Ch. 3: School Daze

Middle School-High School

“Hey yo… what do you think you are doing?!” I heard a loud voice shout.

It couldn’t have been targeted towards me, I was just sitting on a bench alone with a book to keep me from feeling alone.

Our middle school courtyard was a massive triangle full of trees, benches, and little cubbies where classrooms were. It was where everybody would hang out after lunch, until the bell rang to go back to our classes.

It was sixth grade, a year where everybody was both excited and nervous. It was a fresh new year in a new school, with all the freedom we were neglected in our elementary years. We were enabled the responsibility of getting to our own classes on time without a teacher or parent holding our hand. I believed middle school was going to be greatest thing—

“HEY! What do you think you are doing?” It was a voice I recognized. I thought I heard my name, or I thought I did. A part of me wished it was for me. It would be someone to talk to, at least; however, the voice came with an angry tone. I immediately turned my head toward the kid’s shout.

The voice had belonged to Toby, a kid I knew pretty well from the previous year—we both shared the same teacher. Being tall and athletic, he dominated the basketball court, as well as, every other sport that our school had.

We had had some good laughs together, I remembered. He came to my house for a few of them, which included one Halloween, where we both trick ‘r’ treated for hours on hours. Then we had spent the rest of the night watching some “Friday the 13th” movie. So, whatever Toby had to say to me wouldn’t be bad. Maybe he wanted to hang out again soon.

He looked directly at me. He had seemed angry for some reason. Our eyes were locked, then I started to feel my heartbeat start to quicken. I had no idea what I had done to make him feel this way. Surely, it wasn’t because of me, so when he asked what I thought I was doing, I played the nervous and ignorant, “I don’t know” card.

“That bench you’re on… is not for losers like you… so GET UP!”

        Are you kidding me?

It was all I could think as my head went as blank as the cloudless sky above us. I sat there in a state of mild-shock, anxiously twisting the dial of my new Fossil watch, that everyone had. I had felt, if I dressed the same and liked the same things, they would think I was cool, too.

Why would Toby, this dude I had nothing but good times with, all of the sudden, call me a loser? I hadn’t done anything that would’ve pissed him off. I knew that sincerely. I asked myself, What should I do? Should I ask what the hell he was talking about? Should I just get up and move? Or should I tell him to go get fucked? I couldn’t decide so I sat there clammed-up, clueless, and crushed.

“Shut up Tobes.” I heard an angel speak, “You’re sooo mean.” She spoke like a materialistic Valley Girl. The kind that repeats the word “like” every two seconds when speaking. For example: “Why don’t we, like, go to the mall?” I can’t stand it.

However, I didn’t care. Right then, she was an angel, descended from the Heavens to get my inferior back. I had known her from a previous elementary class we had shared, but that was all. I’d probably only spoken five words to her in my entire life, but I didn’t care. I loved her right then.

To his liking, because I had no spine, I got up and sat somewhere else, glancing over towards them every few seconds. He never even sat down. The asshole. 
Looking back, it’s kinda pathetic that a girl had to stick up for me when I couldn’t. But that’s how I had been, back then: shy, anxious, timid, with a huge lack of self-confidence. Which would later grow to a low self-esteem and self-image.

I chose this story because it pretty much sums up my middle school life emotionally, for the most part. I badly wanted to fit in and have a group of kids who accepted me as a part of their circle. My codependency was taking shape, though I had no idea what that was back then.

The rest of sixth grade went on like that. Up until the middle of 7th grade, where I ultimately, found my tiny faction of friends. We were like one of the smaller circles that existed outside of the main circle. I was happy.

We would hang out every day during school, as well as, every weekend, including the weekend following ‘May Day.’
May Day was a day we all looked forward to, at the end of the school year, where the 7th grade class had a big carnival in the parking lot. And then we were let out of school early, to a three-day weekend.

  I had no idea what my group of friends were getting into later that day…

We all decided to go to Owen’s house after school.
Owen was a friend in my group. He was incredibly skinny. A toothpick compared to us; with short, dirty blonde hair and blue eyes. His shirts either seemed too big for him or looked like he’d worn it as a young child and it still fit. Though, he was one of the funniest kids I’d ever met.

He had something for us that day after school. “A surprise,” he had told us, even though we had a good idea of what it was.

I don’t know, exactly, who or where he got it from, but the four of us were going to try it. Hey, it was May Day, and the end of a shitty school year—I justified.

        So why not?

I wanted to celebrate somehow, and I knew I wasn’t the only one thinking this. Plus, it had always been a curiosity of mine to discover what it was like. Not just for me, but for all of us.

After our half-day at school, we took the bus to his house, where he brought us into his unique neck of the woods. After about a half-mile hike, Owen, found a random spot that was deep and very secluded. He lifted up a few rocks with his pale, bony arms, revealing a worn-out Ziplock baggy with what looked like a tiny brussel sprout nugget. It consisted of withered green leaves wrapped around it, topped off with tiny orange hairs and white specs, almost like shiny dandruff. The skunk smell was intense.

        This is pot?” I laughed to myself. It had looked so innocent.

        It still looks that way to me, today. But oh man, it has taken me to the moon a number of times. Never underestimate the power of some good weed. 

He had then proceeded to pull out a piece of tin-foil from his left pocket and began folding it around a pen that he also brought. After wrapping the foil around several times, he forced the pen out and then bent the foil tube at the end so it faced up and perpendicular. I had no idea what he was doing or if it even had anything to do with the pot we wanted to smoke.

Sure enough, Owen placed the tiny sprout into the bent-up end and proceeded to smoke it, placing his mouth on one end and lighting the other with a lighter he had also brought. Gotta hand it to him, the kid came prepared.

I got caught up in my own thoughts:

Who carries a lighter around?

This had been so foreign to me, back then. Nowadays, I seldom leave the house without one.

The silver, homemade pipe had been passed around our naturally-made circle, then came to me. I’d seen Owen, along with everyone else do it and cough their asses off. Then, as expected, before I could even inhale half of my breath, I started coughing menacingly. I had felt as if I was choking on lit charcoal. It just wouldn’t stop. I needed to puke, but thankfully, I didn’t. Eventually, the coughing had slowed down and then stopped. I was so relieved.

I took one more hit as the pipe went around the four of us again. I coughed once more but not nearly as bad as the first. It was now gone. Nothing but grey ash.

“Cached,” Owen had said.

How he knew all these terms and how to smoke was beyond my level of thinking at the moment. I sat waiting for something, anything to happen, but nothing came. For some reason, I couldn’t quite use my brain to figure out how Owen learned how to smoke. In hindsight, I was high. At least I thought I was…  Yeah, I was high.

After a good ten minutes, Owen had randomly taken his shoes off, he was feeling something, while everyone was laughing hysterically at him. I had joined in on the laughter, not to be the odd man out and giving into a huge insecurity that consumed me. But I kinda didn’t care what they thought. I realized they were my friends. My group. My circle, at last.

        Moving here, I didn’t have any friends, besides the few kids who lived next to me. My mother had joined a tennis club and ended up meeting a bunch of other mom’s with kids my age. And since they were friends, that automatically meant that wethe kidswere friends, too. 

        They were different, though. They were heavily into sports, especially basketball. 

         I played a bunch of sports, growing up, in the youth associationwhere everybody got a trophybut I wasn’t very good at all. Not as good as these other kids were; although, I did excel at tennis. I joined the team at the tennis club I mentioned earlier, so I had something to do twice a week after school. However, since none of my other friends were into it, I quit the team. 

       We were friends all throughout the elementary school days, but come middleschool, everything changed. To me, middle school was altogether, it’s own realm in Hell. The teachers weren’t the demon tormentors, though. I actually got along great, with a few of them. My schoolmates were the perpetrators. 

        By sixth grade, I had developed some bit of self-esteem—which was soon to be extinguished. Shot down by the kids I thought of and knew as “friends.” It was as if the relationships I had made in elementary school were now null and void. Squashed. No more.

        I had felt like a new kid, at a new school, in a new town. Cliques emerged out of thin air, it seemed like. Everyone had found their rightful pack, ixnay me. Though, I had received my first glimpse at society and how it operates

        Even the kids that I had considered friends formed their own circle. Unbeknownst to me, they would be considered the popular kids. I would hang out with them before and between classes, but that’s all I ever did… hung out. Most of the time, not even saying a word. I was the kid who looked like he was part of the circle, but if you looked closer, I was actually outside of it. 

       I was so unbelievably shy back then. I didn’t know what it was. I never had a problem talking to people before, especially people I knew. I had felt different than everybody else. And not because they had different interests that were foreign to me. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. It was like everyone had received a manual in the mail on how to socialize, and I, didn’t even have a mailbox. Like I had missed the first day of school, when everybody had become friends.

        This had led to horrible feelings of abandonment, rejection, and simply not being good enough.

         I had thought more disparately than they did, like my brain was wired a different way. Much like an introvert swimming in a sea of extroverts. 

         Eventually, my social skills turned to “0″; nil; nada. That is, until I found my own little clique. A group outside of the group. The cool outcasts.

It was May Day and everyone was stoned, except me, it felt like. The only thing the weed had done was incite a deep thirst within me. Not for soda, juice, or anything, but for water. Only water. I needed it and I needed it bad.

The rest of the night, we had ran around the woods, ringing doorbells, lighting small (protected) fires, and keeping the cops busy. Misdemeanor stuff. Just being the little neighborhood terrorizers that we were. Those were fun times.

Until all of that had changed, the next year…
Eighth grade, which should’ve been the best year until your senior year of high school., was a nightmare.

Sure we were the older, top dog, kids at the school, but my only problem was, they had built a second middle school which split our class in half. All the friends in my clan of skaters and stoners stayed at the old school, while I was obligated to transfer to the new one.

I don’t know how many times I was called a faggot that year, and I wasn’t even gay. I was very much into girls, but was way too reserved and self-conscious to talk to them.

There were some kids I had known, but after the Toby incident, I didn’t trust them anymore. I tended to just keep to myself, spinning my watch dial.

Some days I would see if I could go the whole day without saying a word. I was dismal most days because I had succeeded.

I had also, got picked-on for being the weakest kid in the Athletics program, which comes with the territory, I guess. I was in that program throughout middle school.

Why?” You ask. 

I still couldn’t tell you except, maybe I wanted to be with the kids I knew.

Looking back, I wish I would’ve taken something like Choir so I could sing.
Since all my “friends” were into sports all day, every day, I picked up more independent activities, such as, skateboarding and playing guitar.

Now, I can play any instrument you hand me, except my own voice. Guitar; drums; bass guitar; alto saxophone; piano; mandolin; and harmonica.

        Yeah, I had a lot of time to myself back then. 

Had I taken choir, I could probably add that to my list. Dammit.

Getting crap, on a daily basis, from a certain group of people—including some coaches—in eighth grade, I had grown physically ill. My family and I had no idea what it was, at first. I would wake up every morning vomiting, with stomach cramps. This had happened every day for a few weeks. I had missed a lot of school, on account of my mom taking me to all sorts of doctors and specialists looking to find out what the hell was wrong with me.
Turns out… it was just nerves. I was so afraid of going to school and having to endure the torment and humiliation, I’d unconsciously made myself sick.

This was the worst year of my life.

        At least, for now. It was only eighth grade. 
Towards the end of that year, I had met someone who ended up saving me from that dreadful year. He had the same name as I and was considered one of the “bad”, “punk” kids.

Truth was, he wasn’t a bad kid. He was just too smart for his age. Sure, he would get into a lot more trouble than everyone else, but he was the funniest person I knew, and my mom loved him.

He was the first person to get me into punk rock. I’d already been a metalhead, so naturally, I loved the fast-pace and ‘f*ck you’ attitude.

        Cue: “I was a Teenage Anarchist” by Against Me!

A lot of his jokes went over my head, but my mom would laugh and laugh.

Once, they joked about being sure to wear a raincoat during sex. I pictured an actual yellow raincoat-complete with matching gloves and hat-which they found hilarious and tried to explain to me that during sex, girls get wet-something I didn’t understand yet-so you need to bring a rain coat. “So it rains during sex?” I’d ask.

As a result of this, my mother and I can talk about a lot of awkward things without it being awkward at all. I owe part of this to my new punk rock friend, for opening up our relationship.

        Poor kid got into heroin, as well. He did love Sid Viscous. 

My mom also had a tendency to “adopt” a lot of my friends. If they seemed to not have it as well as we did, she would make sure they had felt special and loved whenever they were at our house. This is one of the reasons why I love my mom to death. My brother and I have big hearts because of her and my dad.

Fres h

man year of high school flew by, it seemed like. I was reunited with my friends. We went back to our normal schedule, involving skating and pot, except we had a more sophisticated system of attaining our goods.

We’d save our lunch money all week until after school on friday where we’d put it all together and buy an ⅛ to an ¼ ounce of pot. Then the entire weekend was a nonstop smoke session. By then, I was feeling it alright, but it wouldn’t make me all goofy like it did everyone else.

I got really mellow. I was already a very quiet person due to my shy social-insecurities, so weed made me really mellow.

One of my buddies, at the time, had a huge treehouse that we blazed up in for all hours of the night. His mom didn’t care if we smoked, but it was still fun smoking in the treehouse. We were still kids on the inside.

We eventually became the hippies, or “burnouts” of our class. We didn’t mind. Yet, we were also skaters, wake boarders, and hacky sackers.

        Man, if our school had a hacky sack team, we’d have taken State, no problem.

Sure, at first we got a lot of shit for being the smokers, but it was just a matter of time before everybody was asking us for weed. After all, in this town, there was nothing but a bunch of rich kids with nothing better to do.
I can recall back in first grade during recess, skipping along the half-buried tires listening to my Walkman. I had a few cassettes that were my dad’s. ZZ Top, Van Halen, and Meat Loaf.

Little did I know, I’d be doing the same thing in high school.

Even though I had friends, I still felt different than them. On another wavelength or something. The anxiety wave. I couldn’t communicate with others like they could, so I listened to my headphones in between classes, only I graduated from a Walkman to a disc-man, then got my Master’s degree in an MP3 player.

I still couldn’t figure out what was going on with myself. I’d hit puberty, but any confidence that I was supposed to have was not there.

It was until I decided to experiment a little during my sophomore year…
A lot of my friends had talked about being drunk and how fun and awesome it was. Plus, I’d seen my parents and their friends partying and getting wasted. It did look like fun. However, I wouldn’t say the reason I first drank was because of them. Never. It was more a curiosity, just like weed had been.

I wormed my way through my parents extensive liquor cabinet-which was stocked, due to all the summer and weekend parties they had.

Almost every bottle was full, so I picked what I thought was the coolest one—or one that I’ve seen used a lot—which was a bottle of José Cuervo Gold. After emptying an Ozarka water bottle, I poured the tequila into it. It looked like a golden waterfall, with its alcoholic fumes-instead of water mist-rising up making me gag as they protruded their way into my nasal cavities. I filled the bottle a little more than halfway, capped it, then tossed it in my bag for the next day.
The next morning in school, I’m staring at the vending machines. I had about fifteen-minutes to do what I wanted to do. I had no idea what would be a good mixer.

Since it was 8:45 in the morning, I thought orange juice would be a good choice.

        Sold out.

Sprite?

        Sold out.

Coke, or any kind of soda or juice?

        Sold out. Sold out. Sold out.

Before hitting the water button, I tried one last item out. I then saw the magical digital letters…

        Vending.

I was thrilled, even though I had no idea what Jose Cuervo tasted like, much less what it would taste like with a green Powerade.

I rushed to the first men’s bathroom I could find, which was downstairs by the cafeteria. Inside the wet, odor-ridden bathroom stall, the cap seemed like it was twisting back to the right when I tried twisting to the left.

        Lefty-loosey, righty-tighty—that’s what I was taught.

My hands were damp with sweat.

        Are you sure you want to do this?

I finally had to pull my shirt over the stubborn cap to be able to get any twist to it. After all the strength I could muster, Cra, cra, cra, cra, crack. I heard, like a tiny machine gun going off.

My hand ached (remember I’m just a sophomore in high school with barely any athletic skill. My wrists were like twigs). I then proceeded to pour about half of the green Powerade down the toilet, replacing it with yet another waterfall of liquid gold.

Once the bottle was full, I twisted the black cap back on and took it to World History. It turned out, Lady Luck was with me that day: We had a substitute teacher, and not just for today, for a couple weeks, too. Mrs. Lannister was very ill.

        Poison, probably. 

I pulled out the full bottle from my backpack, then started to twist the black cap again, opening to a great view of a barf-green substance with the smell of rank death.

        Ok… here goes nothing!

I tilted my head back and opened a tiny slit in my mouth to pour in the foulest concoction that had ever been in, or even near, my mouth.

Much like all drinks, I’ve come to learn that the first sip is the worst, but I kept on sipping. Little by little, while holding my nose.

My friend who sat behind me, Sam, could tell what I was doing. And not just by watching me. She was able to smell the redolent exhaust that came swirling out of my mouth each time I exhaled, which was a lot at first-I was so anxious.

        This was nothing like pot.

I could feel my lips growing numb, I, distinctly, remember. With the more numb they got, the more my nerves started to flutter away. Much like someone poked a hole in my stomach and let out all the butterflies. To fly away free, …until they found a new host to burden.

I was experiencing something brand new. I could hear the intro to “Money” by Pink Floyd, while I was transported through my desk, into a magical, exciting new world in color, as opposed to my black-n-white, quiet, self-conscious life.
I’d found what I’d been looking for.

The elixir to all my problems.

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