I was driving behind a short bus the other day & was reminded of a time past... I was suddenly in 4th grade, just 9 years old. I remember John, the large, slobbering mess of a man who sat in the front seat on the right hand side. He had greasy hair, was covered in acne & probably weighed 200+ lbs. The entire bus reeked of his body odor. He also liked to lick the windows. A lot. Then there was another boy, my age, who enjoyed flapping his hands & making occasional sounds. He was blond. He was autistic. I sat in the back & watched the passing landscape, mortified. We would be bused 20 miles out of town to "school" & home again, Monday through Friday. The kids I involuntarily left at my old school that October thought I disappeared. And that's exactly what happened.
I had classes with a short, redheaded, severely cross eyed girl who always said "ruse" instead of "use". She reminded me of a shaggy little puppy because she liked to follow people around. She was in her 20's. There was another girl in her 20's who was severely mentally & developmentally impaired. She was very tall & skinny & would often be found staring at the ceiling, mouth agape, swaying & vocalizing incomprehensible words. Among our motley crew were the more developmentally sound children- kids up to 13 who had been drinking, using or sleeping around or who were disruptive at school. This was my category I suppose. My crime was frequent inconsolable temper tantrums.
I got to thinking how my one short year at this place really messed me up. It was absolutely humiliating. I came to believe I was like the people I attended classes with. I had been cast off to my own little tribe of misfits. The authorities had spoken & confirmed my greatest fear: I do not belong. I was conditioned to believe there was something inherently wrong with me because of the way I behaved.
I mentioned that the kids I had left at my old school that October thought I disappeared. And "I" did. Whatever confidence I had in myself was obliterated. I was being punished for responding to situations that no 9 year old knows innately how to deal with. If only someone had come along side me, instead of condemning me as the source of the problem. If only someone had recognized that I was overwhelmed with something I had no idea how to qualify or assimilate. If someone had thought to teach me how to communicate my feelings & give me a creative outlet, my life would have been markedly different.
So why write about this? Because as I finally begin to deal with the residual effects through counseling, I'm able to identify this part of my life not as the pit its been for years, but as a turning point. I'm closer to finding the kid who dissapeared that year. The lies I believed are exactly the kind of lies the evil one tells us. He says we are hopeless & spiraling out of control. He says we have no choices- someone else will decide whether we are worth our salt or not. He tells us we shouldn't dream, shouldn't risk, shouldn't even plan because we will most certainly fail. The authorities have spoken. Welcome to your rightful tribe. For years I simply wanted to die. I prayed for it everyday. But here I sit all these years later & for what? Perhaps its to encourage someone out there not to drink the poision, not to believe & base their life on the lies they were told when they were young. Its time to leave the window licker behind.