The day nearly passed and little did I know this would be my last time in any sort of public school system. I sat there wide-eyed and bloodshot with my pupils enlarged like black holes. I was red-faced and high with a detached smile. I recall listening to the bizarre sounds of a self-induced schizophrenia. It had been a few hours since I placed a few tabs in my mouth. This was Blotter, otherwise known as Lysergic Acid Diethylamide or better known as L.S.D. As I saw it, this was an 8-hour ticket to a ride with no turning back.
I was unsure of what happened to the hours before this one. Everything somehow blended together in scenes of madness. Colors defined colors and sounds echoed through my ears. I heard pinball machines, bells chiming in alarm, and whistling rockets exploding in my mind.
As high as I was and with a smile that could not retreat, I felt a sense of destruction lurking in the air. I felt as if I was about to face my own apocalypse. I couldn’t say what it was, but I knew it was something
I had been sent this new school to get away from the so-called drug element and the previous friends in poorly chosen crowds. I was told that I would be placed in a special school where students like me would receive the appropriate and necessary attention. I was warned, in fact, that there were to be no drugs in this school and that any of my past behaviors or alleged indulgences would not be tolerated. However, it is commonly said and in this case true; anything in its unnatural state will eventually return to its natural state. And such was the case with me.
I was small in size and uncomfortable in my skin. Seeking attention, I looked for acceptance in any shape or form. I was faceless, or at least it seemed that way to me. In my eyes, I was unremarkable at best. It was my belief that I was uninteresting and blatantly average. Of all things in teenage life, there can be no worse thing than feeling totally unnoticeable and completely average.
It wasn’t long until I fell into my old and troubled routine. I found myself in a new place but while dealing with the same social discomforts, I acted out worse than ever before. I was uncomfortable in my skin and puny in weight. Everyone I knew was taller than me and stronger as well.
I saw myself as talentless; and should this be the case, and since I could not be amongst the best in the crowd, I chose to be the worst. I chose an image and while trying to “Fit in” or act “As if” I belonged, my situation grew terribly worse. I had no friends, —at least not any real ones. Most of the students hazed me for being me, small, weak, awkward, and there was no one who I felt comfortable with.
I was not alone in my habits by any means. No, I was not alone in my drug use nor was I the only one struggling with different learning disabilities. We were all troubled kids. We were all sent to this school to receive extra attention with hopes that we would learn a vocational skill, graduate, and become a productive member of our society.
It wasn’t long until I found myself so painfully alone and distant. I was always in trouble and I could feel as if something were coming my way. I could feel the meltdown of an impending doom about to come my way. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me. I was only sure that somehow, something would erupt soon and this time the explosion would be incredible.
To describe this place best, my alternative school was located on a college campus on the north shore side of Long Island, New York. The campus was large and country-like with tall oaks, beautiful specimen trees, rolling hills across green fields, and opened land where the horses would run. The scenery was beautiful and the grounds were peaceful. Each day, a small bus would bring us down a dirt road and turn into the main entrance of a refurbished barn that was turned into our school.
The classrooms were small with only a few students in each class. The teachers were extremely liberal and opened to different methods of education. It was clear the teachers cared about their jobs; however, it was also clear the students had no interest in furthering their education.
One of the students was a tall, thin, and mostly frail looking boy named Mike. He was 16 years-old and one of my classmates. Mike was not strong but he had attitude. And sometimes, attitude is all it takes to earn a tough reputation. He had that deranged, detached, far-off look in his eye. And he carried a knife. Mike often talked about his trips to jail as if it were something to be proud of. He also lived in a group home and saw his share of institutions at a young age.
Safe to say, Mike wore the part of a rebel to perfection. He was a longhaired anti-Semite and white supremacist with small Nazi badges pinned to his black leather biker jacket. Mike was also a bully and while he could not bully the larger kids in our school, since I was smallest, it was easy for Mike to pick on me.
The night before, there was a documentary on the Manson family shown on one of the television stations. Mike made sure everyone knew he watched it. Taking a razor, Mike engraved a swastika in the center of his forehead to emulate the madman, Charles Manson, himself.
However, in his reach to achieve an image of insanity, Mike carved the swastika in his forehead while standing in the mirror. This caused the image to appear upside-down and backwards.
Having been asked why there was a swastika facing in the wrong direction carved in his head, Mike felt like a fool. So in turn, he decided to pick on me.
Mike knew I came from a Jewish household. He knew what the swastika meant to me and he took pride in showing me the pins on his jacket.
I was not afraid of Mike. Same as I was weak, so was he. All Mike had on me was a few inches in height and an attitude. Aside from this, he wasn’t much stronger, and after the L.S.D. took hold, the fear in me was replaced by an insane rage, which to this day, I still struggle to describe.
Clenching my muscles, I recall hearing the sound of glass breaking in my ears. I imagined the sound to be like like a window breaking in my mind. All the sirens and carnival sounds I heard before had changed to something more aggressive.and deliberate. Meanwhile, numbed with rage, alive and fueled in my crazed psychedelic state, I made a final decision to defend myself.
If Mike was going to act crazy then I would show him what crazy looked like. I planned to show him up-close, live, and in person. I recall wearing a pair of jeans with a hole ripped in the knee. It was a few minutes until my next class, which is where I knew I would make my stand.
Like Mike, I also had a small blade tucked in one of my jacket pockets. I swore then, if he stood, I would slice his throat as soon as I had the chance.
I was not frightened. I wasn’t unsure of my plan or anything about it. Retrieving the blade from the inside pocket of my jacket, I suppose I wanted to be sure that my blade would be able to cut flesh. Maybe I wanted to see the blade slice through skin, which is why I carved an upside-down crucifix on my right thigh through the large hole in my pants.
Perhaps I thought if I were to make a mark, and by mark, perhaps I thought if I were to make a spectacle and make those around me feel sorry for what they did to me; then I would have to make a statement beyond imagination.
I began to cut my arms and carve small, evil insignias in my skin. I carved inverted pentagrams on the tops of my hands —the cuts were not too deep, mind you; however, they were deep enough to bleed and be seen when exposed.
I was ready for this. I was ready to make my statement. I was ready to punish those who punished me and strike as much fear into them as possible. Of all things I was ready for; I was most ready for Mike to respond.
Only, he never did.
By now, the sirens in my head and the pure rage had turned my appearance to an obvious problem. There was no way to hide what I had already started. All I could do now was go through with my plan, hope that Mike stood up in front of me, and then stick him in his throat. Unfortunately, the teacher noticed me first.
Mike was there alright but he was nowhere near me. He and I volleyed a few insults back and forth, after which, I promised to kill him but Mike laughed.
The teacher interjected and as he did, I felt as if all eyes were on me. There was no turning back now.
I was asked to stand up. It was clear that I was bleeding and it was clear that I had several markings cut into my arms. I sliced images on the top of my hands and there was a large upside down cross carved into my right thigh.
Responding to my teacher, I stood and stared at him through the tops of my eyes with my head slightly bowing forward. My teeth were grinding together as if to make a possessed smile.
I am not sure what the teacher asked. I cannot remember much about him, other than he was usually a kind patient man. This time, however, he was frightened, —which to me seemed like a mission completed. My job was to scare everyone. I was there to stir fear into anyone and everyone who mocked or hurt me. And Mike . . . he just watched.
He never said a word.
I looked over at Mike. He was sitting on the other side of the small classroom near the teacher’s desk. I looked through the side of my eyes, rolling them from left to right, and then I looked back to the front of the classroom to address my teacher.
Spreading my arms the way Christ did on the cross with his palms nailed open, exposing the slices on the inside of my arms and then crossing my legs, one foot over the other, like the Son of Man’s as they were nailed together; I allowed my head to fall limp to one side the way Christ’s did upon death and screamed about satanic scriptures.
“Who are you to judge me,” I asked.
“What are you gonna do to me?” I asked.
“What are you gonna do? Hurt me?”
Then with wicked eyes, I laughed.”
You can’t hurt me. i can’t even hurt myself!”
It was clear that I was too high to be approached. It was obvious that since I was unafraid to cut myself that I would think nothing of it to cut someone else.
No one laughed. No one remarked at all. No one knew what to say, except for the teacher, of course. He diffused the situation by agreeing with me. He acted surprised as if what I said made sense and suggested that I share my knowledge with the principal. Of all strategies I have ever seen, I suppose this strategy worked best.
Mike stared at me. His eyebrows rose because (in my eyes) he knew I beat him. He knew that I destroyed his image and that I was not afraid of him anymore.
Before leaving the class, I looked around the room while scanning each student with my eyes. I stopped when I came to Mike and with a long line of drool dangling from my bottom lip, eyes peering at Mike through the tops of my eyelids, teeth grinding like a mad beast, I screamed at him with all certainty.
“I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU!”
Mike didn’t say a word.
This was my last day in the public school system.
I have been thinking a lot about this story over the last few days. I have been listening to parents discuss bullying, teenage drug use, cutting, underage drinking, violence, and they sometimes wonder how this happens.
They discuss the access to weapons, drugs and alcohol, but they never discuss depression or mental illness. They talk about the symptoms but they never talk about the problems. They never discuss the actions leading up to the outrage; instead, they only react to the aftermath itself.
I can say that yes, I was bullied. I can say that yes, I did my share of bullying as well. In truth, I was just a painfully frightened little boy who wanted to be liked. And since that couldn’t happen and since I couldn’t be amongst the best . . . I made a clear and conscious decision to become the worst.
Man, I was just 15 year-old.