I remember walking home from school one day, and I saw this kid. A kid– not a typical high school teenager walking with swag and backpack on, but a different type of teenager. He was shuffling, to God knows where, with glasses all the way down to the tip of his nose, with his humongous backpack hanging from one arm. Just shuffling like a penguin. And as he shuffled past me, my eyes followed him.
As my eyes followed him, I thought. What if I were him? What if I had that same ignorance of how people viewed me as weird and different? Wouldn’t I be free? Wouldn’t I be unrestrained by the chains of society? So I looked on as he shuffled with a mix of admiration and envy.
But then I remembered. I remembered how when I was little, I was weird, hyper, and uncaring. I remember that kid, when he first went into that restroom, how he pulled down his pants all the way to his shoes at the urinal, and how all the little classmate boys would laugh at him. And he would stare at them with questioning eyes and wonder what was wrong. And when he saw what the other big boys were doing, he copied them, but he never felt no shame for what he did.
That kid, who would always joke around in class, even during the tests. The more the teacher said hush, the louder he talked and the funnier he joked. All to impress a girl next to him. I can’t believe I was already falling for girls since kindergarten.
That kid, who thought everybody laughed with him, but in reality they laughed at him. That he was the class clown. But he never knew. He thought, why, the whole school is my friend! That kid, who wet his pants in kindergarten, first, and second grade, three years in a row. The weird kid who pees his own pants. But he never thought his friend would think him no wrong. That kid, just a Charlie. Even the teacher suggested to his parents he go to special ed.
But like Charlie, he matured. It was just a late maturity. And he realized that it’s a cruel world out there. That all his friends weren’t real friends. His innocent outlook at life gave way to a mistrust. The fact is, people are two-faced. One day he’s your best buddy; the next day he’s gonna backstab you.
But like what? This guy was just in 2nd grade. He didn’t care much; all he wanted to do was play and have fun.
Fast forward to middle school, and you know what I see? A suddenly transformed student, working hard on all his classwork, acing all his tests, making a name for himself. No more class clown. This kid’s a genius, they all say. The top of the top. Dam, he’s got potential, he’s got future. And the kid bought into it, and he smiled. Outside, he didn’t say much, but inside, he was bathing in praise.
But in return for that praise he got no friends. Except for one. He was a golfer, and he was in the grade higher. And everyday after school, that kid would meet with him in an underground classroom and all alone, just the two of them, would philosophize. About chess, math, life, speech, everything there was to know. It was Plato and Aristotle once again, in the streets of Greece, singing hymns of wisdom to each other. And it was in these hymns that the little kid started thinking ever more ferociously and ever more actively.
From that thinking, the kid gained an outlook on life– that the meaning of life was to pursue intellectual wisdom. So he climbed that ladder, and up and up he went, and right when he was about to reach the top, he realized he was a fool the whole time. And his hands slipped, and he fell all the way down.
To a hole. A hole in his heart. I see a kid, sitting there, near a dumpster late during the day, eating his own sandwich, just staring at the trash around him. Sometimes, it rained, and if so, he would look up at the rain and feel it meander down his own face like the blood from his heart. And he’d watch how the sun was covered up by those dark, gray clouds. But no matter. In his eyes, the sun was gray, too.
I see a human being drowning in the water of his own mind, in a sea of alcohol he was drunk on. I see a kid, walking alone in the dark, the passing cars shining their lights on him and then disappearing, and how the kid looked up at the sky for stars. But there were no stars.
I see the kid, trying out for track team. He sees all his teammates jump high, lift weights, throw heavy balls, sprint, do anything. And all the kid can do is just stare. He can’t even lift the bar. He can’t even throw the ball. He can’t jump shit. He can’t do nothing. Pathetic. Hopeless.
And that kid was dying. He was succumbing to this cancer inside, that was feeding itself over and over and over. And the only ailment he found was the pen.
And so I looked at the shuffling kid, shuffling across the traffic light. And that kid got run over by a car. Maybe I dream, but I know it’s truth. Cuz I saw that bloodied body somewhere, arms torn up, legs cut off, brain smashed, heart gone. Yes, I’ve met that kid somewhere. I’ve met that kid.