I may have been a bit younger than I was in this place, but not much, when both of my parents decided to come into the bathroom where I was having my evening bath. “We have something to tell you,” They both said. “Santa Claus is not real. The footprints on the hearth? They were made with your baby shoes and soot from the fire place. Dad dresses up as Santa Claus. There is no real Santa Claus.” And that was that. They got up and walked out of the bathroom, leaving me to finish my bath, alone, naked, confused, and just a little bit wiser.
My father taught me about sex ed. He walked into my room one night after I had gone to bed. He brought a book. He tried mumbling through some stats and figures and charts but in essence handed me the book to read. Then he told me how to masturbate. I may have been a bit older than I was in this place, but not much. He got up and walked out of my bedroom, leaving me alone, confused, and just a little bit wiser.
But my real molting process began when I found myself in the epicenter – the very focus – of a massive psychological experiment called bullying. I was cast aside from regular society, singled out and unable to fit into any neat description. Thus, I became prey for bullies and they were hungry. There was the bicycle gang, a group of about four high school students that would patrol the streets after school, waiting for me to come walking along. I was proud of myself in relation to this group because after awhile I was able to outrun them riding their bikes. I had no option because to not outrun them only meant that I would be run over by them.
Then there was that short red-headed kid who had a mean streak like no other. He was the one who forced me to eat his scab and then choked me until I passed out. He was about a foot or more shorter than me and I could probably have over-powered him but he was constantly surrounded by around six other boys who were most definitely bigger than me. I realized that they served this red-headed master and took great joy lobbing me back into the center of his ego ring, ready to go another few rounds on my head and my body. My strategy here was to become an expert at covert camouflage, utilizing the secrets of the swamp and marsh in order to facilitate my escape.
But, my undoing, my arch-nemesis was an unnamed person. In fact, what made it so weird was that he and the other two boys had never met me before. They had no idea who I was, except, on this particular day, they got caught up in mob mentality and had the honors of finishing me off. It was a sunny, beautiful day, not unlike most of them in this place when the school bell rang and I gathered my bag and set off for my walk home. I walked through the front parking lot of my school and turned onto the residential street that headed up a short hill and onward to my house. I lived about a thirty minute walk from the school, mostly walking through residential neighborhoods and it was pretty much a straight line, except for this hill.
As I started walking up the street to the bottom of this hill I glanced ahead and stopped in my tracks. At the top of the hill was a growing mob of kids. There may have started with around ten of them but it quickly grew to around thirty. Everything in me shouted out to run from this situation. Perhaps it was my intuition, built upon the numerous beatings I had already received, but it was as if I could smell blood on their hands as the hungry mob began to get more and more restless, staring down at me with this gleeful growl erupting from their lips. I had no idea how I knew but I knew that I was on the menu so I turned and ran down a different street, away from the hill and away from this mob.
When I got to the end of that block it intersected another street that went up the same hill, just further south from the first hill. I paused and began to wonder if I was over sensationalizing all of this. “Of course they are not after me! How silly to think so.” Rationalizing that I was just paranoid I turned and began walking up the street to the bottom of this new hill. Slowly, from the top of the hill I noticed a small gathering of kids once again emerging. Then it grew and grew some more. It would seem that it took this mob a bit longer to make it to this street then it took me but there was no mistaking that it was the same mob and I was most definitely their target.
Now I was scared and I turned and ran south again, except this time I used the speed that I used before to get rid of those bikers. I ran past street and block and street and block until I was just on the outside of the downtown core. I stopped to catch my breath at a convenience store, looking around for anyone that may have been able to keep up with me. I saw a group of high-school students on bikes standing around not noticing this little kid standing close by, severely out of breath. I went up to them and with tears in my eyes I explained my situation through gasping breath, pleading for their help. To my surprise they offered to help me. They were going to escort me through this mob and onward to my home.
Being renewed in the human spirit I composed myself, gathered my bag, and set out walking beside them as they were on their bikes. We walked back those several blocks that I had just ran down but there was no-one around. I had assumed that the mob had given up their search for me and disbanded. It turned out that this was the case, with the exception of a group of boys that were standing around when I turned the corner with these high-schoolers in tow. Those group of boys looked at me, trying to figure out if I were the one the mob had been searching for. Determining that to be they came up to me just as the highschoolers rode off on their bikes. As their beating began I did not know if those high-schoolers were in on it all along or if they just couldn’t be bothered when push came to shove. I decided it was the latter. When the boys were done with their beating they turned and left, leaving me dirty, bloodied, bruised, battered, and just a little bit wiser.