It was the sixth grade. I remember my approximate size because I signed up for wrestling that year. I would have been 10 years old. I was small, short, and weighed about 85 pounds.
My first year of middle school was a tough year. No one knew at the time, but I had been chronically sick and untreated for 5 years with a multisystemic infection. Physicians explained this to my parents.
“It’s all psychological – your son has imagined or invented symptoms.”
The abuse severity from my father, which had crept upward, skyrocketed, possibly in response to the misperception that I malingered, exaggerated, and exploited illness. It ‘s possible too that it was in response to me becoming a greater threat to his self-image. I was growing. My firearms proficiency was top notch (something he taught me). I started questioning his authority based on reason. I ruminated on questions (probably less artfully worded then) like,
“What is so different about a parent that they may break the boundaries of bodily integrity and free will in this way?” 👀
Regardless of the circumstance, his behavior was extreme and immoral. A kid intentionally manipulating parents in this way, would not justify punishment or torment. It would justify caring parental inquiry.
Indeed, I might assume that if a child is prone to faking symptoms often, there is something else going wrong in the child’s life.
Anyway, sixth grade was hard at home. It was also like that at school. I knew where in the social hierarchy I stood – the bottom. I knew what I looked like even then… the awkward shoe gazer, bags under the eyes, self conscious for sporting new bruises more often than new clothes. I didn’t want to interact with classmates like that.
At maybe at 11 y.o., I developed insomnia. This corresponded to my introduction to detentions, isolation, and “prolonged discipline,” (read: torture).
I remember one winter break… the moment I got back from school, I was imprisoned in my bedroom with no forms of entertainment except books, pen, paper, and a chess set. I would, unless my father gave special permission, have my meals brought to me, and I would have to listen from my room to everyone else having a good time at the dining room table while I sat and ate my food alone.
I was released from the room imprisonment when school started again. I avoided everyone and avoided the question,
“How was your winter break?”
I’m so grateful now to be at a place mentally where I can actually laugh at the humor in the macabre coincidence de nom: winter. break. Because god damn, if I wasn’t broken….
Cementing in place my sense of low personal worth was the fact that no one from the school helped me. My humiliation and inability to ask for help was made worse by overhearing one of my teachers saying to another that it was deserved. I deserved it.
It wasn’t deserved, but she helped me believe that it was. I don’t think she knew how badly I had been hurt. I had the skin split open from the bottom of my ass cheek down a quarter of the way to the back of the knee by what I thought was baseball bat. I didn’t know that my father had traded it out in favor if using the the leg of the chair he had just shattered with the bat.
I cried quietly every night fearing too much noise would get unwanted attention. And until that night, I prayed to God with all the sincerity a boy could muster – to please help me.
If I was worth anything at all, to please help me.
Help did not come that night or on the many others for the ensuing years. It was the worst when I was too injured to sit down, and I spent the entire school day, sometimes for weeks at a time, standing at my desk. Can you imagine the kind of shame I felt? I tried to be invisible to classmates who openly talked about me. I wanted to be invisible at home. I wanted to be invisible from the world.
A classmate and acquaintance (I’ll call him “Justin”) another sixth grader, had successfully gone invisible earlier in the year. I thought him so lucky to have even the memory of him fading from his parents’ minds. It sounded peaceful. Justin left this Earth by his own will and hand. He chose discorporation, blew out his brains with a high caliber firearm, sadly discovered first by a close mutual friend.
It made a lot of sense to me though. I thought… if life was going to be like this, the only real question for me was, “the Luger .22 semiauto.. or the Smith & Wesson .357 revolver?”