I was winded on the last lap, and playground sand is always that beige and powdery substrate which records a shoe-print when you, yourself, don’t want to even record your presence at school. At all. Billy punched me in the back of the neck, I remember, when rounding past the backstop where the hopscotch squares were less than swept. The number ‘two’ was covered in stray sand. Jimmy–he slapped Billy upside the head–and shoved him fierce. Jimmy wasn’t my friend but he hit Billy a second time and said: ‘We don’t pick on him anymore.” My neck meanwhile hurt.
I had made a speech in class. The line I remember–the only one I remember saying–was “I hear you when you make fun of the way I walk.” Mrs. Heath smiled for a brief second at the back of the room, and then she looked away and wiped her eye as if she were correcting her make-up. Rumor was she smoked, and she was always doused in ‘Wind-song’ which is that really awful perfume which has its base note in ylang-ylang, that thing I still don’t know how to pronounce. She used to secretly channel me books because she knew I would and very much use them.
One time Billy called me a ‘fag’, and I unexpectedly shoved his head into the drinking fountain. He pushed me, wanting a fight.
I have a certain scoliosis which is why I perhaps walk funny; some have called it cool,me having something of a gambol; others have illogically said: ‘wow you have good posture.’ Truth is, and as my chiropractor has remarked, “If you were a pitch , Man, you’d be a curveball.”
I walk, think, and talk funny. I say every curse word with sibilance. I also and accidentally walk like I’m looking to be remembered. You’d be surprised: it earns me my detractors, but also the otherwise. Not something I’ve exactly wanted or aspired toward–this ambivalence-and it’d be much easier to just be the same as everybody else. End-all, though, I’m me.
Billy, he hit me square in the chest. I stared him down. He kept calling me ‘fag’, an impotent word. He hit me in the chest-bone, twice, because I made the mistake of cracking his forehead against the drinking faucet exactly once. He deserved it.
I didn’t raise a fist and what wasn’t a fight was broken up and Mr. Stovall, my seventh grade teacher, put Billy in a corner–perhaps roughly–and told him to, frankly, just stop it. Like Jimmy did later when and after I got punched. A punch in the back of the neck, no less, that punch just something dumb. I only wanted it to stop. Leave me alone, please.
Jimmy told Billy: ‘Leave him alone’, and then he patted me on the back. He was not my friend.
I told my friend Janet today: I like words like ‘dumb.’ ‘Dumb’ is a good word in that it requires your tongue to be thick. Sometimes words are powerful when they’re not specific, when they’re thickish or dull, and when they’re the first epithets you learned, like back in kindergarten.
Sometimes I get in trouble for words, usually when I’m being too specific or otherwise way inaccessible; also when I use words to apologize for other words I just used. Exact words are a ‘thing’ for me. There are all these arguments about how and why you should write, and who for.
What words–that’s a big argument–what words should you use.
Billy shoved me. He kept calling me a ‘fag.’ It inspired nothing in me and I didn’t raise a fist.
My kid had is IEP recently and the school nurse copied to his report this thing our physician penned upon Finn’s birth: “Born with the stigmata of Down Syndrome.”
And because I am madly in love with my kid in a way that I still have not properly expressed, and in ways which people just don’t know; where I have failed as a writer when other people write books and say beautiful and copyrighted things, I got angry. ‘Stigmata’ is not the right word, though it exists in medical dictionaries as a technically exact one.
I ended a social media post toward the nurse with: ‘you solecistic shit’, (since deleted) a combination of both an exact and an inexact word and where Billy could probably have hit me in the chest again, just above the heart, saying: ‘You dumb dummy.’Dumb dummy, shut up.
(If you’re solecistic, it means you’ve used your words exactly wrong).
Finn said ‘boy’ today and made the proper sign. Also ‘cat’ and ‘happy’ and ‘fruit’. I was too complicated. Made words to explain words and there was one word which I lacked success with and that was.