Each day was non-descript, sitting with a back to the elementary school’s brick wall staring down at the patchy yard with a mix of grass, weeds, and an occasional ant hill. Noise surrounded the child but he couldn’t differentiate the sounds of the makeshift football game being played near the long strip of land along the baseball fields or the girls lining up near the sizable playground pointing, laughing. Instead of trying to make conversation or offer a pair of fast legs and sure hands for the football game, he sat not knowing whether to chance getting blank stares from the wonderment of this lanky kid trying to fit in.
They knew he was different, that’s all that mattered. Words did not come out with a rolling Minnesotan accent but rather choppy and sometimes pronounce differently then found in a Webster’s dictionary. If you tried to say hi from behind he would ignore you instead of realizing the dark brown haired kid with the powder blue H and D Video baseball jersey couldn’t hear. Sure those strange adults from the Special Ed room came into the class once in a while between spelling and math lessons to educate them on how to deal with the shy kid in the front of the class.
Deal. Embarrass. Class Pet. Target.
Teachers would wear hearing devices around their necks and play tapes of muffled sounds and invite the classmates to visit his cave, his disability, and his attempts to fit in. But all it did was paint the target in fluorescent yellow and drive his back further into that brick wall. Many recess periods were spent feeling empty and counting down the minutes to being able to hop that last ball field fence to his house which lay adjacent and within eye sight of the school.
Home. Warm. Caring. Understanding.
Home was getting scrambled eggs with Bacos and Mickey Mouse shaped waffles with melted chocolate chips. Not this place of learning that twisted his very existence into some Quasimodo to be poked at until he finally gave up on seeking friendship and sunk into books and any kind of athletic competition that didn’t require a second participant. Sure after school when he took the hill on the baseball teams or one-timed a game winning goal while on the ice, the temporary friendships were as strong as Britney Spears’ grip on reality. Never invited back to someone’s house for some Atari 2600 action or thumbing through a secret copy of Playboy that someone found in dad’s underwear drawer.
Some people played sports for the thrill of victory or to get in shape. He played so he could feel like he belonged even it was only for three periods or nine innings. Almost like a barfly saddling up to his seat for a night of conversation at the cost of the beer, he would strap on the shin pads and helmet for a night away from the insults, the hurt. Sure, his supposed aloofness didn’t allow him to fully enjoy sports, there were embarrassing moment when a coach’s direction caught nothing but air, but it was more comforting then that school yard brick wall. (to be continued)