September 4, 2020:
I'm on the school's small grassy lunch court watching a no-neck with a varsity letter belittle one of the special-ed kids.
Our school is a double magnet. It assembles on a single campus the gifted kids and the kids who struggle. Those with extra abilities and with disabilities, in mirror programs housed in back-to-back bungalows, neighbors who never meet. So far as I know no gifted kids had friends among the disabled, or volunteered to assist them. I believe I'm the only one.
Of course I'm not formally involved. That would be a school activity, and fuck that. It would require commitment and schedule and fuck that, too. Instead I'm simply friendly. I like the kids, I love when they smile. If I can make them laugh my heart soars. I view them as innocent of evil, and while even then I realize that's a Romanticization, it feels right. I've never observed any of them doing something deliberately harmful to another. To the contrary, they seem to understand better than others the necessity of solidarity.
The no-neck is calling the special-ed kid a "spazz" and a "freak" He's rolling his tongue and twitching his legs and arms with both hands bent inward, very much as Trump was later to do when mocking a disabled reporter, Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital joint disorder. That makes sense. Forty years later the now paunchy and balding no-necks will be among the first to put on MAGA caps.
The special-ed kid is in fact a spazz, if by that expression the no-neck means to imply spastic. He's dysarthriatic, with the herky-jerky movements of cerebral palsy. Although his thinking is unimpaired, he has trouble forcing his muscles to form words, so that his speech is muddy-sounding. His joints are tight and his ligaments have become atrophied so that his wrists and ankles turn permanently inward. But his eyes are clear, he lights up when you tell him jokes. He's nice and I like him.
I am not violent. I avoid fights. I won't usually even defend myself from bullies. I will defend others.
I run across the grass and shove the no-neck hard. I don't hit him. I do give him a very hefty push, so that he falls backward over a bench, landing hard on the blacktop which borders the grassy lunch court. He's a jock so he lands without cracking his skull, which is good because he could have been seriously injured. He's fine, and he's going to murder me.
He doesn't get the chance. The Boys' Vice Principal, in his tan blazer, gray tie and slacks, has been watching. He tells the no-neck to be on his way, rather impatiently it seems to me. "I'll handle it," he says.
Naturally I'm going to be expelled or at least suspended for a month. I'm fine with either. It's a great shock — a great shock — to experience neither. Instead the VP, who knows me as a truant and troublemaker, seems to suggest he supports my action.
He tells me, quietly, privately, between us, "That was a noble decision. It's brave to defend others. But this time it's a bad idea."
He lets that sink in, which I admit takes a while. I'm more than merely baffled. I feel I've been transported to some mystery planet where the laws of physics are all fucked up.
He says, "Now the big strong guy is furious at you, sure. But he's also furious with your friend, and he'll be back, maybe with his chums, certainly for you and very possibly for the spastic kid too. You can run, your friend can't. And you can't be there to defend him all the time, and they'll wait for a time when you're not."
I of course have given this no thought. I understand his point and I grudgingly have to admit its essential reasonableness. By trying to help in the way I have, I've probably made things worse.
"What do you suggest?" I practically spit the question but it's genuine.
He sighs. He shrugs. He says, "Let it happen."
Which is very shocking to me. Not even its cynicism, because it's not cynical. It's resigned. He's implying, This is the nature of our world. You can't change this.
I will, though. I'll fucking change it. I'll devote every one of my supposedly superiorly-numbered advanced and gifted brain cells to changing it. I'll make a new fucking world, where weak people are not victimized by the strong, poor people are not exploited by the rich, ignorance does not rule, and the no-necks and Trumps are not allowed to bully.
This is the exact moment I decide to go to college. And the exact reason why.