It's been a long week, one which I am too tired to explain right now. Kyle has been working hard, studying Spanish, writing for his creative writing class, generally getting stuff done and being a good husband. One of his assignments was to write about a childhood enemy using showing rather than telling. The difference between showing and telling, is my writing that Kyle is a good husband or showing the reader by writing about how when my shoe comes untied, he bends down to tie it for me. The latter is obviously a more effective way of writing. Since he took so much time with this assignment, we thought we would share it with you! Enjoy!
Chris Armstrong was one of those kids that just couldn't help but be a bully. He was 6 foot 5 in second grade size and his idea of a good time was anything that involved pestering, disrupting, or any form of, as he liked to put it "goofin around." The only thing was, no one on the receiving end saw it as just "goofing." He was the kid that intentionally wouldn't move out of the way to avoid bumping into someone, and then quickly inform them of what an idiot they were for not getting out of his way. I suppose if you wanted to get analytical about it, you could probably say that he was just a product of his upbringing. I don't have much of a memory of his family, although in retrospect, I know now that he came from a pretty broken home. I guess most butthead children aren't born buttheads, though some might be. I think more often kids become buttheads because that's all they know how to be when everyone around them is a butthead. I'm not saying that justifies what he did back then. Just because someone is a jerk to you doesn't give you the right to be a jerk to others. My worst experience with Chris Armstrong wasn't exactly what you might expect me to say. In fact, I never expected anything like what happened to happen to me back then. I was a good kid. Not exactly the polar opposite of Chris because I wasn't a total geek either but I never treated people with disrespect. But in second grade on the blacktop of Redland Oaks Elementary, one single day almost changed all of that. Now, that one day is a story in and of itself but what I really want to talk about is what happened after that day that was almost as bad as the first. Confused? Me too.
Doom's Day: The long and short of D Day was that we were playing kickball, the ball went out of bounds, I went to kick it back in and just as I was in mid kick, one of the special needs kids reached down to pick it up. I didn't kick him that hard but it was apparently enough to get sent to the principals office over and I never even got the chance to plead my case. Instead, I got tossed into the elementary school version of an anger management course lead by Miss Bowl, the school councilor. Miss. Bowl was one of those classic councilor types with the long floral pattern dress, the old, sweet next door neighbor attitude and shiny gray hair that was always tied in a bun to keep her face from falling off. It wasn't that she was all that old I don't think, but when a person is that nice, that often, in every circumstance imaginable, something builds up inside and if it's not released it takes it's toll either on the soul or, in Miss Bowl's case, on the body. She was the weariest looking person I think I have ever met in my life. Looking at her just made you want to give her a hug and then go take a nap from dreariness. The weird thing was, she wasn't slow. There was no turtleness about her, in fact, she was more like a rabbit jumping from person to person. "How was your day today Chris? Oh that's too bad. Why don't you go take a rain cloud down from the attitude board and put that in front of you so we all remember that you're having a bad day, mkay? And John, how's your day going? OH WAIT! I think it's time for some weather!" That was the other thing, she loved the Weather channel. She loved it so much, she recorded it whenever something "exciting" happened. I liked weather as a kid but not like Miss Bowl did. So the classic councilor peppiness was there, but it only ran surface deep. I can't really explain to you how I, as a 7 yr. old was able to catch on to this except to say that I've always been rather insightful when it comes to people. There was just something about how she never held eye contact with you for too long and if she did, she would drift. It was like she'd rev the boat to full throttle, then realize that's not really the speed she wanted to go so the engine would die and she'd just drift for a bit, letting the waves of regret just toss it around for a bit. Then she'd realize we were there and need to rev the engine up again so we didn't get caught up in the drift with her. I think that was it. Maybe she loved her job so much because she didn't want us to end up as weary as she was.
Anyways, the week following D Day, I was put on mandatory Kiddy Anger Management for one week, every lunch and an optional second week, but really all that meant was my teacher Miss Brooks could say, "Kyle, do you need to go see Miss Bowl today?" in front of everyone at the cafeteria table. If I said "no, I'd rather stay", she'd reply, "are you sure? Don't you like seeing Miss Bowl and your friends at lunch?" Apart from the embarrassment at the lunch table, there was more discomfort in that statement that I now think Miss Brooks was very much aware of. The thing was, the kids at Miss Bowl's lunch parties were not my friends. My "friends" were the kids like me who did not take pleasure in the abuse of others, and who did not need anger management. What I needed was someone in the adult world to realize that what I was "angry" with was the fact that I had been falsely labelled as a bad kid and that I didn't have the savvy to be able to express this to any of the adults at the school because they all thought I was just one of the angry kids. The only thing worse than being thought of as one of the bad kids was not being able to do a damn thing about it. So off to Miss Bowl's lunch parties I went and the worst was yet to come.
After having served my one mandatory week, and 2 days of Miss Brooks humiliating me at lunch, I figured, she's not going to stop any time soon so I might as well save myself the embarrassment and just go straight there. Well, the fiasco started with the fact that Miss Brooks' class, my class, was the last to go to lunch, so the only seat left at the Anger Management table in Miss Bowl's office was the one between Miss Bowl and Chris Armstrong. Now, Chris had nothing against me and I had nothing against him, specifically, but generally speaking, I didn't like kids like Chris and frankly I was kind of scared of him. It was like sitting next to a firecracker that's been lit but hasn't gone off. You're never sure if it's safe to go near it. So on the 7th day of going to Miss Bowl's lunch party and sitting next to the school bully, when Chris patted me on the back and said, "want my milk?" I nearly wet my pants. The temperature in the room had suddenly dropped to below freezing. All the noises from the outside world fell to the floor like sand. My nose began to tingle and those three words replayed in my head over and over and over. I had no idea what to say. All I could do was stare at his milk. Slowly I realized that everyone else in the room was staring at me, waiting to see what I would do. They were all frozen, just like me. Even Miss Bowl was entranced by the severity of the moment. If I said no, I risked offending the one kid in school who I knew for sure wouldn't think twice about beating the crap out of me the second no adults were looking. If I said yes, it meant that any hope I had of making friends with "normal" kids would be obliterated. I had never in my 7 years, been faced with such a difficult decision and none of those schmucks in the Kiddy Anger Management class were making this moment any easier. They all just stared, filling the silence with electric tensity. I was so nervous, and so frustrated with having to be there, in that room, with those jerks and weary Miss Bowl all staring at me, all thinking "GOD I'm glad I'm not him right now." I hated that kid for reaching down as I was about to kick the ball. I hated the principal for never letting me explain. I hated Miss Brooks for patronizing me, and more than all of that, I hated Chris for being nice, for what I was sure was the first time in his life, with me. But there was something else I hated even more than Chris, Miss Brook's patronization, Principal Pear, or the special needs kid. I hated the fact that no one in that school, kid or adult, had tried being nice to Chris. They were all afraid. The adults were afraid of rewarding his bad behavior. The kids were, like me, afraid of committing social suicide and while I'm sure every one of them had thought about it like me, not one of us had ever actually tried to genuinely be nice to Chris. Miss Bowl did I guess, but it was the kind of niceness that seems forced. Like, sympathy niceness. "You seem so angry and upset, I have to say something nice to you to keep you from taking it out on someone else" kind of nice. So for the first time in my life, I decided that maybe being popular wasn't for me. It seems now like such a silly thing to be preoccupied with at 7 but what kid doesn't want to be liked? That's what I have come to realize. Every kid wants to be liked. I think that's why Chris asked me if I wanted his milk that day. He had a chance to make a friend that wasn't like him. I wasn't angry. I wasn't rude, or disruptive. I was normal. Somewhat anyways, and maybe he thought that I was the kind of kid he really wanted to be friends with. So I said, "sure. Want my brownie?" For a second I thought maybe that's what he was wanting all along. For a second I thought, "geeze, what kind of an idiot am I thinking he might actually want to be friends." Then he said "wanna split it?" and I knew two things right then. My social life for at least the rest of second grade was over, and that Chris Armstrong wasn't going to be kicking my ass anytime soon. Even then I wasn't naive enough to believe that kids like Chris can turn their wicked ways around overnight but I thought, at least it's a start. And if everyone thinks that Chris is my friend, well at least I don't have to worry about getting picked on anymore.