Public School Day One

By , Fort Dix, NJ
I am walking down a long corridor with many lights and many doors, richly decorated. I could hear loud sound like the rushing of wind, or the crashing of waves on the rocks. Almost at the end of the corridor…”Max!”…light very bright…”Max!”I step out onto a balcony and hear the rushing turn into the cheering of many voices…”MAX!! GET UP ITS TIME TO GO TO SCHOOL!!” Crap! Goawaygetlostbeatit, I think fuzzily; trying desperately to go back to the dream. Much to my dismay I see it slowly fading away and the harsh light of reality and the morning replacing it in my mind.

“Time to go to school” I thought. “What a rotten day this will turn out to be” I muttered to myself as I eased out of bed. “Probably get shoved in a locker or pantsed in front of some really cool girl”. “That’s at the low end” I thought with a shudder; “what if I get the crap beat out of me or something.” I mean they all knew who I was. All the public school kids knew all the Christian school kids. We rode the same buses, lived in the same towns, our moms and dads knew each other and worked with each other. The only difference was that the Christian school kids had to dress a certain way, and act a certain way.

“Nothing like isolating us from our peer group” I gloomed as I turned on the shower and turned up the hot water. “I had always been pretty observant about how we were as Christian school kids, as opposed to public school kids. I often watched them with a mix of distaste and amazement; at one moment despising their actions, while at the same time envying there apparent abandonment of rules and structure. Unfortunately this attitude I had developed was not inherent to me. It had been transposed upon me by the dogma of my formative education in the private Christian school system. In short the Christian school kids were all looked upon as snobs with superiority complexes. As I stood under the hot water of the shower, I contemplated these matters. “Wonderful” I quipped under my breath; “I’m gonna get beaten up by the football team for being taught to be superior”.

I finished my shower, and toweled off. Walking back into my room, I saw the Mom had laid out my Day One clothes. Mom was pretty cool, and did a pretty good job with stuff like clothes. Acid wash jeans, high tops, black t-shirt, jeans jacket. I smiled appreciatively; “better than a tie and corduroy pants with button down shirt” I thought as I got dressed. As I walked down stairs, I heard the familiar broken glass grating tones of my younger sister as she berated Mom and Dad about money for after school.”

Sis was sick. Literally. I had started to see about a year ago when she started having manic episodes. I had read about manic depression in school and kind of saw the signs. I tried to tell Mom, but her one flaw was the same as the Presidents “plausible deniability”. I don’t want to hear it because I know it isn’t true was a favorite mantra of Moms. S’ok I thought. As long as someone knows Sis is loopy we can keep it under cover. Sis glared at me when I walked down the stairs, and stormed out of the house “I’m going over to Suzy’s before school” she yelled as she walked out. Suzy was Sis's very best friend and most likely the one sharing Sis’s already underdeveloped brain.

Mom looked at me and shook her head in exasperation; I just shrugged and sat down at the table across from Dad. “Dad you look terrible” I thought as I looked at him. Only 45 years old and already looking like a man of 50. Dad looked like he had had a rough night. His eyes were bloodshot, hair unkept, a bit wobbly as he drank his morning “coffee “. Dad’s coffee usually had a couple of shots of whiskey in it to help start the day. Dad looked at me…well more like looked through me. He and I had never connected. He was a worker, a carpenter by trade. Me? I had always been a thinker, a reader, an art student. Dad’s brain didn’t go that way so I wonder sometimes if he even knew I was there, and if he did know, did he even care?

Mom came over to the table and set my breakfast down in front of me. Breakfast this morning was a bowl of oatmeal, a fresh orange, and water. Breakfast based on my demands, not Moms. You see I had a bit of a weight problem growing up and only just recently had I managed to lose all of my baby fat. A lot of that had been hard work and exercise, the rest was eating like a bird, and sometimes throwing up what I had eaten. “Whatever it takes” I thought as I looked at my breakfast, picked up my spoon and started mechanically shoveling in oatmeal.
Mom lit up a cigarette and asked “so how are you feeling about today?” “Like I’m walking down Death Row” I droned half sarcastically, half truthfully. Mom knew I wasn’t cool with going to the public school. Even if I had been an outcast in the Christian school because of my weight and my overall “nerdiness” at least I was part of something; at least that’s how it had felt to me. Mom and dad’s decision to send me to the public school had been based solely on money. We weren’t even what people would call middle class in terms of worldly goods and comfort, and private school education is pretty expensive. Mom and Dad had been talking about moving us to public school all last year and had told us at the beginning of the summer that I would be starting 9th grade in the public school. I remember almost going fetal with terror. It had taken a lot of pep talks and counseling with our minister to come to terms with this transition.

“Oh it won’t be that bad” Mon said in her typically dismissive manner; as if she already knew this based on facts and testimony. I didn’t say anything. No point in arguing with Mom, especially with Dad around. He had a tendency to lash out first and ask questions later. Real peach of a guy my Dad. I finished my breakfast and looked at Mom and Dad “I have to catch the bus” I told them “If I’m not on the bus coming home, call the cops and have them bring a cadaver dog to the school”. Dad chuckled at that. Funny thing…for being such a bastard sometimes, Dad could be pretty cool and had a hell of a sense of humor.

“People are so twisted” I thought as I walked out the door. When I was out of sight of the house I lit up my first cigarette of the day. Nasty little habit I picked up during drivers training with the public school kids. I considered it a diversionary tactic to assist me with blending in. If they saw that I smoked, especially being “one of the Christian school kids” then maybe they would see that as being rebellious. Not sure why I hid this from Mom and Dad. They both smoked. “I Guess it must be one of those awkward teenager things” I surmised as I approached the bus stop.

As I stood at the bus stop I didn’t talk to anyone. I was never much of a talker, except with Mom. In fact I didn’t really like talking to people. I always kind of felt stupid and unraveled when I talked; like my words didn’t make any sense when they came out of my mouth. Mom said it was ok, lots of great writers and artists were very backward, lacking in social graces, and felt isolated from other people. “Great job Mom!” I thought as I stamped out my smoke. “I’m going to be rich and famous because of how great I can write, “but no one will ever be able to talk to me because I’m a complete idiot when it comes to being social.

I could see the bus coming in the distance and my sense of dread became even more intense. I started to sweat a bit, and my heart was pounding “Now I know why great thinkers are usually alcoholics and drug addicts” I thought as the bus pulled up. I got on the bus and peered out over the seemingly mindless mass of humanity crammed into this ridiculous metal box. Several looked at me, some with disdain, and some with outright loathing.

“At least they see me” I thought as I looked back at them with a just less than challenging stare. “The others might as well be ghosts or shadows.” As the bus pulled away from the bus stop and headed out of town, I could see my house in the distance. I knew my Mom would be standing on the porch, and Dad would be leaving for work. I would probably see Sis as school, but she would barely acknowledge me as she had for most of the time we had spent together on this Earth.

As I found an empty seat I felt a terrible sense of foreboding as it finally hit me. I was going to a brand new school where I didn’t know anyone. The rules were different. Accepted behavior was far outside the safe realms I had been brought up to follow. Even the teachers would be different. No longer would I be in a place where even if I had felt unaccepted, at least I was part of something. The place I was going to seemed more like a prison; a place where no one wanted to go and everyone was happy to leave from.

As we proceeded towards the public prisonhighschooldungeondeathrow place I could hear one of the public school kids “boom boxes” playing “just another brick in the wall.” “How appropriate” I thought “at this rate, I will have a wall built around me so high they can see it from space”.

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