November 25th 1989
“I’m not going to tell the story the way it happened, I’m going to tell the story the way I remember it.” Great Expectations
After my lawnmower accident we moved back to my fathers hometown of Astori. And at that point I still thought everybody had one side of a family on their fathers side. I had just turned seven before my accident and four months later we moved. And after five moves in 7 years this would be our last stop. After my accident I felt reborn and whether or not that was the reason I was hyper I don’t know. Regardless my hyper activity soon garnered me many a meeting it was clear others sought to avoid. And then came Ritalin a drug I’d soon help usher in I was a face. From the teachers that complained to the therapists whose job it was to listen, to the specialists and finally psychiatrists that pioneered the drug that caught a country, I corroborated this vital new research. I was the kid. And searching for answers my parents like any listened to the doctors. Doctors with advanced degrees in this particular focus I was the classic problem.
Alternatively my sister was the peoples champion figure skating soloist in town. I loved her for that and I loved my family. We all loved despite the fact we were all being torn apart. This particular Thanksgiving was hopefully going to be my last while attending Junior High School. My behavioral problems and grades had put me on a short list potentially to be held back. It was nineteen eighty nine, the last year of a decade that in itself ended a gilded era to be revered by Wall St. and disdained by pretty much everyone else outside of white America. The recent falling of the Berlin wall represented what would soon become the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Yet another four years of Republican rule was about to be inaugurated into the White House cementing the fundamental policies that would ensure a recessive climate that encapsulates the times of this story. Soon a “Desert Storm” would be launched and foreshadow grave grievances to come.
But I was in the eighth grade, the king of Junior High and all day long the holiday conversation set around the fact that Hancock Junior High was strongly considering holding me back. I don’t blame them.
“You know I’m pretty upset about this too.”
“Shhhh you better bang the books like you’ve promised Bunky. They are going to hold you back! This is serious business”
I was upset with the revelation. There was however a side of me that rationalized this a good thing. Seeing as I was one of the smaller eighth graders in the galaxy whispers of holding me back held an athletic upside. Basketball was my love, fucking racist Hockey players are the only cheaters that stay back.
“This is crap Carl! His voice fighting for breath went higher and higher, “Awful!” The king of the castle decreed and posed a question to the kid that had an answer for everything. “Hey Mr. Know it all, how the hell do you get a D + in math?!”
“Just blessed.” I answered defensibly like I’d never fail.
“You are cruising for a bruising, D +?” He appeared to be experiencing a painful migraine.
“D+ ? It’s not even pre Algebra!” He screamed, I thought, this is why I didn’t want to bring it home. I could’ve conveniently lost it and stuck to my story.
He’s beginning to sweat the more he eyes that god dam grade sheet
My report card was the anchor among other factors colluding in conspiracy to hold me back in the 8th grade. My dad was a strikingly honest man in a tough situation with one foot out of the door. “Yo dad look” I race to defend myself but as usual am cut off before I can muster a gist of defense.
“Don’t you yo me Mr. Mouth. Is that what you say when they call on you in math class? You’re a mouth. Don’t you yo me!”
“Yo yo yo yo baby pop!”
I grabbed my face as I’m backslapped across it. It was deserved. I loved pushing people. I’d pushed once again on a holiday. I tried to back peddle but not in time. I realized briefly the difficulty of me not saying “yo.” I licked the fragment of blood off my lip partially to tend the wound but more poignantly I stare softly at my mother hoping this moment would resonate, I’m the victim. We played the politics of sympathy just like everyone else.
“Don’t you start that shit with me my therapist says I’m the victim.” My mother chimed.
"Oh really?" I replied sarcastically
“You’re a wise little shit.” The tactful ploy of my hamming it up over a minor wound had paid no dividends in the game of emotional reversal. Seconds later my Denzel Glory like leashing continued. And for my old man, the old Harvard graduate could quite compute a D + in math.
“But Carl they give you a C just for showing up.” He stated like a coach of an underachieving football team. “You have to really work at being a schmucko to get a D+ mouth.” Calling me mouth was his favorite thing to call me besides Bunky on a brighter note and barn breath on a sour one. Of course his favorite thing to say to me was “zip it.” Zip it he got from our host family Lamont. And Zip it he could run in tandem with any of his three favorites. “Zip it barn breath!”
Once my father had brought the funny name calling into the fracas my mother wanted in. And according to script my mother jumped into the ring off the top rope, elbow drop.
“Dad your son is a lyer! Show up? Did you say show up?” It appeared she might go on a roll.
“I can’t believe she gets to take Zanex and I have to take god dam Ritalin.” I grumbled under my breath
“What?” My mother snapped back ala Mel Gibson
“I was just joking.” This was my go to phrase.
“OK, let’s just run down the list shall we?” My Dad rolled his eyes
“One, this kid refuses to take his medicine, Two, he never gets invited those Jewish things, 3, he steals, he –“
“Please stop.” My father begged with folded hands. It wasn’t that easy
“Normal kids can’t stand him. Can you believe what he puts us through? No other parent in America deals with this shit, number three, you know what, I’ll stop there because I just don’t have the strength to list anymore.”
And after a momentary silence my mother said, “just one more” and crippled all of my defenses with her ace in the hole.
“No respectable girl in town would be caught dead with him at the movies.”
“Mom!!!” My test proven veneer vanished instantly when mother played blind spots.
If I break and cry they’d win and since I was stubborn on their grandest point, that so much was my fault, I wouldn’t let it happen. I prayed to Jesus not to cry.
It was my only mental thought. My dad becomes cognizant of my condition as well as my mothers verbal leashing and subsequently intervened on my behalf. He loved to blame things on my mother. He might even blame this whole fight on her but later in therapy it will be decided that I being the demented one pitted them against each other again.
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