearance, for the fact that I was in these classes. Teachers would tell my parents that I frustrated the hell out of them because if it was something I was interested in I could teach the class but I couldn’t pass a spelling test, I was horrible at math, and I had next to no social skills.
Sadly, there are those in the world that delight in preying on who they find different, who they find weaker. And just want to hurt them, screw with them, kick them down and I think some of that sincerely comes from their own weaknesses, from their own problems, their own demons that they have to face up to or try to deny. I would have these kids–we would go and play together, and when we played make-believe, well, they all thought I had the greatest imagination. I would come up with these ideas for whatever little play pretend thing we were going to do; these entire worlds, histories, characters, etc. They thought it was great.
We’d get to school and it would be making fun of me for being bucktooth or having big eyes or being a retard, call me names and brutalize me. Out of nowhere, walking out on the playground, bunch of people jumping on me or getting a rock thrown at me. I found that the establishment, the teachers and the principals, didn’t really do a whole lot to help. As I got older, I did learn how to fight back, sometimes physically although I was taught that it takes a bigger man to walk away from a fight than to get into one. So I kept that little moral high ground.
The animals that my parents had, the horses, the dogs, and all that; those were more my friends because these creatures were always my friends, no matter what. I kind of remember one time I was sitting out at the barn, with this one horse that I had as a kid, and I’m petting him. Of course, I didn’t know more colorful language back then. I was like “I’m done with humans.” I said this to the horse, and the horse looked at me–I’m probably anthropomorphizing–but it had this kind of understanding look. Almost as if it was telling me “It is okay, I’m still your buddy, I’ll still let pet me, I’ll still let you ride me, I’ll still let you feed me, I’m not gonna look down on your for your decision.”
[Describe how you felt when they were ganging up on you]
Helpless, angry. Helpless because up until I was more of a teenager, that was when I started to learn how to fight back and how to stand up for myself. It was like “There are all these people coming at me and I don’t know what to do.” Angry because–some of it was at myself, that I wasn’t fighting back, that I was letting them do this to me. I was angry at them for picking on me. I guess, I don’t know if curiosity or wonder is the right word, basically I was trying to figure out why they were doing this to me; what made it okay in their mind to do this? It was the same thing with any of the other people in some of these special ed classes. Why is it okay to pick on this person who has, what was classically called the mongoloid features and had kind of a weird lilt to their voice, why was it okay to pick on them? Instead of help them? It was almost like curiosity there, kind of like anger, it just didn’t seem fair. Fair has very little to do with it, but…
I’m very skeptical of homo sapiens… Monkeys, these creatures that walk on two legs will bestest buddy one minute and then turn around and slash your throat the next. Especially if you get them into a group of two or more. I really, really, really, try to believe in the goodness of my fellow man. There is part of me that wants to take someone at their word, to believe that everybody has the best intentions, but that in a way was taken away from me when I was a little kid.
[How do you feel about it now?]
I’m a lot more accepting. I’ve never been one of those people who is like, “If I ever ran into such and such I’d kick their ass.” I got over that a very long time ago. I don’t harbor that kind of anger. I know that it has left its scars, because–yeah having that certain mistrust of people, that certain willingness to go “Ok, I’ll be on my own.” I realize it left a mark on me, I realize that it did something, but it is at the same point–I guess I’ve accepted it. It happened, there is no way to make it unhappen. To this day, I catch sudden movement out of the corner of my eye and I flinch.
Losing Something by Jody Stephens is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.