First I want to say that before I came to this wonderful site, I had the impression that I had been dealt the shit hand in life. I thought God had said, "Hmm . . . let's see how bad we can make this kid's life without making him kill himself." Having read some of the stories on this site, I feel ashamed. I thought I was the only one whose normal routine included hiding from everyone so the punishment for existing wouldn't be terribly unbearable. Compared to a lot of people I'm not that badly off. My parents aren't divorced, I don't have an abusive family (immediate, that is) and I got to go to school where I wanted to. I also don't remember the vast majority of what happened to me.
A bit of background is necessary before I get into the details, which will be hazy because I am relying on what other people told me. I went to the same school (c. 150 people) for 11 years. It was founded in 1942 by my grandparents.
Basically the abuse, taunting, etc. started when I was in 2nd grade. I was teased for being flamboyantly smart, for being very poor (most of the kids in my class, since this was a private school, had parents who were lawyers or doctors or something equally rich), for smelling like a farm, for having clothes which mostly came from red cross stores and yard sales, and for anything else they cared to tease me for. That was the usual stuff. They also kicked me and threw stuff at me and called me worthless. The worst thing they did that year was when 2 girls whom I didn't care too much for and still can't stand took me out into the playground and punched me in the groin and called me a pecker. Sometimes people would pretend to be my friend so they could really hurt me because I didn't learn not to extend myself until high school. So the two girls got my attention because they asked me if I wanted to go to the playground with them. After that, it was easy.
Basically from third grade to seventh I could count on someone trying to beat me up every day. It ranged from being kicked a lot to being dragged to the ground, bloodied, people punching me various places. the teachers who were "monitoring" the recess period would sit or stand and talk and when a ball or something came toward them, they'd kick it back, mostly without looking up. it's hard to pinpoint the worst it ever got because it was pretty constant, but also I remember almost nothing from before fourth grade. I do remember getting into a fight with a kid who took karate. He and I (I was taking tae kwon do at the time, but he was much more experienced than I was) exchanged kicks for a while, and then he called out everyone in the class and told them with glee that he was going to make me cry. "Girls, come out here! I'm going to make Patrick cry." I can still hear his voice as I turned to the window and saw the girls come and the teacher supposedly in duty as she sat, drinking her coffee and reading the paper, purposefully oblivious to what was going on. He then played around with me, starting to get serious and then backing down.
The fight was, for the most part, more mental than physical. Mostly what he did was make me cringe and make myself into as small a target against the brick wall as I could. Then he really started. It only took a couple of kicks to the groin to get me down. After that he invited other people to come and kick and punch me as they pleased. I made myself into a ball and tensed my body up so it wouldn't hurt as much. What surprised me most was that I wasn't crying at all when they were done. Despite the fact that it had hurt (20 kids against me) what hurt me more was that Tom (that was his name) had announced to the whole class that he was, in effect, going to publicly humiliate me. Rather like a stoning.
The physical stuff calmed down after that year, but the emotional and mental stuff continued. People seemed to get kicks out of telling me I smelled bad, or that my clothes were really dirty. In sixth grade, one of our science projects was to make a volcano. I brought a cardboard box for the base, and someone exclaimed as I walked in, "Patrick, why did you bring your house in?" The rest of the class thought this was riotously hilarious. People continued to say, as though commonplace, "you're ugly . . . you're dirty and poor . . . you're worthless."
My father told me a few years ago that _teachers and parents_ noticed what was going on. They saw the changes in my demeanor and did nothing. They told my father they'd noticed the change. My parents took days off from work to come and talk to the people in charge at my school. They assured me they would take appropriate actions. That had been in second grade. The day after that, which was a Tuesday , I was told by my 2nd grade teacher that I had done something to offend my fellow classmates and asked, "What should you do about this?" I knew of nothing I had ever done to visibly upset them. Still, I did not want to talk back to this teacher, who seemed to derive pleasure from humiliating me in front of my entire class. I said, "Well, I'll write them notes of apology." For the next two days I sat at my desk and wrote very simple apology notes that went as follows:
Dear [insert name here]
I am VERY sorry about what I did on Monday. It will NEVER happen again. Once again, I am SO sorry.
I wrote twenty of those. I finished ten of them on Tuesday. One by one, I sheepishly delivered them to the desks of the students whom I had "offended". It was incredibly embarassing because more than half the class were girls. On Wednesday I did the final ten. One of my friends, when he saw the note I very quietly and quickly shoved into his desk, asked "What's this?"
"An apology note. I got one, too," another acquaintance with whom I was, at that time, friends, said. "The only difference is yours only says 'I am sorry'." He shrugged his shoulders in bewilderment as I asked him with my face what I had done wrong. He had no answer.
By my eighth grade year, most of the people who had tormented me in second grade were elsewhere. They had been replaced by more girls. Until three months before my 8th grade graduation, there were 3 boys in my class and 6 girls. 5 of them could have said that they spent five or more hours a day making my life a living hell.
I went to boarding school for 9-12 grades. It was no easier. There is a tradition at every boarding school. It's called hazing and it's worse than anything any public school can, and will, boast. The difference is that unlike in public school, at boarding school people can get into your room and steal things or trash the place. They can break windows, steal your labtop computer, put giant pieces of ice in your bed, steal your food (boarding school is like a black market for food since you can't get any for free between meals), and anything else their hearts desire. Snowball fights are the worst. Any underclassman who ventures out beyond the comfort of his dorm (or even his room if his hallmates don't like him) will be pelted beyond anything I can describe in words. Seniors and juniors wait with joy outside the one boys' dorm, with stashes of snowballs, some with rocks, some packed the the density of ice. The really interesting part is when the baseball team or football team or hockey team has a lot of upperclassmen varsity letter winners, because they throw hard. It's sort of like people throwing baseballs at you for about a hundred yards, only you can't really run because they're in front of you and the snow is a foot deep. And they don't cancel classes for only a foot of snow in New England. When I was there they canceled classes four times in four years. and three of them came in the blizzard of 1996.
I'll say this for my high school years: they really blew. I got there and discovered that I wasn't as smart as I had thought. I didn't admit this until my senior year. I got teased for smelling, for thinking I was smart, and for anything else people felt like saying. i made some really idiotic decisions, and people took advantage of those to the point where among the rumors you heard as a freshman was that there was a kid with a bullet hole in his head and that the same kid had taken a crap in his bed, thrown it in is closet, and left it in there for anywhere from the rest of the year to a week, depending on the version of the story. I also fancied myself a decent writer, but put that in hiding as much as possible when someone discovered I took my revenge on people by writing stories where they got gored or shot or beaten up by girls.
It got so bad that I seriously considered suicide several times my junior year. In the past three years I had lost a grandfather and grandmother to mother time. Nobody showed any sympathy. I brought it up a bit at dinner one time and nobody showed the slightest bit of concern. The best anyone did was when they said, "Kilmer, don't commit suicide." When I asked the guy why I shouldn't, he said "Because it's not cool." I'll tell you this much: IDGARA what anyone thinks is cool. For those who haven't seen Patch Adams, IDGARA stands for I Don't Give A Rat's Ass.
Eventually I got on Zoloft, sort of the equivalent of Prozac, except it's not well-known and thus isn't ridiculed as Prozac, Ritalin, etc are. When people at my school found out I was "insane" they began to treat me weird, like I was going to go off on them like some psycho. After the Columbine shooting, they all treated me very nicely, saying things like, "Kilmer, if you ever get a gun, just remember I was always nice to you." Then I'd respond with, "But you weren't." I sometimes timed them to see how quickly they sheepishly smiled and darted out the door, or away from me, or some combination of the two.
My houseparents, who lived with these guys, saw how they treated me and did nothing. One remarked, in her trimester comments, "He acts humanely and expects his peers to act in the same way; he's surprised when they don't treat him with respect." And these were the people who were paid to ensure nothing bad happened to me. These were the people my parents payed $25,000 dollars a year to ensure I would be safe 500 miles from home.
I was too much of a coward to confront any of them about what they did since invariably they would consider me a wimp and get some of their friends and ask me to repeat what I had said. For the first time in my life I accepted what everyone had said about me for more then ten years. I accepted that I was worthless, that I was, as one student had put it, "wasting my precious oxygen . . . a waste of sperm . . . smelling up the dorm as usual . . . a self-proclaimed brain . . . " The only way for me to have friends was superficially. Someone would come along who needed help with math or science or french or english or something, and in return for the help I gave them they would be my "friend" (more of an acquaintance) for however long they used me. When I was no longer needed, I was no longer welcome.
During this time, the people who helped me struggle to find out who I was were the monks of the school, and in my senior year, some of the seniors in my dorm. We would stay up fairly late (2 or so hours past lights-out at 11:30 pm) and talk about anything from how bad a particular assignment or teacher was to how insane senior year was, to how much better college would be. There was always one person in the room who still liked to annoy me to the point that he would offend me and I'd walk out of the room crying. I told him I didn't like it; he didn't much seem to care. Neither did anyone else. The others told me, "That's just how he is!" Almost as if they were saying, "He's a jerk and that's why we like him so much! 'Kay?!" while smiling. I struggled with a racist history teacher who was swayed by memories he had of coaching my father 20 years before. I think he tried to make my life hard.
The only solace I found was in Glee Club. There I could melt the day's sorrows in belting songs. Winter Term was particularly nice because I was given a solo in Godspell, the winter musical. I would sometimes walk to desolate places on campus and start singing.
I had discovered the internet a few years before, but now I went to chat rooms. One, in particular, I found inviting. It had a word game but also a chat room. I met many people in there, some of whom I still chat with via AIM. One girl whom I met lived an hour away from me. She visited me at my school. Everyone in my dorm was shocked to know tht a girl had her father drive her an hour so she could visit me. For about a week guys in my dorm were nice to me.
I had about five cyber-relationships that year. They were much easier than face-to-face relationships because I could be a finesse man online, then the next minute be a total jerk and not feel any regret because I didn't know the people I was talking to in real life. People made fun of me for that, too. Some of the kids who had graduated the previous year came and asked me about my cyber girlfriends. They thought it was hilarious when they asked me about my cyber-girl and I asked them which one.
I graduated. Not with flying colors. I almost failed the history class that racist taught. Out of respect to germans I won't mention his name, since I am also german. This summer I met a girl at a pool party I shouldn't even have gone to. There's this thing at my church called Life Teen. It's a Sunday evening mass for teens, young adults, etc. I didn't want to go since it makes me uncomfortable because I only know like five people there. They have this group prayer thing at the Our Father where all the teens and college kids go up and sing the our father with their arms around eachother. Makes me unbelievably uncomfortable. The whole mass does. But I hadn't yet been to mass that week. So I had to go.
I went and brought my swimsuit because i initially wanted to go to the pool party after the mass. I changed my mind but didn't tell my mom. I got there and was scared to go near the pool because I didn't want to be the first one there. So I waited for some people I sort of knew to get there and then used them as a smoke screen. I sat in a hammock facing away from the pool with the back up so nobody would see me. Lo and behold two girls came up and started talking to me. I had never been in this kind of situation. Nobody, especially not a girl, ever came and talked to me. Immediately I suspected foul play. I threw them every curve ball I knew. I didn't tell them my name. I suggested other people they could talk to because I was boring and uneventful and in college, and thus out of their reach. They didn't budge.
I'll end the story here by mentioning their names: Katy Thomas and Margaret (Maggie) Griffith. They saved me. They were nice to me because they liked me. They didn't want anything from me in return except my friendship. Katy lives in California and Maggie lives about two miles from me. I hope someone can derive some comfort from this by knowing that some of the people in the world are not out to get you to better their own situation.
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