Saturday, June 18

The Small Deaths That Kill Us

I don’t like talking about this. Very few know about it, and fewer still understand it. I suffer from depression. And I mean really suffer. But not as much as my wife. I can be the prick of the universe without medication. With it, my chemical instability is under control, my life is normal, and I’m actually a pretty nice guy.

Recently, due to a pissing contest between my doctor and the insurance company, I was rationing my meds. I started by taking them every other day, then every third day, then went without for about a week. In the bewildering grey funk that inevitably follows, I thought about when I first saw the beginnings of my disease. I think I’ve found the exact instant.

My parents introduced me to reading, the best gift I ever got, and supported my voracious appetite for books. I read Peter Pan, The Runaway Robot, Charlotte’s Web. My basically sweet nature made me susceptible to anything adventurous, mysterious, and exciting. I was a naïve and hopeless romantic. (Not in the love sense, but in the swashbuckling, heroic, neato environment way. I still am.)

In the fifth grade, my teacher introduced us to Shakespeare. It was love at first read. We put on plays for the school and our parents, and I found I had an aptitude for the dramatic. I always got the lead, I trend that continued until I gave up the boards in my later youth.

My leading lady was S. She was a year older, just blossoming into womanhood. She was tall. She was gawky. She was smart. She played the piano. My eleven year-old heart was smitten. She played Kate to my Petruchio in our elementary presentation of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

At the end of the year, as young boys are wont, I had to tell her of my feelings. I wrote a note, with painstaking attention to words. It went something like: “Dear S, I really like you. I had fun acting with you. I wish we could be boyfriend and girlfriend. Do you feel the same way? Love, Petruchio”

About thirty minutes before the bell on the last day of school, I met her on the playground. I sheepishly handed her the note, saying “This is for you,” and ran away. Recess was over, and I went back to my 5th grade room with my classmates, most of whom I had known almost all my life.

Ten minutes before the final bell, a 6th grader came in and said “Mrs. Chambers wants to talk to you. (In this instance, I use Mrs. Chambers real name, because if you meet her in Hell, I hope you’ll give her an extra eye gouge.) My teacher dismissed me, and I walked over to the scary hallowed Room of the Sixth Graders.

I immediately went numb. The kids were all looking at me and snickering. Standing like the left hand of righteousness was Mrs. Chambers, MY NOTE IN HER HAND. She looked at me with…what? Disdain? Glee? Arrogance? With three words, she forever shattered my world:

“She says no.” The class erupted in vicious laughter.

I learned years later that S, the object of my affection, carried that moment with her as well. Someone had grabbed the note as she was reading it, and gave it to the teacher. She was mortified.

I can’t begin to explain how I felt as my face burned, trying to hold back the tears, as I ran back to my classroom, the kids asking what happened, the teacher asking if I was okay. Humiliation doesn’t come close. Nor does terror. All I know is that, like Darth Vader, I had started my first step to hating the world, distrusting everything and everyone. I lit the first coal that burns against the world, with the intensity of a thousand suns, that I still carry deep in my breast. I learned and important lesson that day: There is nothing the world loves more than the sweet taste of a romantic’s dreams.

I sit here alone in a bar now while I write this. As I regain my sanity, thanks to my doctor, I think I understand myself a little better.

But some scars never heal.


test said...

OMG Kingfisher. That was amazing, heartbreaking, infuriating, what can I say????

I feel priviledged and honored to read your story. What an eloquent writer you are. You obviously have many gifts.

That teacher was a bitch! She had abso-fucking-lutely no right to do what she did, but I know you know that. I am sorry you had to experience that.

Weirdly enough, I had a sort of similar experience, as I was QUITE boy crazy. I was taller than all the kids and I used to chase the boys down, kiss them and run away. My 2nd grade teacher scolded me in front of the class saying "now, now, we know you like the boys, but it's not appropriate to chase them and kiss them." I wasn't as affected as you were from your experience, because I kept at it for awhile. I was socially retarded.

Anyhoo, sorry I went back to me.

Like I said, I enjoyed this moving post.

Thank you KF.

Kingfisher said...

Sorry, couldn't bring you a giggle today. Didn't feel like it.

Thank you for the kind words.

Bebti said...

Somewhere around the age of Mrs. Chambers class (yes, I had her too) the innocence of my young, poetic heart was irrepairably damaged by the unspeakable horrors of real life. I still to this day find it extremely difficult to comprehend why people have to be so mean to each other. Why does one person take so much pleasure in shattering the life of another?

There is a story my mother once told me of when I was young that I think sums up my views on this...

When I was still in single digits, my family went to a Star Trek convention (I know, geek). During the presentation, the actors kept making fun of another sci-fi show which, at the time, was my favorite. They kept degrading it, trying to pump up their show as the best. My mother turned to me and saw the tears rolling down my face, and she realized that I didn't understand why people had to be so cruel...

I think that was the day my innocence was lost.

test said...

Kingfisher, no worries. I see now that anything you post is of value and I will enjoy reading it; for giggles or enlightenment.

BTW, I have always thought your Mom is awesome. She's a cool lady, though I don't think she thought much of me. ;)

jazz bird said...

Wow, what a moving post.

It just kills me that any adult could be so cruel to anyone, much less to an impressionable kid. When I was teaching, it never would have even remotely occurred to me to do anything of that nature. I can only imagine the bitterness that lived within that woman.

I understand the depression battle. Sounds like you've got a hold of it- good for you. Sometimes it's hard to see the the storm when you're in the eye of it.

Mom said...

I remember the Mrs. Chambers thing and also the Star Trek Convention thing mentioned by Bebti. It's too bad that children have to grow up to understand adults in this fashion...but we all do.

It breaks a mother's heart when these things happen to her children. Sometimes we can help...sometimes not...sometimes we should butt out.

Sensitive children like you (and myself as a child) are the most susceptible to lasting damage. In my case most of my damage came from a parent...I'll let you guess which one...and it continues to this day.

Try to put the blame where it goes...directly on the stupid, cruel adults with very low self-esteem. It helps some.