Drinking buddies would get PISSED when I couldn’t remember things. For fuck’s sake, we were doing coke, pot, and alcohol. How the fuck could they remember ANYTHING? Nights out were a blur. I couldn’t remember people, conversations, events. Nothing. My mind was shut down.
Unfortunately, I was like that BEFORE I ever took my first drink.
In college, some guy off the street began bullshitting with me about our high school days. We went to the same school. Apparently I was in a class ahead of him. I don’t remember this asshole at all. This is partially why I didn’t attend my 10 year reunion. I barely remember anyone.
In addition to having a poor memory, I just don’t like to reminisce. The past sucked, ya know? I’m way more cool now than I was at 18. Fuck those years.
Honestly, I hate to say it, but things going on outside of my head are less interesting than things going on in it. I hardly take interest in things going on in my life. People get angry with me because I can’t remember things. But you know what? If people were a bit more interesting, I might remember them.
That’s all I’m saying.
But I’ve been depressed. I’m not depressed about anything in particular. It seems like I get this way every summer. The heat sucks. But now that I’m an old man, I’m left wondering how things got to be this way. Why am I such a piece of shit?
My first best friend was an asshole. I was 8-10 years old, at the time living outside of Los Angeles. He might’ve been an asshole, but he was also a badass. He’d steal shit from candy stores, pull knives out on gang bangers (probably some teenagers) threatening to beat the shit out of us, break into people’s cars. The kid was fearless.
His dad, however, was some aging hippie. Not some peace-loving hippie though. This mother fucker was pissed off all the time. He’d often slap the shit out of his son and yell at me. The first time I was scared for my life was when I was hiding under a pool table trying to get away from him. So it was no wonder why my best friend was an asshole. He had to be.
I was just some scrawny, red-headed dork. Why did I keep hanging out with this kid?
On up until high school, all of my friends were trouble-makers. In the 8th grade, I was put into a class. It wasn’t a “special needs” class. It was a class for “socially non-conforming” kids, for a lack of a better description. It wasn’t because I got into trouble all of the time. In fact, the principal loved me. I informed her that a kid was threatening to come into school and shoot her. That kid was fucked up. We both knew he would have done it. So I thwarted a potential school shooting. Nevertheless, I ended up in a special needs class. It was obvious that I wasn’t getting along with anybody. I was a weirdo. I was an under-performing child. So I was placed in a class where the standards were lowered for me.
It worked like a fucking charm.
It was around this time that I was diagnosed with “ADD” or some shit. It was the early 2000s. Every kid was diagnosed with that in those days. The doctor prescribed me some drugs. It was good shit too. Yet one day in class, we were watching the Tell-Tale Heart. I nearly dropped dead from a heart attack. There’s no way that movie should have been THAT intense. So I stopped taking the drugs.
That summer after 8th grade, I watched Caligula for the first time. Immediately afterwards I fell into a MAJOR depression. The first one ever. I was unable to watch that movie again until my 20s.
High school began after that summer. I was unable to function and adapt. My parents understandably grew worried and enrolled me in a private school. This wasn’t any run-of-the-mill private school either. This place was ran by Bible-Thumping lunatics. Were my parents religious? Nope. They just thought I would perform better in a small setting. They were right too. I fucking crushed it. At least academically speaking. Things were looking up during my time there, but, still….
I’m not entirely certain what happened.
I remember that I had my first thoughts on suicide during freshman year. I was heavily into Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I had images of jumping off buildings to the tune of “Comfortably Numb” running through my head. I’d lay down in the grass and look up at planes flying overhead. I’d ponder jumping out of them without a parachute. I just hated life and couldn’t wait for it to end.
Then came the religious turn. It didn’t happen immediately. I don’t remember getting “saved”. It happened twice though. I guess I didn’t think that the first time was sufficient enough. I got baptized twice as well. The principal, a very well-educated man and decorated war veteran, was quite impressed by my religious aptitude. I ate that shit up. For the first time ever, I was intellectually engaged which allowed me to be distracted from my self-pity. I thought that I found a purpose in life. This is what every teenager searches for: certainty, belonging, meaning. I thought that I found that. In retrospect, this was all bullshit, but my time at the school were some of my happiest years.
I don’t know if that was true for every kid however. One guy, God bless him, was weird. I mean, I was weird but somehow he managed to best me in that department. Everyone made fun of him: me, classmates, teachers. Everyone. We’ll call him “Jack” for our purposes here. Jack and me had a strange relationship. We’d get into fights on occasion. Then we’d be friends the next day. When “Jason and Joe” began attending however…my friendship with Jack deteriorated. I knew Jason and Joe LONG before we began attending the same school. They were brothers. Jason had problems of his own. Our time at the school really cemented our own “brotherly” relationship. Looking back, their admittance to the school was the beginning of the end.
Church politics is a strange thing. I always felt sorry for “Mr. Lester”, the aforementioned highly educated principal. Despite his nonsensical beliefs, he really was trying educate the youth. That was his mission. It’s a shame that he got caught up in this bullshit church. Mr. Lester was a talented educator, an intellect. He taught me how to think and approach the world. But he was a kite in a windstorm. The mother of Jason and Joe, “Matilda”, was a sociopath. She didn’t understand everyday niceties that we all take for granted. She was nice to me though. But that was probably because she wanted me to see her as a fellow teenager. That always gave me a weird vibe. But Matilda was protective of her kids which led to frequent clashes between her and Mr. Lester. Matilda felt that because she had both her sons attending, in addition to numerous referrals, that she deserved a say in everyday operations. Mr. Lester was not only fighting that front, but he also had to appease the church administration.
Come junior year, the pastor was retiring. In came the new man: Pastor “Clay”. Along with him came a hotshot entourage which included his son-in-law, the Ivy League-educated Mr. Dowling. Like Mr. Lester, Mr. Dowling was an educator. Mr. Lester invited Mr. Dowling in as a sign of good faith. They were to be collaborators in this endeavor. This was a career-ending mistake. Around the same time, the star missionaries “The Berkeley’s” returned from the field. Their three sons were quickly enrolled in the school. Mr. Berkeley was at one point a pastor over this church. Upon his return, he increasingly faded away the community. We’d later learn that this “mission” wasn’t a success. Down there in the jungles of South America, Mr. Berkeley slowly went mad. The details of this tragedy slowly leaked out, infecting the entire church. It was all so unbelievable. How could a man of God fall so hard and sudden? His kids were as disillusioned as he was. Mrs. Berkeley insisted on her children staying in the church. But it was futile. Their presence in the school was a disaster.
It was a disaster on my social life as well.
The Berkeley boys were cool. They were good-looking, athletic, respected in the church. I was none of those things. It was too much for Matilda who desired to live out her teenage years vicariously through her sons. I grew apart from Jason and Joe. Joe especially. Jason and I still shared our fucked-up-ness, but I had difficulty relating to him that year. I never held another conversation with Joe. The Berkeleys, Matilda, Jason, and Joe threw gatherings at each other’s houses over the weekends. I was left out. And Mr. Lester slowly began to lose control.
Teenagers are teenagers. I accepted my weirdness. But with the Berkeley Boys in open revolt, that provided us with the impetus to fuck shit up. I did as much damage to school property as anyone, yet still managed to stay in Mr. Lester’s good graces. I went through a phase where I was showing my ass to everyone. I mooned an entire congregation at one point. Oddly enough, many thought this was hilarious, but Mr. Lester had to set his foot down. I was suspended for an entire week. This briefly made me the cool kid and I was invited to one party. By this time, however, the Berkeley’s, Jason, and Joe were attracting the attention of girls and they thought I was too weird. I was never invited back. But this ruckus didn’t go unnoticed by the church administration. Pastor Clay, I imagine, was growing tired of Mr. Lester’s inability to control his students.
Towards the end of my junior year, Mr. Lester’s presence was fading. Mr. Dowling stepped up.
That summer, I joined the Army. I don’t know why. At the moment, it seemed like a good idea. While in basic training, the Berkeley’s, Jason, and Joe were informed that they wouldn’t be accepted back. They all enrolled in public schools the following year. I was the lone senior…and in the Army. I received a heroes welcome.
The first half of my senior year was odd. It was quiet. The high school class was dwindled down to 7 students, to include Jack. Mr. Dowling ruled with an iron fist. He’d tell you as much. He didn’t like me. And understandably so. Jack, myself, and another student “Bill”, formed the last vestiges of the previous year’s revolt. I was willing to play ball. My only objective at this point was to graduate and serve a tour of duty in Iraq. Whatever bullshit was going on in school was to just pass the time. My senior year was nothing more than a victory lap, in my mind. But Mr. Dowling had other plans.
Dowling thought that I was cocky, wasn’t serving the church properly, and he sure as shit wasn’t going to let me graduate unless I got right with God. I didn’t give a fuck about this guy and took pleasure in pissing him off. Even my parents told this guy to fuck off and let me graduate. No one was on his side. I was winning the revolt despite hardly trying. This proved to be too much for Mr. Dowling.
While wrestling with another student, just fuckin around and not fighting, Mr. Dowling came up behind me and threw my ass to the ground, splitting my head open. He did this in front of all the students. I was withdrawn from the school the next day. Then the entire high school was withdrawn. Then the entire student body was withdrawn. The school was finished due to one man’s strange decision to attack a student. (He claimed that, because I was in the Army, I posed a threat to everyone)
Other than a few cuts and bruises, I wasn’t injured and I declined to press charges. Truthfully, I was relieved to be done with that place. But then came another problem: how the fuck was I going to graduate high school?
I was a senior halfway through the school year and no school was comfortable with admitting me. It appeared my only option was to get my GED. But then some Podunk school said “we don’t give a shit, you can attend here.” And it was fucking awesome. Jack joined me in attending Podunk High where he found the acceptance he couldn’t find at Bible-Thumping school. He was WAY more popular than I ever was. But attending Podunk High allowed me to take the victory lap I badly wanted.
Those were some of the best months of my life. I’m glad that I appreciated them before life quickly turned into the shit-fest that was my 20s.
But nobody’s life took a turn for the better. For the Berkeleys, their father was killed in a drug-induced car wreck later that year. Mr. Dowling’s wife would pass away six years later. Joe went on to impregnate a girl his senior year and has been a mess ever since. Jason would spend the next several years in legal trouble. Our friendship would dissolve when I testified against him for domestic abuse. I never heard from Mr. Lester again. I’ve been seeking him out ever since. Few people escaped from that mess unscathed. Only Jack, the butt of everyone’s joke, appears to be doing well. That mother fucker’s a stud now. I’m happy for him. The rest of us, however, are a mess.
But that shit happened. At least I think it happened. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention.