Lately I’ve been thinking about how simple life was back in kindergarten. Yeah I know, I’m going way, WAY back here, but bear with me.
I started school for the first time shortly after I had been diagnosed with a profound hearing loss, and sentenced to wear clunky hearing aids that once earned me the nickname “Satellite Ears” later on in life.
When I started kindergarten though, nobody seemed to notice. I was just one of the kids, and for some reason, I was genuinely liked by almost everyone. Kids would meet me for the first time and instantly decided they liked me, even to the point of crying if I was apart from them for too long. I never really understood why, but it felt good to be in an environment where people really enjoyed having me around, even if we were all 5 years old.
I remember the playground too, and how this one skinny kid from another class would peel back his eyelids and then chase me around like some kind of bogeyman. Scared the daylights out of me too, that is, until one of my newfound friends saw it happening and beat the living snot out of him. You have not lived until you see a 5 year old whaling on another 5 year old dweeb just because he’d been bothering me too much. A truly wondrous sight to behold.
My tight circle of buddies continued to hold together throughout first grade, until the powers that be decided that my hearing disability wasn’t holding me back after all, and I could start the second grade at a normal school rather than the special school my posse and I currently went to.
So just like that, I got dropped into the second grade. Suddenly, my social circle was gone, and once again I was a stranger in a strange land. Only this time, no one befriended me. There were no easy and instant friendships to be had here. For the first time, I was alone.
I only remember having one friendship during that time, and it didn’t last long. I think we met in the third grade and got sort of close, but when fourth grade started, he decided he just didn’t like me anymore. It was a completely new experience for me, and I couldn’t understand how somebody could just decide out of the blue that they no longer wanted to be friends with me. I spent that WHOLE year trying to figure it out, confronting him, asking him, pleading with him for answers, until he teamed up with some tall, fat and ugly four-eyed snot and had him pound on me every time I got near my now former friend. The experience was so bad that my 4th grade teacher would give me unsatisfactory scores on my report card over my ability to get along with other kids. Stupid teacher.
And you know, I wasn’t trying to be a brat here. I just wanted to know why he didn’t like me anymore. I NEEDED to know. Why, just, why? Tell me why? But he wasn’t saying.
Eventually 4th grade was coming to a close, and the fat, ugly ape-boy my former friend had latched on to decided he really enjoyed beating me up just for the heck of it. I had to hide out in the bushes or under a slide somewhere just so I could get away from this lard-face. Every school day was a nightmare for me. I couldn’t even stay inside for much needed relief from all the beatdowns because it wasn’t allowed. Nooo, I had to go outside and play because it was “good exercise.” Yep, it certainly was great exercise running for my life from the playground’s resident baboon every day.
Then one weekend I happened to see a movie about this high school student who kept getting whaled on by bullies, so he hired some biiiiiiiig dude to be his bodyguard. Eventually they became friends too.
That made me think about things.
I don’t remember how, but eventually I found and befriended a tall, black kid and asked him if he was willing to be my bodyguard, and if he was, I’d pay him 50 cents. He heartily agreed, cementing what would be my first ever business transaction.
The next time I went on the playground, tubby four-eyed freak once again began his pursuit after me… until he was clotheslined by my new bodyguard. And just for good measure, Newly Hired Bodyguard began smacking him around until he knocked off his Woody Harrelson glasses and made the lard-face cry. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
That finally brought me the relief I needed until 4th grade mercifully ended a few weeks later. I don’t know what happened to my bodyguard though, as he must have moved after that summer, because I never saw him again. It’s a shame, because we were just starting to become good friends too.
Fortunately, the playground’s resident ape had also apparently moved, because I don’t remember seeing him at all during 5th grade. My ex-friend was still around, but at that point I had finally given up and decided to just let things be. We were stuck in the same math class that year, but one day he had dropped all his books on the floor, and I promptly helped him pick it up. When I did that I guess he saw that even after all we went through, I still had no malice towards him, and whatever antipathy he had for me then had at that moment finally melted away. We chatted on the playground that same day, but afterwards I just left him alone. He eventually found his own circle of friends to hang out with while I continued to float around.
I think then that’s when I officially became a loner. It started happening in the second grade, but my horrendous experience in 4th grade really cemented it for me. Somewhere along the way, I was no longer instantly liked. Instead, most people either shunned me or decided right on the spot that I was the most repugnant thing they had ever seen. And while 5th grade brought a small reprieve from all that animosity, my experience in junior high saw it being raised to new heights. I wasn’t just picked on. I was spit on, beaten, chased after, all without provocation. I’d barely have a chance to say boo before I’d get pounded on like a piece of meat. There were times when I reacted very badly to it all (mostly by taking it out on my parents), but as I look back, I realize I was just a kid who was just trying to make sense of all the crazy hatred.
It wasn’t till I started high school in another town that things finally began to calm down. During that time I met a guy who would be my first ever real best friend, a close friendship that lasted over ten years. Other than that though I was pretty much a loner. I hated social circles and gatherings because I never felt like I belonged, and more importantly, I never felt welcomed either.
As grownups now, we’ve learned to be more polite (sometimes) when it comes to company we don’t like having around. But even then, I could always tell when I wasn’t wanted. There was this sense of awkwardness because I felt no connection with the people I socialized with, no matter what circle or club or group it happened to be. Whatever magic I once had in kindergarten, it was gone forever now. To this day, I have still not found any place where I can feel like I truly belong. Perhaps that’s my destiny now, and if it is, I’m willing to accept that. The world sucks anyway.
But every now and then, I’ll remember that time in kindergarten, and what it was like to be the guy that everyone loved and enjoyed being with. And when I do, I can feel the loss. The loss of being connected. The loss of being a part of something special.