When I was a kid I didn’t have friends. I was the weird kid. I got called all the names including the Big forbidden R word. I had my toys, which I got picked on for bringing to school. Then I had books.
I read so many books in my childhood days I can’t even remember them all. There is one book that I enjoyed above many others, it was called Tuck Everlasting. Sure it wasn’t as life changing for me as say Bridge to Terabithia, or the Man Who Loved Clowns, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Needless to say I was thrilled when I found out we were going to watch the movie in class. No not the gorgeous Disney film you are thinking of, an earlier version. This was 1994. This is the day that story died in my heart.
It was Brookeville, Kansas. I am fairly certain it was the early part of the Fall. I believe this because we were still having recess outside and there already were dead leaves fallen from trees all over the playground. This has always been my favorite time of the year.
We recently finished reading the book collectively as a class. It was my fifth grade of elementary education. I attended a 2-story, 4-classroom tiny school house. We had two fifth grade classes on the first floor and two 6th grade classes on the second floor. This was due to my family living in a trailer house on the outskirts of an RV park in the middle of the countryside of rural Kansas. That trailer park is long gone. That school house, a faded memory living on as a haunted house in my worst nightmares. We took a long buss ride to get to that school itself in the middle of nowhere.
I remember this day vividly. I was happily looking forward to watching the movie of Tuck Everlasting. The book brought strong emotions to my heart which I always enjoyed as a kid. It also stretched my imagination quite a bit which I also enjoyed.
I brought a small red duffle bag with a handful of my favorite toys as I often did. As per usual I was sitting on the front steps of the tiny school house playing, alone, with my toys. I would casually glance over at the boys playing a game of tag silently hating them for being so mean to me. I would also casually peak longingly at the girls playing a game of four square on the concrete. Naturally I was wishing desperately I could be one of them.
One of the boys did the cruelest thing you can do to a loner like me. He asked me to play tag with them. I was naive enough to think it was either the fall or because it was movie day the kids had a change of heart and were going to accept me into their little tribe, even if just for a game of tag.
They were playing in the field on the side of the school house, out of sight of the adults who were intent on observing that four square match like it was the Super Bowl. There was a tool shed next to the building. They told me the base was in the space between the school building and the tool shed. I walked into their trap unbeknownst to what was about to happen.
Once inside the leader of the pack drop kicked me and said “You’re base retard, kick the dummy for safety” and suddenly the game turned dark. One after another these kids would run out and pretend to be playing tag, in order to return to safety they would each rush over to my tiny body that had already fallen to its knees sobbing wildly crying for help as they claimed safety one cruel kick after another.
My eyes blurred with tears I desperately looked around for anything to fight back. I saw there was a crack in the wall next to me. I stuck my foot in the wall ad began pushing back with my leg. I climbed over the top of the tool shed, on to the roof of that school house, over the top of the building to the open window on the far side of the building and climbed to safety of the principals office. Or so I thought.
The secretary thought I was playing Monkey climbing the roof like that. Even though my face was red and soaked in tears from crying so much she grabbed me, angrily, by the collar and demanded I explain myself. I said the boys were beating me up and I had to climb on top the tool shed to escape. I…said…huff…it…huff…like…sob…this, because I was exhausted from my desperate escape from a traumatic experience.
She called me a liar. Forcefully dragged me outside to see the boys in the field happily playing a game of touch football. She asked teacher looking over recess what happened. She said they’ve been over there playing football this whole time.
As punishment for my “lies” and for my “absurd” behavior. I was given a weeks detention along with 2 days of In School Suspension. Their favorite punishment was to stick me at a single desk alone in the library where I had to read books. Normally, even when I was being disciplined for merely surviving their assaults today was the worst. Not only was it the worst beating of my life, here I was being attacked by the one adult I thought I could trust. That betrayal stuck with me. But the worst part was they robbed me that day. I had to miss the movie. I lay my head down in my arms, using my bookbag as a pillow and I cried the entire day. I was only 11 years old. I was robbed of the joy that day, the excitement of watching a live action adaptation of a beloved book of mine. I was robbed of something else that day, my memory of the book.
To this day I refuse to watch any movie based on that book. I scrubbed it from my memory. I can’t tell you any detail from that book I once loved. I swore I would never read that damn book again. Those sons of bitches robbed me of a childhood memory I actually cared about. That was also the last time I let them get away with that.
From that day forward I preemptively fought back. I decided if I was just going to get punished anyways even for defending myself I would get it out of the way by beating them up. I started that day with the leader of the pack. I ran into the room in a fit of rage, picked up the largest textbook I could find and began smashing it into the back of his head. This assuredly earned a phone call from my parents. Thankfully my parents knew better.
My dad grabbed the woman by the collar and said she should have believed my story. He demanded I was released from detention and they pay closer attention to me during recess. This naturally resulted in the school taking recess away from me. I was from that day forward required to spend recess in the library under strict supervision. Fortunately it was 1994. We had just gotten a computer so the librarian, unwilling to sacrifice her free period to babysit, gave me free access to that computer.
I will never forgive those kids for what they did to me that day. I forgave them for the deception and the violence long ago. I forgave them for inadvertently cursing me with being granted the perfect recess. But I will never forgive them for robbing me of a beloved book that remains so traumatizing I erased it from my memory. As for the adults I trusted to take care of me, they can rot in hell for all I care. There is no forgiveness for them. They failed to keep me safe. I was 11 years old.
I had no friends. I was dirty and poor. They mistreated me because my mom was a waitress. My dad a grunt at a factory. Not important like that kids dad who was a cop. That aside, I wish I could forget that day, re-read a book I once loved and get my memory back they robbed from me. But I would rather bury it in the past and move on than risk opening up the scar that day left upon my fragile heart that cold fall day in 1994.