Control: Pushing down on life

Call me Dalton Lewis, I suppose, because that is as good a made-up name as any. I grew up in one town until the eighth grade. I had the usual childhood — temper tantrums, not knowing what things were, and the like. I occasionally attacked people because I hated the fact that people made fun of me. I wanted to hurt people like I hurt inside.

Sixth grade. Bob Smith Jones. He played basketball like you wouldn’t believe. He wore Air Jordans, which were the rage in those days, around 1990, and had shorts and a t-shirt. He played like the wind and ran even faster. I was in out of my depth; I am a guy and love sports, but I was always pretty good at them. I hated the fact that everything went poorly in life, and this was no exception. He scored on me.

“I am unstoppable, and you are a loser,” he said to me.

That was it. Crazy Dalton was coming out, and I was going to stand up to him. In elementary school it had worked to attack people; they cowered and were impressed that I was scary and impressive. It would work again, right? I tried it.

I pushed Bob. The gym mostly didn’t notice, so no one liked it, and he didn’t fall down. He pushed me to the ground with barely an effort. He laughed at me.

That’s not true, though. The truth is that I fell down trying to knock him down. He just made fun of me for it in front of the most beautiful girl in sixth grade. She wanted to be an actress. She was going to be one of the all-time greats, I thought. I haven’t heard of her being in anything, and she must be in her late thirties now.

This is reality, people. I never found my cool or got his girlfriend, and he ran like the wind all the way to varsity by whatever year. I was never to catch up to Bob Smith Jones.

In the seventh grade everyone decided that I was gay. I’m not. I had a science project to describe laundry. I wanted to get a good grade, so I went over it in detail. This was, of course, 1990 or so. They immediately thought that a guy who liked laundry was gay. They whispered it to my friends. They convinced my friends, of course; the truth didn’t matter. I was good at laundry. In truth, I am no longer good at laundry and don’t do it very often. I often wear the same clothes for days or weeks on end. More on that later. I don’t know if young people understand the frightened rumors that people said about LGBTQ people in those days. I don’t know if they understand how bad it was.

I always felt incompetent and small and inadequate in everything that I did. I was laughed at for things sometimes; it is part of growing up. Every time someone said something horrible to me during middle school I sat there and took it. I hated life more and more every single time. Eventually that hate was replaced by numbness, but I never forgot the hate. I never forgot trying to push down Bob Smith Jones and I never forgot people whispering that I was gay. I never forgot the way they seemed to call it something bad. I will never forget, most of all, how bad it sucked to be in middle school.