New Memoir Tuesday.
This weeks challenge: Imagine you are meeting someone for the first time. You want to tell them about yourself. Instead of reciting a laundry list of what you do or where you’re from, please give us a scene from your life that best illustrates your true self.This is an exercise in showing, not telling. You need to show us why this particular moment defines you, or why you want someone to know this truth about you. Be descriptive without bogging us down in extraneous details.
This classroom set up like an amphitheatre always smells like sunlight. I take deep breaths readying myself to read my short story aloud. I’m nervous because this story is based around a boy who gets picked on a great deal.
“His hair always looks matted down, as if he washed it and went to sleep on it while it was still wet. His clothes fit him badly, the brown polyester pants too short and the blue striped velour shirt often shows his stomach. He carries a blue book bag he probably got free, it’s one of those that’s shaped like a sports bag and has some unheard of name brand painted on its side.”
In my peripheral vision I see a couple of my classmates shift to glance at each other as the dime begins to drop.
“He smells odd, like unwashed clothes and baby food. He shuffles along looking at his feet or at the feet of others. He always has a smile ready on his face, wanting words, wanting company. He seems to have a reserve for happiness, like good fortune is just waiting around for him around the corner. I wish I had the courage to talk to him, to be his friend, but I’m really a weak person and I don’t know how to begin.”
This admission brings new focus and the room is now uncomfortably still making my throat dry and my eyes wet.
“David is mentally retarded. He’s stuck in that uncomfortable range of not quite being able to fit in either realm. He comes to school and understands, he knows what people are saying and he can grasp meaning. Yet, he is slower than most and his speech is thick-tongued and slow.”
Seattle is a hotbed of political correctness, but even this hyper socially aware environment cannot tame the wilds of High School hallways. Cruelty flows down the corridors too easily for my liking and I am using this moment to stand against the tide.
“I noticed one day as I was walking behind David that he always cringes away from a pair of blonde boys. They look like the sports type. I wondered what they could have done to make him permanently afraid. I didn’t have to wait long. On the way to Chemistry I heard two voices yelling out, “You’re gay, you goddamned faggot! Gay!” As I rounded the corner I saw David huddled against the wall with the two boys yelling in his face. David pulled himself along the wall as if it would give him security. I was sure it was the only thing holding him up and I noticed that David hadn’t stopped smiling despite the tears that rested in his eyes.”
This is a spectacle that happens nearly everyday. Many of my classmates are finding it hard to look at me or at each other.
“Me who thinks I can save the world. What did I do? Nothing. I just looked at my shoes and kept walking. I am just like the rest if not worse.”
Worse because seeing that someone needs help and not doing anything about it is cruelty in itself. Now, in front of thirty of my classmates, all of whom know exactly who and what I am talking about, I feel the actual power of words as they flow unwanted but undeniable from my mouth to the ears of those forced to listen. Today, my writing made a difference. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll be brave enough to be David’s friend.
For those who are curious. The excerpts are from an actual story I wrote for AP English. Yes, that’s right, I still have my high school stories.