Now, onto the story.
I grew up in a very country part of SC. And by country, we grew up across the street from cows. And not the people you see at WalMart wearing moo-moos! It was a quiet little neighborhood. And a few people in the area that were either my age or my sister's age.
I started Manchester Elementary School at Kindergarten. I was growing up with my classmates in a "normal" environment (well, as "normal" as a small town school could be where the 2000 Census had the median income at $19,583).
In fourth grade, something catastrophic happened. What exactly was the event(s), I could not tell you. If you went to school with me and happen to know, PLEASE remind me. But, for some reason, my classmates decided to start calling me "faggot". All of a sudden, I was the classmate with cooties. At times, it ended up being a bit of a game where if I ended up touching someone, they caught the cooties. But, it was worse than standard schoolyard playing. In today's standards, it'd be considered downright harassment / bullying. But, I grew up in simpler times where people weren't sue-happy.
As the school years went on, I was practically ousted away from any potential friendships I really had in school. I went on to being extremely introverted, quiet, and practically a loner. Hell, I might have actually been labeled as "depressed" at the time based on some of the behaviors I exerted, looking back.
Also, I was "the smart kid". I grasped onto concepts and ran with them. There was a while when I was the first one who raised their hand when a teacher asked for an answer to a question. I was proud of my smarts, but I guess it made some of my other classmates jealous.
It was also somewhere around the fourth or fifth grade that I quit doing homework. Whether that was a subconscious cry for help, depression showing it's ugly face, or my ADHD starting to show it's ugly head, I don't know. Sure, I got in trouble a bit in class being made to stand on the blacktop at recess, but that was about as fun as going out into the school yard and not getting to play with my other classmates. But, my grades didn't really fall for lack of homework.
So, this began my story as being a "quiet skinny nerd" in school.
As the years went on, the "cooties" went away, but "faggot" never did. This is where I have my struggle in the "nature vs nurture" concept of my sexuality. Yes, I'm gay. Now I have no reason to hide it, but growing up in "country, SC" when gays were all over the news and stuff being represented in a hugely negative fashion and being the evil people spreading AIDS, I wanted nothing to do with it.
About freshman year of high school, I began to realize my sexical fantasies were more towards guys than gals. I appreciated beauty and all that, but never was attracted to any of my female classmates. There was one football player though -- he was a junior, I think -- I thought he was the hottest thing since the sun! But, I was too fearful to show it, thinking I was an abomination because it obviously wasn't socially acceptable to be gay.
The summer between sophomore and junior years of HS, my sister and I were moved up to western Mass. It seemed a HUGE burden had been left behind as I left the "bad memories" of Manchester & Furman behind. I figured a new start. But, it seemed my lack of social skills came to bite me in the butt entering my new high school. Plus, I was a "smart kid" being one of two in the entire school who was a year ahead in English. Most of my classes were with seniors, so they were more interested in getting out out of school than making a new friend. Then my "real" senior year (or as I call it, my "second senior year"), I decided to be lazy and half my classes wound up being with freshmen, who wanted nothing to do with a senior. *shrug*, I had become accustomed to being a loner.
Anyways, that whole story is leading up to this: My 15-year high school reunion.
Reunions are generally meant for the graduating class. 97% of the time, these are the people you grew up with throughout your years of school. There's the occasional person who moves in or out, but it's fairly static. Since I spent eleven years with these people, there had to be some sort of connection. It kinda clicked back in October when I was in Boston and got to have lunch with Meka and we pseudo-reminisced over growing up. There was a lot of "What happened to Smply?" at the beginning of junior year. People thought I may have moved to Sumter High or something, but it was all rumors (as if nobody knew Dad worked at the Exxon in Wesmark Plaza). But, after seeing Meka and doing a lot of reminiscing and remembering the good things that happened, I was excited to know a 15-year reunion was coming up and I wanted to go.
When I got word on things, I replied with a resounding "YES!"
Then after I paid my reunion fee and time got closer, a lot of the above memories started coming back and I wanted to do "Oh yeah? Look at how well the faggot turned out!". Then, I remembered lunch with Meka and realized that's not the way to go and I should go there just to have fun. Which is what I did.
When I walked in the door and saw Angie, Tonya, and Clarice, a lot of memories started coming back. Angie and Tonya were really happy to see me, and they talked about how they were all wondering what happened to me. I later found out Clarice couldn't remember me past 3rd grade for some reason. I almost blame the fourth grade incident. Names were coming out and I was remembering things.
There was a reminiscing time for the reunion, and people were remembering specific events that happened (like someone being thrown in a construction pit, or seniors taking someone and throwing them in the dumpster, senior trip memories, and things like that). A lot of the events happened junior and senior years, so I had no idea things they were talking about, but they would recall something from the younger days and I'd be like "OMG, I remember that."
Some things were coming back, but nothing enough that I wanted to go up there and say them. Probably because I was terrified something in me would want to say "And I remember all y'all calling me a faggot" because that kept popping in my head.
At the end (before the horrible dancing), a photographer was at the banquet hall to get a class photo (as if everyone was there). We did an everybody picture, then a just the girls pic, then a just the guys pic. There were six guys and apparently we weren't close enough together. Someone made that comment and I came back with "But, some of us have cooties!" -- Angie quirked back immediately with "Not anymore, Smply!"
That was HUGELY healing for me. Two little words made me feel all warm inside. They made the five hour trip seem completely worth it. I wanted to go up to her and thank her for those words, but I probably would have wound up crying like a baby. (Little secret: Tears are trying to come out of my eyes with me typing this). But, it was WAY AWESOME! Thanks, Angie, for making my day! :) (Not to say the rest of y'all didn't, but that just hit way deep inside).
After I departed, I started recalling some of the events I remember from school. It was a bit late to go grab the mic and say them. They're also more of little events, but I figured I'd share:
- I remember in English class (just before lunch), Dee was getting hungry. All of a sudden she comes out with "I'm hungry, roll over!"
- I remember Miss G being a little weird (She was my homeroom teacher). She would be looking in one direction and pointing another and people had no idea which of the two she was intending to answer a question.
- I remember Miss G talking about the giant oak (or maple?) tree that was in front of Manchester. She had all kinds of pictures of it. Then Hurricane Hugo struck and knocked it down. She was sad she didn't have a full picture of it.
- Still with homeroom, there was one girl who shot a tampon out across the room. Needless to say, Miss G wasn't thrilled.
- I remember Clara going off on Miss G and making her quit (early retire?). Then we had some substitute for the rest of the year who liked to drink the Listerine. We insisted she was drunk all the time.
- I remember Holly's dad was a firefighter.
- I remember there was one class the teacher wanted to show a movie. But, the only format she could find the movie on was Betamax. And I think it was Bessie who had the player she brought in.
- I remember one bus driver, Jay -- he was... flaming. Everyone called him "Gay Jay". And he and Bubba would get into cat fights. One day he dropped Bubba off at his stop and made some sort of comment as Bubba departed. Jay quickly closed the doors and SPED off down the dirt road (that was full of potholes). Those in the back of the bus had fun (and/or whiplash) at the end of that trip.
- I remember being in Mr. R's geometry class and Chris was all mad 'cuz the biology teacher Mr. O said he had diarrhea of the mouth.
- I remember underclassmen with a 95 or higher pre-final didn't have to take a final. At the end of Mr. R's geometry class, Angie was pissed off that I had a 95.1 average and she had a 94.9. Her rebuttal was "But, he never did his homework!" (That makes me wonder how little homework counted in school)
- I remember in gym class we had a 1:1 basketball tournament. I had no skillz, but I was paired against Greg. I came close to beating him, and he admitted it. I didn't care, I got to sit on the sidelines the rest of the tournament.
- I remember Mr. T's 8th grade history class he used to stand there and eat peanuts all the time.
- I remember Mr. G's 7th grade history class, he used to tell us how more advanced the north was with their education systems. I was in a bit of awe until I actually moved up there and my 11th grade history class had the EXACT SAME books as Mr. T's history class in 8th grade. And we watched the exact same movies and everything.
- I remember Dee (I think it was Dee?) throwing To Kill A Mockingbird across Ms H's classroom when she read the jury verdict.
- I remember getting stuck with a female frog in biology and digging all the eggs out the day my lab partner just "happened" to be out.
- I remember being jealous of my classmates who brought in Kool-Aid (the pre-sugared kind) in a baggie and would eat it via wet fingers similar to Lik-M-Aid.
- I remember the fourth grade play -- the story was something involving aliens who only spoke in a monotone voice. I got to play the goofy kid and my favorite line I said was "And I thought it was... INDIGESTION!"
- I remember everyone LOVING pizza day! And when we got to Furman and had a choice between regular lunch and the other stuff, most people preferred the other side because it usually had pizza. (And, let me tell you, I swear there was something in that pizza that made everyone love it).
- I remember at lunch one time I was drinking my chocolate milk and someone said or did something funny, and milk came out my nose. Someone complained to the teacher and I got in trouble because they said I did it on purpose.
- I remember someone was helping Mr. G fill out the damaged textbook forms and for some reason it was decided my textbook had a $5 damage fine with it. They circled "her" in the section saying "Your child has damaged his/her textbook..." and my mother went OFF on him!
- I remember we all picked on Susie H -- she was an awesome teacher albeit short. We loved her as much as we joked on her!
- I remember playing Musical Chairs (or Musical Hula Hoops, or Musical something) in Ms S's gym class growing up. And the ONLY song I can remember from that is Solid as a Rock.
- I remember the school was getting way overcrowded, so the solution was portables. And by the time we got to 7th/8th grade, the only time we went inside the building was for lunch.
- I remember everyone being jealous when Pocalla was being built because we got out of Manchester just as Pocalla opened, so never got to reap the rewards. I guess this is similar to the way the class of 95ers kinda felt because Lakewood and Crestwood opened right after that.
- I remember USC vs Clemson Days at school where we were encouraged to show our team pride. And it was like a WAR!
- I remember one of our football players got Athlete of the Week on WLTX Channel 19 (I think). The whole school was abuzz.
- I remember Tonya had huge difficulties saying "Bernoulli" in Mr. R's earth science class.
- I remember Dee complaining about another school's wooden floors 'cuz "the ball bounces funny" off of it. (And, let me tell you, it does compared to the gym floors we grew up with).