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The Atto Anormales Complex
If you ask most kids if they want to be special, they will probably say yes. If they had any sense, they would say no. I am special. I am special. I love my mommy. My mommy loves me. I don't love my daddy. My daddy doesn’t love me. I can be normal. But not always. Sometimes I have to be special. Atto is so special sometimes. He is so special it is scary.
Where am I? I am at the circus. How did I get here? My mom drove me. Where is she? “Mom!” I shout. I panic. My heart speeds up.
“Atto, I’m here, I’m here.” She grabs me in her arms and strokes my head. Where is my wig? It is in my hat. Where is my hat? My mom has it. Why am I at a circus? I work here. How old am I? My mind is blank. I start to scream again. I cannot form words. “Atto, Atto calm down, I’m here.” I clutch her tightly.
“Mom, mom I forgot. I c-cannot…” She shushes me as my words turn into gibberish. I am rocking back and forth. I stop and my mom sits me up.
“What did you want to ask me Atto, Honey?” I twitch and blurt out.
“Age? What age? How? Me?” I start to cry and bury my head in her shoulder.
“Shh. Seventeen years. That age.” She brushes my hair off my forehead. She pulls her other hand away from me and puts it behind her. She pulls out The Needle.
“No! No mom, Please! Stop! Mommy!” She sinks the needle into my skin and hugs me.
“Shh, this will make you feel better.” I black out and fall to the ground.
When I wake I am in my trailer from the show. I immediately get up and walk to the tent where the show is being preformed. They have decided to start without me, the ringmaster, though I have no idea why. The last thing I remember is being on the road and my mom was in the front seat and then I was here. “Mom?” No! Stop! I was here and… “Mommy?” Stop it! And I was lost and looking for my “Mommy!”
I fall to the ground. I scream and no one comes to get me. I feel alone. How did I get here? I walked here. Where was I before this? I was in my trailer. Why was I in my trailer? The Needle. “MOM!” I scream. The tent is next to me. The cheerful music inside stops. My mouth starts to fill with foamy spit. I start to choke. I gurgle and try to scream, but only foam comes out. Soon there are people around me. People I don’t know and my mom in her acrobat costume. I wanted her so bad. She soothes me and clears the spit from my mouth. This time when she pulls out The Needle, I don’t stop her.
When I wake, I am still on the ground. The strong man is bending over to pick me up. I shoo him away from me and stand and brush myself off. “Why is everyone standing around me? We have a show to put on!” I dramatically sweep my cape around my shoulders. I stand and start to walk in the center ring when I feel an unnecessarily gentle touch on my shoulders. It is my mother. “Atto, you shouldn’t be leading tonight.”
“Why? I feel fantastic, better than ever! Let’s go.”
My mother bites her bottom lip, a sure sign that she is hiding something from me. “Atto…there is something… wrong with you.”
“What! Wrong with me? You must be kidding! I am so normal and healthy it kills me!” I pound my chest for emphasis.
“No, it’s your mind. Atto, there is something wrong with your mind. In medical terms…” I black out the rest of her sentence. “Atto, are you all right? I know this is a lot to take in.” She wraps her arms around my shoulders and starts to rub my back. “Honey, it’s nothing we can’t get through together.”
I shove her back, into the strong man, “NO! No!” I clutch my head. “You lie! YOU’RE… LYING… TO…ME!” I fall to the ground and curl up in the fetal position. The people from the show stare down at me. “GET AWAY!” I shriek, “ALL OF YOU!”
My mom bends down next to me. “Atto,” She whispers, “Calm down, this has gone on long enough. Daddy and I are taking you to the doctor.”
“The doctor is bad. He gave you The Needle. Dad doesn’t love you anymore. He told me when I asked him why he was kissing the contortionist.”
“I need to talk to your father!” We walk to the tent. Where am I? I am outside of the tent. Where is mom? She is in the tent. Where is dad? He is in the tent. What are mom and dad doing? Talking. I listen. “I cannot take this anymore. Does everyone know of your sexual escapades except me? Even Atto knows.”
“Look,” my father’s voice, “The kid’s a retard. He could be lying!”
“But he’s not, is he?” My mom asks.
“You won’t be with me anymore! You’re always busy taking care of the retard!”
“Don’t call him that! He is not a retard! He is your son! How can you even say that?”
“Is he my son?”
“What are you even talking about? How dare you change the subject! We are not discussing that now! We are talking about you and that contortionist!” I flinch at the recollection.
“Shh, do you hear that?” The tent flap behind me moves. My dad comes out of the tent and sees me. “Atto. How long have you been listening?”
“Long. Real long. Why did you keep calling me retard?”
“Atto, it’s me, mommy, do you recognize me?”
“Of course.” I reply. “You are my mom.”
“Atto, do you remember what I told you? When we were outside of the big top?”
“There is something wrong with me.”
“Yes. Your father and I are taking you somewhere. Somewhere you can get help for the something wrong with you.”
“I don’t need help! You lied to me because daddy doesn’t love you and you’re angry.”
My dad slaps me. “You son of a b****! We take care of you, you retard! Most kids your age are in college! I wanted you to take over the show! But no, you are ‘special’,” I flinch at the word, “You should be in the system! I never wanted you! You were an accident! A mistake!”
My mind clouds over. Accident… mistake child… my fault! Can’t breathe! Didn’t want! In the system! Retard! Pounding heart! Dirt on ground! Fell on dirt! Special! Failure! Son of b****! Muscles… can’t move! Most kids not special! Hideous heart, my ears explode. Pound, Pound, Thump, THUMP! It is the beating of my hideous heart! Not my fault! Not my fault! I’m not wrong with… I’m sorry dad.
I wake up in a hospital room, the whiteness is blinding. My mask! Where is my mask? “Mommy! My mask! Where… is… mask! HELP!” I start to thrash around in my hospital bed. Some nurses hold me down. A doctor pulls out The Needle. “NO! Not The Needle!” The doctor puts the needle in my skin. Why? Why?
I wake up in a white room. There is no furniture, save for the cushy padding on the walls, ceiling and floor. I can’t move my arms. “Mommy? Where are you? Help me mommy! Why did you leave me?” Tears, hot and wet, stream down my face. I stand and run headfirst into the wall. My head spins with pain. I do it again. I do it again. I stop. The wall is stained red. “Mommy, answer me! Please!” I do it again. And again. “Mommy! You left me! You left me here.” I start to lose consciousness. “Mommy?”
“When I wake up I am in a white room.”
“You mean your cell.” I nod. “Well Atto, we have to put you there. We can’t treat you unless you are here. You understand that, don’t you?” I nod. “Good. Now, what questions do you have for me?”
“Where is my mom? No, wait. That is irrelevant. Where is my mask? Where is my hat? Where is my wig?”
“All your things are in your house. You know that. Why are you so concerned about those things?”
“They hide my face. My hideous face.” I shudder.
“Atto, you have a perfectly normal face.”
“Don’t lie! I need my things!” He seems unfazed by my sudden outburst.
“Atto. Stop. You are normal. You need to stop with these obsessions.”
“If you knew about them, you wouldn’t laugh.”
“I’m not laughing. Tell me about these items. Why are they so important?”
“They were my grandfather’s things. He was the first person to take the stage name Atto Anormales. I am the second. The entire outfit is part of the persona.”
“Tell me about this persona. Why do you insist upon being Atto Anormales? Why can’t you be…”
I cut him off. “Don’t say that name. That is not me. I am Atto. Atto is the ringleader of the show. But, Atto can only be those who are pure of heart. That is why my father is not Atto. I am pure of heart. That is Atto. It is my mantle. My grandpa was special. I am special. My mommy and my daddy are not special. You are not special. That is why I am here. You are jealous.”
“And by special, you mean handicapped. Atto, this disease is nothing to be proud of. You are not here because I am jealous of how special you are. You are here because you are sick.”
“You are sick. You have a disease. You take medicine home with you. You swallow pills because your wife doesn’t love you.”
He slams his hands on the desk. He grabs my shirt. “YOU ARE SICK! HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT? HOW DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MY WIFE?”
“HELP! MOMMY! THE BAD MAN IS ATTACKING ME!”
He drops me and smoothes his hair down. “How did you know that, Atto?”
“I can’t tell. Why did you hit your son? He just wanted to know what you were doing.”
“What? How do you know about that?” He is shaking now. He looks scared.
“I want to leave this place. You will let me out. I know about Marissa. Why did you do that to her? That is why your wife doesn’t love you. She knows.”
He punches me, hard and straight across the face. He does it again. My face is bloody and raw. He keeps punching. I feel good. He hurts me because he is scared. His fear is because I am special. Atto is so special sometimes. He is so special it is scary.