and it was nice.
I write this personal blog, I claim honesty.
And yet I hold back.
Not about my trans ex turned wife and the mother of a scary-delightful roller coaster that her transition has been.
I hold back about my personal shit. Say, the other relationship that is the most fortified citadel I’ve entered yet. It’s awesome on the inside because I feel so safe and at home. It’s a mindfuck on the outside because those walls are a damn high climb, makes my neck hurt just looking up to gauge the road ahead.
But cool things emerge. Like stories I’d forgotten.
Like this one:
Did I ever tell you about the most magical room in a row of mostly empty rooms encased in cinderblock?
It all starts with a boy named Raymond White. Raymond was the first emotionally and intellectually challenged individual I knew.
I don’t remember our handful of conversations. I could say they revolved around asking him to join a game of “Red Rover” or what he found at the end of the enormous flat field that was the entire backside of the school, as the area that butted up against backyards of single-family homes always had an air of creepiness and I expected to find dead birds among the fallen and rotting branches. Or perhaps we talked about our daisy-chain necklaces. Maybe we debated how high we could swing before jumping off without injury. But all of these are romanticised and contrived memories.
What was real: Raymond had beautiful and piercing slate blue eyes, awesome, thick-soled velcro sneakers in a matching shade and a penchant for wearing ill-fitting khaki pants (maybe this last point is better attributed to his mother but not the shoes; he loved the shit out of those velcro sneaks). He was taller than most and his straight, sandy-brown hair was always cropped close to his largish head. He had trouble meeting my eyes directly and he spit a lot. This tendency towards drooling made him definitively unattractive and put me off, which then made me feel guilty because even though no teacher said anything explicitly about his CONDITION (maybe we say autism today, maybe not) I– everyone– knew Raymond was different and NOT to be made fun of. But everyone except two girls made fun of him behind his back, even at this Montessori school where mutual respect was the goldenest of golden rules. Because even at Montessori popularity was revered and if you felt the popularity leader might turn on you, Raymond was a most reliable and accepted scapegoat.
Towards what will have been the end of my acquaintance with him, Raymond started carrying a stick almost as tall as him, All. The. Time. It wasn’t necessarily the big stick that was alarming as much as Raymond’s attachment to it. When he started to wield it as a weapon and lunge at people, fear and latent disgust happily manifested into righteous anger. Even my teacher got on board, whom I had thought was the coolest woman ever. Granted, there was an incident involving biting her hand but— seeing such hellfire hatred in her eyes scared and disappointed a nine-year-old me. I overheard her talking about her inability to handle Raymond anymore and that scathing tone, the one that reduced him to less than nothing more than explicit, nasty names ever could, shocked and silenced me and I never could open up my small heart to her again. She scared me in a more permanent way than Raymond coming at me with his stick 100 times over ever could.
You said, YOU said, he can’t help it.
That teacher never looked back at him.
Not very long after the biting incident, Raymond was absent for some weeks. There were wonderings about his whereabouts but children are adaptable and easily distracted.
I don’t know how many months passed but one day, I see a new teacher with the kindest face, one of the top-ten kindest I’ve seen to this day. She leads a class— and there was Raymond! in the field. The students look so free, spinning with arms extended, their heads thrown back to catch as much of the sun’s rays. I can’t help but feel their grass is much greener than ours because as much as I love spelling tests and grammar and Pythagoras (geeky truths), I have never fallen into the freedom spin that I witness in this blue doorway looking out.
As more days pass and curiosity about the new group of students and our familiar Raymond remains unabatable, there is finally an opportunity to openly study their school lives, which seem so different and more magical compared to ours.
And Jesus Christ did I underestimate just how fucking rainbows and unicorns a school experience can be. The door to their magicland is identical to every other ugly blue door along the cinderblock corridor. But as soon as I walk in, I am transported. The room is so FULL. Of colour, movement, animals(!), educational decor that is more cool than cliché and energy, an awesome, positive energy that pulls a huge smile from the corners of my mouth. It is heavenly. There are birds flying around, for fuck’s sake and I don’t mind them. (I’m terrified of birds, by the way.)
There’s no way I could concentrate as well as these students in such a fun environment. It makes me want to hula hoop and even though there aren’t any in sight, I know I’d be able to locate one somewhere in this room. That they can focus amidst all the active and dormant activity surrounding them is a testament that they are in the exact right place whereas this is a mini-vacation for me, not where I belong.
I exhale huge, relieved.
Not because I’m positive I don’t belong here (that makes me sad, actually, because this world opens infinite imagination potential) but because Raymond is in a GREAT place, a warmer, safer place that gets him.
It’s the first time that I understand annoying clichés about silver linings and everything happening for a reason. Those expressions rarely occupy a spot in my mind but it occupies the same thought cloud as my current line of thinking: sometimes we wear out relationships with those who can’t handle us so we can get to the people who can.
Or something like that.