Good morning/afternoon/evening, wherever you are in the world! Thank you for dropping by! The month of February 2018 marks the 1st year anniversary of “The Writer’s Corner” coming online. To celebrate, I decided to write a short story/litterary essay on an experience I had a few years ago. This essay marks the first foray in a long time for this blog into a category other than poetry. I hope you like it! I would also enjoy hearing what you think, and if you have experiences similar to this that you would like to share, please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below. Discussion is always good. I appreciate each of your follows, likes and comments, and I look forward to hearing from you.
It was a sunny October morning. I believe it was a Saturday, but it could have been a Sunday. I think we can all agree that this detail doesn’t matter. Anyway, I drove fifteen minutes up from my home to this old building to see for myself what has changed in the years since I left. The building itself is unremarkable. The outside is covered with bright, red-orange bricks, with a cream-coloured structure and four ancient greek-like pillars decorating the entrance. It is…interesting, to say the least, to go back to old stomping grounds and see what has changed…and what hasn’t. But such a visit in the fall period has it’s drawbacks, and those come in the form of bad memories.
It took everything to make this decision, to visit this place where unpleasant memories take root. They say experiences forge the personality of a person, and guide how that same person will live their life later on. Having been consistently bullied by other guys and rejected by the girls I had mad crushes on, this land is the place – and fall is the season of a year – where memories are corrupted by the gutter of emotion.
There’s something about the fall season and revisiting old wounds that brings a cold dose of reality to the present. I like to think of myself now as an independent mind that doesn’t care about making too many friends, but back in the day I was desperate for attention and wanting to follow anybody so that I could be appreciated. Of course, we all learn later that’s the way we lose those who really matter in life. And many scientists studying human behaviour have said that personalities don’t really change all that much throughout life.
I left my car in the large parking lot in the south end of the land, and took a long walk towards the building. Along the way, I stopped near the lots where multiple single-room buildings once sat. When I was here on a daily basis, there were fourteen of these, give or take. Of these, a good seven or eight brought up memories of people and moments I would rather have forgotten. Moments of embarrassment, of humiliation, of blindly following others just to fit in or being unexplainedly defiant against those who were looking after my well-being. I was a good person, a good student, and yet…I followed bad people doing bad things in numerous occasions of teenage stupidity. One year, in the fall semester, I skipped school with two druggies to walk over to the local grocery store and planned to steal items. I had never stolen anything and I knew it was wrong, but I so desperately wanted to fit in. We never ended up stealing anything because I raised my concerns to the others, and they ended up ditching me later on…guess they were never really my friends. Lesson learned?
Only six of these portables remained, leaving the rest of the lot looking rather…naked, compared to how it was before. Four of these rectangular-shaped buildings now clearly absent used to sit against a single steel-plated fence, the only fence sitting on the outside of a softball field which has long since been reclaimed by nature.
To give some of you a little context, the infield of a softball or baseball diamond should either be entirely filled with dirt, or have grass around the middle and dirt around it. If it weren’t for the metal backstop, no one would be able to recognize a softball field in this patch of land.
Many a moment was it my refuge from others, the escape through fantasies of proving my worth to my fellows through my passion for a sport that was as mistreated here as this field. Stepping on this field meant reliving what could have been: wanting to validate my worth by representing this land on a team that represented it, only for that aspiration to be unsubtly denied by those with the power to make ideas happen. This is how things worked here – my dreams were always to be rejected by those in power, or mocked at by those I called classmates.
No, the dreams I had and this field were both left to rot. There was never any maintenance to the field – kids and neighbours alike pulled on the foul-line fence, so much so that it was bent out of shape. Trees were allowed to grow to maturity well into the fair territory, and the backstop area became littered with booze, broken glass, and garbage from the neighboring fast-food chains. You’d think that the city owned the land, but for some reason it belonged to the school, and they didn’t care for it.
Honestly, it’s amazing how people mistreat baseball and softball diamonds so – I have yet to see someone use a soccer field as their personal dump. If it isn’t waste on the field that should go in the garbage, it’s a dog’s poop lying on the ground, their idiot owner being too lazy to clean it up. It says something about our society that we would rather be wasteful with our lands and consumption than be responsible and aware.
Anyway, having finished my foray into the death of my young aspirations, I went back to the portables area, looking through those that remained. Having been on this land as both one being socialized and one doing the socializing, I looked with both lens through the window of one of the rooms. Quite visibly void of movement, the room nonetheless remained the same over the years. Pictures, classroom reminders and assignments covered all the walls of this room. I remember this being the English class belonging to my favourite teacher – one of the few who made my life here more bearable. However, more moments of embarrassment from my peers and from those I once called colleagues flooded my mind again. One particular moment of having the right answers in this teacher’s class made me the target of stares and abuse from my fellows. Wasn’t sure if I said something wrong or not, but they clearly didn’t like it. There were often challenges to my manhood or my heritage, and I just couldn’t ask a question without being ridiculed for not already knowing the answer.
I moved away from these portables towards towards the main building. It was fully covered in reddish-brown bricks, and the south side had a few outdoor basketball nets hanging on the walls for students to play “Bump” or pickup basketball during lunch hour. I peeked through the windows of the large side doors and noticed all of the lockers in the rather large hallway – still in the same condition as when I was a student here. I remembered all the places inside the building as vividly as if were physically there: in one of the gyms, where I was humiliated for not being able to do push-ups right; or in a classroom where I was mocked for not being able to shave my face in a “normal” fashion; or in another classroom, humiliated because I once forgot to take a shower after gym class…I could also remember when I found a note from a “girl who liked me” and was enraged, at the time, that one of the other guys had written that to tick me off and make me feel lonelier than ever.
I guess there are idiots like that growing up all over the nation having played pranks on numerous others, but being on the receiving end of that abuse sucks. It makes you wonder about the state of their own mental well-being whether they were humiliating you because school is a festering point for competing low self-esteem. I wouldn’t know, nor would I care, because I’m neither invested enough in this to have become a psychologist, nor would I necessarily care to ask this to those who picked on me.
Oh, and there was also that time a classmate and I were locked in the men’s bathroom, unable to get out. I remember my nerves getting the worst of me and stressing out over the whole ordeal, while my classmate remained calm and rational, aware that someone would be working to get us out of there as soon as possible. That same jerk then later proceeded to humiliate me for loosing my cool in that situation…
I know there are worse horror experiences from going to high school, and I’m not trying to equate mine to anyone else’s. We are all different kinds of people, and we react to experiences in different ways. Many people who have different backgrounds and statuses, who turn out to be much different from who they are later on, have had it much worse than I have. But as a straight, white male who wanted to be decent and kind, who was fortunate enough not to have to deal with particular issues that other people have had, and who just wanted to live a normal life – like anyone else, really – I went through a lot of twist and turns. No person should have to deal with shame and humiliation because they’re different, but high school is a festering point for negative attitudes.
As the doors of the building’s south side were locked, I couldn’t walk in to amplify the painful memories. These days, with security being such a concern in North America, I didn’t honestly think I’d be able to just stroll in the school hallways. Fortunately, there was no soul in sight and it wasn’t a school day, so no one would have screamed “Stranger Danger” if anyone was there to see me at the door. If there were, the whole building might have been on lockdown by that point.
I decided instead to walk around the lot as I was doing earlier, and continue to notice the changes (or non-changes) on this patch of land I’ve grown to resent. To the east of the main school building there was a soccer field with football goal posts in the middle of an athletics track. Stopping there, I looked at an area nearby where I was chased around by a jock and lost my lunch money, where I failed to qualify for a school athletics competition, and where I was tackled while playing football on the main sports field. This moment in particular was one of the only times I’ve ever played tackle football in my life, and I honestly thought I had broken something inside my body. I wasn’t very good at it, and medical issues at birth prohibited me from playing, but in the well-documented fashion of youthful stupidity, I played anyway.
Walking around the north side of the building, I found the porch where me and a rather passionable girl secretly scattered off to after skipping a rather lame class. Civics, was it?…My memory of these details isn’t good, but I guess it doesn’t matter. I was quite seduced by her and asked her out, but was quite uncomfortably rejected. And yet, I felt like there was a connection between the two of us. I think the younger people of my generation would call my behaviour as something along the lines of…”being thirsty”. How crude…
Coming around the northwest side of the building, I noticed a few other places I spent a lot of time at. Near the school were a community center and a playground for young children. The community center had cream-coloured brick walls, with a washed-out, blueish-green roof. It looked rather worn-out and decrepit, but I knew it was still being used by community groups and was a rallying point for the neighbourhood. As for the playground, I know there was a main “jungle gym” structure with a slide, climbing and monkey bars, as well as some swings and a splash park. In my early years here, we spent a lot of time hanging around this park, misusing or outright vandalizing the structures, and it led to complaints from the community to keep us away from there.
Behind the community park was a patch of grass with two large lights that were on whenever a hockey game was being played there in the winter. The boards weren’t up yet, but I still remember playing a game or two of pond hockey with some classmates there, either in class or during a special event. I’m over six feet and I still got crushed with ease! Oh, the joys of remembering how much fun it was to be a younger me.
I ended my visit of the lot with a passing by of the unremarkable second soccer field near the community center, sitting next to the road. The sidewalk brought back the memory in one of my latter years when I was having a really bad day and I skipped class in distress. Teachers on their breaks were rushed out to find me, as they were obviously concerned for my safety. That was a rather challenging year for me, as it was the time when everything was bad every day, and every day was a bad day. The only daily refuge was going home and escaping the daily grind through a post-modern fifteen year-old’s regularly scheduled escapes of video games and television.
The fall season has a way of reminding you where you are. You can see the leaves falling from the tree branches, the wind getting colder, and animals rushing to gather food in preparation for their winter hibernation. Fall is cold, both physically and mentally – it has a bad habit of giving you a dose of the reality of your life so far. And after a while, you need a break from the rush of the wake-up call.
I finally made my way back to the south-end parking lot and walked back to the car. Enough was enough – one look over the lands, one final visit was enough for the rest of my life. I hear there are high school reunions that happen later on in life. If I were asked to take part in one down the road, I don’t think I would accept the invitation. At some point, we all need to let our sleeping dogs lie, to not risk reopening healed scars with other people. To this point, that was already done enough times in the period between my departure and return here. If old classmates don’t need to speak to me about this stuff, then I won’t have to, either.
I drove away from the school, content that the observance was made. With winter coming, it was time to finally let these wounds die. I could at least, finally forget.
A short narrative by Coeur d’un Poète.