Some kids are going to get bullied. It’s just the way it goes. There were a few kids I went to school with who just seemed designated by perverse fates to be a non-stop object of ridicule. One kid who was just a mess of a human being all through K-12 emanated something which caused other kids to harass, and sometimes hit him. He was just an immediate target for some reason.
In the 4th grade, he was in my class and I remember him always wearing dumpy sweatpants, and obscenely big and thick-framed black glasses which would probably be considered fashionable nowadays. With wild brown locks resembling a bunch of strewn about hay, he always looked like he needed a haircut. His teeth cut jagged patterns in his mouth and when he smiled it looked like teeth-sized and colored icicles frozen in askew angles jutting from his gums. His looks remained pretty much unchanged all the way through until high school he would just be a larger version of that unfortunate 4th grade kid.
During that winter in grade school, his desk sat unoccupied for a few days before we found out Mark wouldn’t be back for awhile. Sprinting to make the bus three days prior, his feet hit a nice solid smooth stretch of unseen ice and found himself yanked backward by nature’s frozen hazard. Launched into the air with his feet upright, and finishing the acrobatics off by cracking the back of his head open against the cold sidewalk, he laid still until the paramedics arrived.
Maybe a month or more went by until he finally came back to school. When he did enter class, I remember observing him carefully. He looked like the same old Mark, but there was something different about him. Something, I don’t know, “twitchier." Something not quite categorically sane going on in his eyes and a sort of carefree unsettling looseness in his demeanor.
A couple days after his return, the bullying toward Mark resumed as if the bullies had returned from a vacation and come back to work where it was their job to taunt and attack this kid.
Seven years later, in our junior year of high school, Mark, from what I remember, became one of two students in a giant public school to out themselves as being gay. By doing this, he essentially invited more landmines to be constantly placed in his path as he navigated the hallways. Now the bullies were further charged and fueled with more idiotic ignorance’s being called to action by Mark’s admittance. He was in two of my classes – a weird, mandatory class for building your self-esteem called Quest, and a Business Math class.
There were students in both classes who would throw insults his way. The usual litany of homophobic slurs which still thrive today. I made an effort to gauge Mark’s reaction every time someone ridiculed him. He was definitely buzzing inside. His face would redden and his jawline poked, bulging from the skin as he clenched his teeth in anger. He’d steel himself to his seat, focus his attention forward, and power through the unwanted attention with resolve until the moment had passed.
Still, there were those eyes of his--giving an aura around him suggesting continuous sparks were always dancing dangerously close to a wick attached to an explosive inside his mind and every act of verbal and physical aggression toward him made the steel grind faster and harder on the internal stone wheel shooting even more fiery discharges at the fuse.
The Business Math teacher had left the classroom for some reason, prompting some kids who sat behind Mark to start whispering gay slurs. Mark began his stiffening in the staunch way I’d been accustomed to witnessing when these scenes unfolded. Then something different started happening. He began to bristle. The strange thing I’d noticed in him after his medical release and return to school in the 4th grade was surfacing and making itself known. Now, a suddenly transformed beast, Mark shot out of his chair, grabbed it by the seat’s back and lifted it off the ground like a bear tearing a piece of bark from a tree. Rearing back, he hurled the chair with a fury toward the back of the room. It shot from his hands like a video game character releasing a fireball from their palms in a direct path where it almost grazed and sheared the heads of the kids who were making fun of him.
The chair loudly smacked the wooden cabinets lining the back wall and then clanged to the ground. The class clenched with a stillness born out of shock and fright. I laughed. I love watching people ha-ha-ing and getting off when they poke at a string with their stupid knives when they know the string is holding up the potential of looming harm if snapped. The line holding up Mark finally snapped and a giant chandelier crashing down on them.
No one threw anymore jabs at Mark the rest of class; possibly the rest of the day.
That was it, though.
The kids recovered from Mark’s wrathful warning and fell right back into their needling of him, never seeing a similar, or even a formidable violent reaction out of him.
Someone told me he’d joined the Army right after graduation. My reaction to this news made me fearful for a group of potential innocent victims of an fringe public massacre.
I imagine him nowadays living in Kansas City, shacked up in an old office now converted into a cramped shambling studio apartment with a bathroom, no shower.
He lays on a discarded hotel cot, his body writhing with twitches and nervous tics, wearing his filthy Army-issued jacket even though he was dishonorably discharged in barely his second year. A roach crawls over the jacket’s right arm.
Mark lies motionless.
The sound of little feet scurry and clack across the wooden floor. Low eeks and screeches are heard in various areas of the living quarters.
A feral squirrel scampers across the kitchen counter and over the clutter of dirty dishes bulging from the sink and disappears into the shadow in the corner of the room. Mark’s right leg swings off the bed, his foot find the ground and he uses that momentum to right himself upward.
He grabs a half-filled bottle of Mountain Dew from the ground, unscrews and tosses the cap on his dresser, pulls his dick out from the sleeve of his boxer shorts, and aims his urine stream into the plastic bottle.