My Bullied History, Part 4 – The Essay
As I said last week, during my first semester of college, I was taking Creative Writing and decided to write about my High School experiences. The following is the essay in it’s entirety. This was painful for me to read even though it has been nearly 2 decades since I left High School. The events in this essay are entirely true (except for some name changes… my name’s not Alan) and really happened to me. (Including the recurring dream.) I may have mashed events together a bit for the sake of the story, but I think it gives a really good look into my mind at the time.
So, without further ado, I present Open Eyes by me circa 1994.
Alan didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know how he got here, or where he was going. He didn’t even care. All he knew was that he could hear a group of people in front of him. They were talking and it sounded as if they were having a good time. He wanted to join them, but his eyes were closed. He couldn’t join them if his eyes were closed. Alan tried to open his eyes. He couldn’t. He tried again and again. His eyelids refused to budge. Finally, Alan panicked.
"Just open my eyes. All I want to do is open my eyes! Why can’t I open my eyes?"
Alan woke up. He had been having that dream a lot lately. As he got up and showered, Alan made a mental note to ask his psychology teacher what it meant. Alan packed his books into his large blue duffel bag, and headed out to the bus stop. He sighed.
Another day, Alan thought, all I have to do is get through another day. And then the day after that, and the day after that, and so on until the end of high school. Then I go to college, and I get to start over with a clean slate.
Even though Alan thought this, deep down he knew better. If he didn’t change something soon, his whole personality might be consumed by this. That was something he didn’t want to happen.
The bus finally came and he took his usual seat. Behind him he heard the sounds that he normally heard on the bus. Conversations
blended together into a uneven mix. Sometimes he would hear snippets of a conversation and try to follow it, but it would eventually be
drowned out by the other conversations. The one sound that stood out was laughter. Whenever anyone laughed, Alan tried to crawl up within himself. He knew that it probably wasn’t true, but he couldn’t help feeling that they were laughing at him.
The bus arrived at school, but not quickly enough for Alan. He left his seat and waited for an opening in the line of teenagers waiting to
leave. Finally, someone let him in the line. He tried to say thank you, but only an incoherent mumble came through. He mentally chastised himself for not being clearer. Alan headed straight into the big building before him.
I just have about six hours, he thought, and then I go home.
As Alan walked into the building, he tried not to notice the people talking. He tried even harder to fight back the wave of sadness that overwhelmed him whenever he saw a boy and a girl holding hands or kissing. They were blatant reminders of a void in his life. He didn’t have a girlfriend. Never had. This hadn’t been his choice, of course. He had always been turned down, when he built up the courage to ask a girl out, that is.
Alan entered his math class and took his seat. He was quiet amongst the storm of conversation until the teacher walked in. Then, Alan felt in his element. He answered nearly every question, stopping only when he felt people were noticing him too much.
I crave attention, he thought to himself, yet when I have that attention I feel uncomfortable.
He had taken to analyzing his personality. After all, he was virtually the only person he talked to.
Matt sat three rows behind Alan. Alan could tell that Matt looked at him with contempt. Matt was struggling to get a C in this class and Alan was getting A’s. Alan thought that they might seem to be easy A’s, but they weren’t. Alan worked hard to get his grades. But Matt didn’t seem to realize that. He also didn’t seem to recognize that when you do well, people expect you to keep doing well.
Matt also, Alan realized, thought of him as strange because of his curly, seemingly uncombed hair. Matt and his friends didn’t realize, however, that Alan’s hair was just curly. No matter how hard he tried, his hair refused to straighten out. Alan didn’t see the use of using hair spray to straighten out his curly hair.
Matt kept quiet during the class, except when the teacher called on him to answer a question. Alan knew what would happen, though. Matt was quiet now, but after class, when Matt had his friends near him, they would call him by that… name. They’d call him "goon." Alan winced at the mere thought of the word.
Alan didn’t know why they called him that. He had gone so far as to look "goon" up in the dictionary, but to Alan the given definition didn’t seem to fit him. Being made fun of, however, was not something Alan was unused to. As far back as he could remember, he had been called by one name or another. Some had faded out of use, others stuck with him, but lost their sting. Throughout it all, Alan had learned that anything he revealed to those that tormented him could be used against him. It was for this reason that Alan tried his best not to show any emotion.
After class, Alan got up and packed his books back into his duffle bag. As he left the room, Alan noticed that Matt and his friends were following him. Alan walked down the stairs and he heard them behind him. Muffled shouts of "goon" reached his ears. Alan walked on. Eventually they stopped following him.
Later in the day, Alan met his friend Greg for lunch.
"Greg," Alan said with his mouth full. After pausing to swallow, he continued. "Do you know Matt, Brian, and those other guys."
"You mean the guys who keep bothering you?"
"What do they keep calling you?"
"You know I can’t say it."
"Why? Is it that bad?"
"It’s worse," Alan said looking at his half eaten cheese sandwich. "Last night I was watching a TV show and during the commercial break I found myself cringing at the word ‘lag–," Alan broke off he was obviously having trouble saying that word.
Greg knew what it was though. "Lagoon?"
"That’s the one."
"You can’t let this bother you," Greg said.
"I can’t help it. Every day I can count on them to make fun of me. I just wish they’d leave me alone. I don’t think they realize it, but I might get some permanent psychological damage from this.
"No," Greg said. "You won’t."
Greg is a good friend, Alan thought. Disbelieving at times, but still a good friend.
Actually Greg was Alan’s only friend. Sure Alan talked to other people, but he could talk to no one else so freely. He had stuck by Alan through many of Alan’s roughest times, and lately times had been very rough. He counted himself lucky to have a friend like Greg who would always be there for him.
"I’m serious, Greg. Every day when I try to get into my American history class, they block the entrance. I feel like hitting them, but I know that I wouldn’t. Even if I did, I know it wouldn’t solve anything."
Sure enough, later, when Alan walked around the corner to his American history class, there was a group of people blocking the door. An all too familiar group. Every time someone approached, they would part and let them through. As Alan walked up to the door, they crowded into the doorway in an attempt to prevent him from entering. Alan felt angry but he kept his emotions well hidden. Through the shouts of "Goon," Alan pushed his way into the classroom. When the teacher arrived, Matt and his friends walked away. One of them whispered "Goon" as he left. Alan heard it and tried to hide the hurt, the anger, and most of all the sorrow.
After school, Alan walked back to the school bus. He got back in his usual seat. As always, Alan heard the conversation and the laughter. Alan leaned his head on the window, fought back a tear, and looked towards the blue sky dotted with white clouds.
Please, Alan thought. All I want is to be left alone. I don’t want to be called go–.
He couldn’t even finish the word in his thoughts.
The next day something was different. After the bus ride with the laughter, Alan headed for math class. After that, Matt and his
friends didn’t trail him. When he encountered two of them in the hall, they didn’t whisper "Goon" just loud enough for him to hear. In American history, they didn’t bar the doorway. When he saw Greg, Alan told him of this miraculous change of events.
"Oh, that," Greg said as if it were nothing. "I met Matt and a few of his friends while playing softball. They started to make fun of you behind your back, and I just told them what you told me."
"What I told you?" Alan asked with a puzzled yet hopeful expression.
"You know. Permanent psychological damage. They said they’d stop. They didn’t even know it was hurting you." Greg decided that he
shouldn’t tell Alan that they were still calling him "goon" behind his back. After all, Alan didn’t have to know everything. This in particular, Greg thought, would hurt him too much.
As Alan digested the concept of never being called "goon" again, he was amazed. Because of Greg, over two years of torment were over. And this was because Greg said what perhaps Alan should have said. He hadn’t felt happier in years.
After psychology class, Alan asked his teacher about his recurring dream. His teacher replied that it probably meant that he wanted to change something very basic about his personality. It didn’t take Alan long to figure out what that was.
Alan felt separated from most people. Matt had only aggravated this condition. Without Matt’s torment, Alan could see that the real obstacle — to conversation, to dating, and to self-confidence — lay within himself, not in someone’s calling him by a certain name. Alan knew it wouldn’t be easy to change something that was so basic to his personality. He didn’t know if he could. He would try, though. That night, at least in his dreams, Alan’s eyes didn’t stay closed.