Sunday, May 1, 2016

Neon Signs


In sixth grade I was tortured by the majority of my class: socially, emotionally, psychologically. I was hurt. And that is a gross understatement. The pain and bullying followed me through ninth grade. Three years later, the little bastards remembered me as a priggish snitch—they still hadn’t “forgiven” me my honesty. All I had done was to tell the truth to an equally bastard-like teacher. And it ruined me. There was no support from authority or peers. I haven’t forgotten. And I certainly have not forgiven.

In eighth grade, a boy asked me, “why do you have fuck-off written on your forehead?”
Well. Because.
Proper response, “Why don’t you take hint, dumb ass?” (Except I didn’t swear back then.)
Honest response: “Well, Kyle, you see, I’m still bitter about sixth grade. I’ve grown sharp, locust tree-like. To keep bastards like you out.”
Actual response: “Um, I don’t?”

I was taken aback by his question, but not hurt the way I would have had I let go of sixth grade. If I had let go, his obtuse question would have been a fresh wound, a shocking, pain. Instead, it was like an allergy shot: a little sting, a little swelling and itching and redness, but useful in building an immunity.

Obviously haven’t forgotten that one either. To the extent that I regularly refer to the neon fuck-off sign on my forehead. Sure, I’ve forgiven his stupidity. Junior high boys aren’t known for their intelligence. If anything, I thank the memory for providing a description of the less than pleasant demeanor that occasions my being.

. . .

In 2011, I went to Spain with a group of students; I stayed with a family of the Protestant persuasion. My family was rich. And modern. Muy moderno. And I thought they were the cat’s meow: muy preciosas y amables. But what became most “preciosa” about this family was how well I didn’t fit.

It’s that fuck-off sign. Or perhaps el hecho de que I didn’t talk much. I was “too mature.” 
“Act your age.” 
“You’re twenty not thirty.”

These hard-core protestants hadn’t a place for a doubting, introverted, mute twenty-year-old with some Asperger’s traits: conversation-making difficulties, eye-contact difficulties, easily over-stimulated. All these are death sentences in Spain, an out-going, excitable culture of parties and loudness and never sleeping. I was failing socially. I said I’d try harder to engage.

Mistake. The fallout from this living situation was all the more worse for my efforts. Great. The woman (my Spanish mamá for about fifteen more minutes) was yelling at me, accusing of being so many things: “Manipulative, conniving ingrate. Incapable, false, low.” Mostly, I couldn’t understand her. She was speaking in anger, not Spanish. Her husband, to calm her down, said I wasn’t worth their time. Nope. I wasn’t. And their protestant love wasn’t worth mine.

Did I mention I walked into this situation with low serotonin? Hell. I was born that way. Puberty with low serotonin and social misery made me fragile. Accusations of worthlessness in Spain, after a semester of hypomania, hit that low serotonin into depression.

My fuck-off sign went into flickers.

I don’t forgive Alicia, the Spanish “mamá,” for that.

. . .

Spain ended in a puddle of tears in the Madrid Bajares transit station and then in the Madrid Airport. Tears don’t exactly say “fuck-off, world.” But they make me angry, their presence. I’m not supposed to cry. I have not forgiven myself for crying in so public a place. (Since brain-chemistry problems are obviously my fault.)

Fast forward a month: I met my first (well, fine, my third) therapist, Bethany. She diagnosed me quickly: socially isolated and unable to feel, to identify emotions. We, no, she, had a mission.

Bethany taught me how to feel. For that, I do not forgive her.

. . .

Those—sixth grade and Spain—are the lower points in my life. Not for lack of forgiveness, either. I would not repeat sixth grade or Spain for anything. I would rather become suicidal yet again. I would rather spend a day being evaluated for inpatient care, again. I cannot forgive and therefore will not forget. “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs.” Sorry, Paul. But I am not Love. 

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