The most embarrassing part of my life, in some ways, is how I coped with things. By writing.
But I now know that was my OCD running wild in response to trauma, so I can forgive myself. Better to write or type until you can’t feel your hands, and your knuckles ache, and Mick is yelling at you to get off the computer already. Better to do that, than slit your wrists or try to take too much Tylenol. I don’t remember when I stopped, or started, cutting my chest with razor blades. Thankfully they were small cuts and not deep.
I didn’t want my breasts to grow, on some instinctive level, because I didn’t want to be a woman. Women got raped. I wanted to be “butch.”
But it’s much harder to forgive the adults around me for never noticing anything. About any child, ever, most of the time…including me. And pretty much all of my friends. They didn’t see the dance of social isolation, bullying, mental illness, abuse and pedophiles…all lurking beneath the surface of what appeared to be middle-class America. After all, these were private school kids mostly. Though Baldwin was better, and Waldorf was best.
And Unity was called Unity Church. So it didn’t seem abnormal on the surface of things. But there was more weirdness around than I was old enough to realize at the time.
You just expect more out of an adult, you know?
Waldorf, Grade 5
A few of those Waldorf students were stuck-up rich kids, but they were hardly the problem. The problem, with an adult’s hindsight, is that Waldorf just didn’t have a bus monitor to keep the bullies off the weird kids like me. That bully dogged my every step some days, but the bus was the worst part…and I was just never able to communicate the distinction to Glenda between “hating the bus” and “hating the school.” I really just hated the bully. I don’t even remember the girl’s name now, just that she was physically large, in my class, and had a terrible glare. Her name began with an “A.”
The bully threatened to kill me a couple of times, and I was so young and brain-damaged and literal all the time that I thought she might actually do it. So I started throwing up in the shower.
This was the first time I’d ever rode a bus, so it never occurred to me that bus monitors even existed. I didn’t find that out until about 2013, when I saw a news story that involved a bunch of bullies who directed all of their taunts and attention towards the old woman who was in charge of monitoring the bus. They said some pretty horrible things, but I remember thinking, Hey, at least an adult was there!
And then I started shaking, and I didn’t know why. It was because a bus monitor would have allowed me to stay at Waldorf.
At the time, I tried to overcome my stutter by drawing a picture of the bully dead, and showing it to Glenda…it was just a ghost, nothing graphic or anything. A ghost, and a headstone with the words, “Rest in peace, for all our sakes!”
I had a weird sense of humor, even at twelve.
Glenda got confused by the drawing and said, “Why are you showing me this? Why do you hate people so much?”
I got embarrassed, and scared, and destroyed the drawing and never mentioned it again.
She had already built up a narrative in her head, and I just lay prone before it. Which I still regret.
From Waldorf, to Catholic Schools
The stories I wrote after that rape when I was 14, at St. Anthony…they were full of whipping, forced sex, heroic sacrifice, slavery, magic, and Star Wars imagery. Because I was just that far gone. I’m too embarrassed to dredge up the names of the characters or the stories, except for Shmi. I called her by a different name, but I pictured her the same way, and in more vivid detail than I care to elaborate on. Citrine, the stone, was involved somehow…in Unity, things like that had magic properties.
I hung onto that story for a long time. I shared my stories with friends, and with Glenda. Because that was just my way of communicating with the world at this point.
Everyone thought of my stories as weird, understandably, but just the product of an odd yet creative child.
I do know that I had Elena, a Mary Sue character. And she became a concubine or something, so that Shmi could be saved. Planets were destroyed through sheer human carelessness.
And there were alien rapists with a penchant for human women…oh, man, even now, it’s embarrassing to admit that I wrote such drivel, and I don’t know why it’s embarrassing. But from what I’ve been told, that’s pretty typical of people in my situation.
I was constantly enacting my own rape, in fiction…just to get it to go away. As I have done throughout my life…up until recently. Now I’m talking about myself.
In sixth grade, I was in Christ the King school. We wore green uniforms there–that is, the shorts were green, and the shirts white. I thought we looked like leprechauns. But hey, at least we were leprechauns together! And the kids seemed pretty friendly.
There was Charles! Charles was fat, so everyone called him Charles Colossal or Charles Cholesterol.
But I was so messed up in the head I gave him another nickname, the poor guy. I decided to call him “rabbit molester.”
Somewhere between the old hippie doing his thing and me writing “After Midnight,” Julia gave me a large-sized Lola Bunny stuffed animal! Because although no one was aware of my OCD, it was pretty clear that I loved Space Jam.
And that she was my favorite character. Glenda only allowed me smaller, cheaper Space Jam items, in a vain attempt to control my OCD. Or maybe it was cheapness; who knows at this point.
No one knew that Lola was my “imaginary friend,” the one I summoned up in my mind at night to protect me from the old hippie who had recently cornered me in a garden and licked my face. The old hippie…who my fractured brain called “Him” or “lizard-man.”
It was a very sweet gift, from a girl who was doing her best to make friends. The other kids were looking at it, and Charles took its shirt off and exposed the little stuffed-toy breasts!
Poor guy was just playing around, but I was so sensitive about that stuffed animal that I grabbed it out of his hands and ran from the classroom!
I hung on to that doll for years, like a port in a storm. Didn’t take it with me when I left Jonathon though.
At the time, I slept with that stuffed animal. I held it close and stayed up nights, as though Lola could protect me from the old hippie, somehow. I was twelve or thirteen.
We had mass in Christ the King, but I would get so bored I’d zone out for long periods, daydreaming and staring at all the stained glass. Still, it was peaceful enough, compared to later.
I tried to sneak in a Garfield book once; just to give my OCD brain something to do other than chase itself in a circle. It fell apart in my pocket because I tried to cram the whole thing in there! It was really old. And those pockets were quite large…but I overestimated how large.
The book fell apart, and I was such a shy kid I got embarrassed and tried to hide the paper remains in between a bunch of hymn books on the back of the pew in front of us. Amy, my best friend, handed me a big chunk of crumbling Garfield on the way out the door after Mass and called me an idiot. Well, we still got along.
The teacher, who we called “Mr. U,” because it was short for something like “Uetake.” It took me years to learn the variety of local dialects and inflections found on Maui, and then a couple years to unlearn them when we moved back to Oregon. My damaged brain learns deep, but slow.
He was an oddly under-qualified fellow–he played the guitar well, but could not spell or type! He taught everything except for “language arts,” which he outsourced to a younger teacher who taught the previous grade. Yes, grade five! She was blonde, Mrs. Lauden I think. Louden?
I would actually proofread Mr. U’s handouts sometimes! Because that’s how bad his punctuation was. Sure, my proofreading was an OCD symptom, but he was actually relying on a kid to spell stuff for him. A twelve to thirteen year old. I still beat myself up over letting Glenda think I hated Waldorf, when I was really just confused about it.
Then, when he made mistakes in the handouts that went home, Glenda wondered why I was correcting those! She just perceived it as me being overly critical of people. And I believed her; and beat myself up for it.
I stopped correcting his already-completed handouts, but I kept correcting his handouts on the computer before he distributed them!
He also threw temper tantrums. That is, the level of noise in the classroom would build, and he would say something like, “Hey, guys, you’re getting loud…” So of course everyone would ignore him. Then it would build until he couldn’t stand it anymore, and he’d start yelling. Then everyone would be quiet for a while.
Mrs. Lauden taught fifth grade. She wondered why I was crying all the time, and asked me if it was “something at home.”
It was a really insightful question from a well-meaning woman. It just wasn’t the right one. I was just so fractured that I interpreted the question literally.
If she had just asked if it was “something at church…”
Train wreck averted. But, that didn’t happen.