I’m not nor have I ever been, shall we say, a “miscreant” or a “punk” type child, the type of kid who disrespects authority and flouts society’s rules for the sheer thrill of fucking shit up—I never thought of myself that way at least. Most of the time, I didn’t purposefully and maliciously wreak havoc. I didn’t wear a leather jacket or address my teachers as “teach”. Nevertheless, I was suspended three or four times in high school for offenses which include: assaulting a fellow student, threatening to murder my math teacher, and, you know, backtalk.
The first time I was suspended was in sixth grade. I was placed in a lunch period in which I didn’t know anyone (It was difficult for me to make friends, you see, because of the whole thing where I was an awkward asshole). For awhile, I wandered the cafeteria after getting my food before finally sitting down with a group of underachievers in the corner. There was a big hulking kid named Andy, a rat faced kid, and a freckly kid named Brian who’d scratched my arms bloody a couple years earlier. They were discussing how the school would respond if they were to set the courtyard on fire using a flamethrower. I had nothing to contribute. As the conversation went on, a pall of anxiety descended over me because I wanted to make friends, but could not formulate a way to enter the conversation. Then the chubby kid left to go to the bathroom.
“Look,” I said, reaching across the table. “I’m going to take two of his fries.”
“Do it!” they said.
“I’m doing it.”
“Yeah!” they said. “Do it!”
“I’m grabbing some fries.”
“He’ll never notice.”
“Here it goes…”
“Yes! Yes! Grab it quick!”
I took two fries off his tray and gobbled them. A few moments later, Andy returned to his seat. Immediately, someone said, “Brad took two of your fries.”
“Oh yeah?” he said. “Well, I guess the only way we can make things equal is if I take two of your nuggets.”
“That’s not equal,” I said. “Nuggets are not equal to fries.”
“You had two things and I’m having two things. That’s fair and square.”
“It’s fair and square,” said one of his friends.
“Don’t take my nuggets. That’s not fair and square. You better not do that.”
What I couldn’t articulate at the time was that I weighed approximately sixty pounds and needed the precious nugget calories to sustain me through the rest of the school day. Without them, I would experience uncomfortable stomach grumbling and enervation.
“Too bad,” he said, and snatched a nugget off my tray. He inserted it into his mouth with theatrical slowness as I said, “Don’t. Don’t do it. You better not. Don’t!” Then it descended into his dark maw and was lost forever. In that instant, my fragile psyche snapped, and my brain’s executive function packed its bags and left. I stood up—with the intense disconcerting calm of the clinical psychopath—crossed around behind Andy, and then began kicking him in the ass as hard as I possibly could. I pictured my foot plunging through his ass, into his guts, and bursting out his belly wreathed in coils of intestine. I kicked and kicked and kicked, and didn’t stop until a teacher pried me away like a rabid dog. Andy never made a sound other than a puzzled “Oh?” He just sat there the whole time, patiently waiting for me to stop my assault. I was (am) as weak as a small child with Progeria.
For this attack, administrators sentenced me to three days of ISS (in-school suspension), which means they placed me in a small dimly lit classroom for the entirety of the school day. Occasionally, a teacher would drop off worksheets or handouts, but without all the time spent on lectures and educational activities, a day’s worth of schoolwork could be knocked out in little over an hour, leaving me in a state of mind numbing boredom for the remainder of the day. Not only were we not allowed to talk, we were also not allowed to turn around or stand up from our desks which they had sectioned off from each other using six foot tall wooden panels. (They must have assumed that if we turned around, we would stand up, and if we stood up, the next logical step would be gouging the teacher’s eyes out with our number 2 pencils.)
We were deemed too dangerous to eat lunch with our classmates in gen pop, so the teacher waited until the last lunch period had ended before leading us out—single file, silent, and under close scrutiny at all times—into the cafeteria. There, the lunch ladies gave each of us the stink eye as they placed corn dogs and macaroni onto our trays. They knew who we were, after all. Afterward, we took our food back to the ISS classroom where we dined under the harsh buzz of fluorescent lights. We were not allowed to eat with each other, perhaps because we might slit each other’s throats with the plastic silverware. We were not allowed to do anything “suspicious” with the food. Above all, we were not allowed to play Gameboy.
The teacher was an obese middle aged lady who spent the days checking and rechecking her e-mails. A boom box on her desk played relaxing Enyafied covers of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. When she spoke, she used a soft comforting voice like a preschool teacher, as if a single harsh enunciation might trigger an eruption of the old ultraviolence. Looking back, I feel a little sorry for her, this poor woman who faced terrifying new brands of behaviorally fucked adolescents on a daily basis, who dared to stand on that perilous brink between order and anarchy.
One day, a kid grabbed his backpack and started for the door.
“What are you doing?” asked the teacher.
“Fuck this. I’m heading back to my house.”
“You can’t do that. It’s only 1:15.”
“I don’t feel good, okay? I wanna go home.”
“You’re fine. Sit down.”
“No, I don’t feel good!”
The kid shoved his fingers down his throat, gagged, and then puked on the floor. “You dumb bitch!” he shouted.
Without flinching, the teacher grabbed the kid by the arm and took him swiftly from the room. Now, it was just us delinquent children and a puddle of smelly puke on the carpet. We looked at each other, trying to gauge how to react to what just happened. This was the first time we’d been left unsupervised, the first time we had the opportunity to talk to each other.
“Maybe…” said one kid, “Maybe we should all start puking.”
‘Oh God,’ I thought. ‘I’m one of these people.’