Saturday, October 5, 2013

They Always Smile

This is a story about why I am the way I am; my confession if you will.

From about the time I was thirteen I knew my father didn't want to be part of my family. My mother and I were disappointments, signs that he failed in life. I tried most of my childhood and adult life to be a good enough child that he would want to be part of my life. I tried so hard to make it so I could believe that he loved me. When I turned 18 he left. With me now of legal age his obligation was done and he exited my life. I was left to pick up the responsibilities and to rebuild and clean up the mess he left. Where other people my age were dating or partying or focusing entirely on my studies I was trying to help put back the pieces of my family and build back up my mother's crushed psyche. My mother still hasn't recovered. I don't know she ever will. I don't know how you can ever fully recover from the idea that someone pretends to like you but can't stand you.

Even before I knew exactly what the problem was I knew there was something wrong with my father. My father yelled a lot. He broke things. He would become depressive and not talk to anyone after. He would disappear. I remember being always afraid as a child. One of my earliest memories was my father asking me to get him something from the basement and me hesitating afraid to go down. Not because I was afraid of the basement, but because I was afraid my father was sending me into some sort of trap to get rid of me. I was afraid the stairs were rigged and were going to collapse. That's not the only memory I have of that fear. The same thing happened being asked to go to the shed, or go for a drive with him. I wanted to love my father, but I was so scared. I felt guilty doubting he loved me.

I often had trouble at school; in addition to or maybe because of this. A few years ago cleaning out my mom's old collection of my elementary school stuff I found the results of a psyche test the guidance councilor had run. In the notes it read that I was "going to have a lot of trouble coming to terms with who their father is". 

When I was about ten years old, I did not have many friends. I was dealing with emotional problems and was a very fragile child. Even back then I felt anything I did wrong, any time I did not achieve perfection, it was letting my parents down and was ruining my family. Every less than perfect test wasn't just some academic grade, it was a failed opportunity to try to earn the loving family I wanted.  I thought that if I could be a good child that sort of thing might stop. But nothing I did was good enough (obviously). Every less than perfect grade would make me cry and beat myself up. Every failed sport or social activity the same. The other kids didn't like me because of this obviously. I was the freak. The cry baby. 

Despite all this, I was recognized as "gifted". Apparently, troubled but gifted. The guidance councilor pushed for me to enter more challenging classes and after school programs such as the Talented And Gifted program. That seemed to help with confidence. It was higher level material, thought puzzles, head start at advanced math etc. I thought I was getting better (in every sense of the word). I thought I could be someone people could be proud of. 

I even thought I had made a friend or two. That child's name was Justin. I forget his last name, but it's probably for the best. He was also in TAG. He was the golden child really. He really was everything I wasn't. slimmer, athletic (or at least not clumsy), confident, collected, popular. Justin was in TAG before me and ahead in a lot of areas. He knew chess strategy and openings when I was just playing around with it, he knew the start of trig when I was learning algebra. That sort of thing. He always was smiling. Always. 

He had teased me a bit before, but had seemed to warm up to me when I joined TAG. Getting to talk and know each other more in a less stressful intellectual environment put me at ease. It let me open up more. Justin befriended me, he encouraged me to open up to him and talk to him. There was a lot of joking at TAG, some of it barbed at my expense but I was trying to learn to go with that. Occasionally a comment he said really hurt my feelings and I would get made but he would smile and apologize. he was always smiling. Always. I would always forgive him. because that was the right thing to do.

It was about the time I started getting into some geeky things. I discovered the Star Wars books and loved them, started watching old twilight zones, and it was when Pokemon was first being exported into the states. I remember learning about this Pokemon game and really liking the idea, loving the first games. Justin seemed to share my interests and we talked about those sort of things all the time. He started having me join him and his friends at lunch. Instead of sitting alone we'd talk about Star Wars, Pokemon, ghosts and ghoulies and that sort of thing. I thought it was great that people seemed to finally start to like me rather than see me as some freak. Every day I could look forward to seeing Justin at lunch. He's smile when I sat down across from him. He was always smiling. Always.

Except there was a problem.  Gradually I started noticing shall we say...problems with the things Justin said. He seemed to love Pokemon and Starwars as much as me, but kept seeming to make elementary mistakes or say things that were blatantly false. I'm not talking about some bullshit fake geek girl stuff about trivia, but about basic things. Things that if you were being honest about liking the material should have known. I didn't like this. I didn't like being suspicious of someone. I thought it was just because of my father. I thought that I was crazy and stupid and beat myself up over being so untrusting. After worrying myself sick I tried an experiment, feeling full well that I was a freak for even thinking it. I would ask some questions of Justin or feed some obviously wrong info about the stuff we were talking about and see what he would do. He would correct me or ask why I was being stupid right? Then I could forget about the whole thing and move on. Justin never corrected me. He went along with whatever I was saying. 

I think my heart really did break when I figured out the truth. Justin didn't like what I liked. Not even a little. He just was going along with what I was saying like some cruel improv act. He didn't like me. Not even a little. He wasn't my friend. He thought I was funny, not funny haha but funny pathetic. I was their pet freak. They laughed at me behind my back. For nearly a year Justin lied to me and he smiled when he did it. 

I confronted Justin at lunch about this and he admitted it. He said he was toying with me for fun. He smiled when he said it. He was always smiling. Always.

I remember leaving the lunch room crying as people laughed at me. I had no friends. I had less than no friends. I was pathetic. I was a freak. Any sign of kindness was a lie. I had been feeling sick a lot after that. I didn't tell my parents what happened. It was about two weeks after the laughing moved from behind my back to my face that I went to the nurse's office feeling sick to my stomach. I had been there every day that week and was always sent back as a faker. I didn't want to be there any more, I didn't want to go to school. I didn't want to face smiling Justin. So after two weeks while I was waiting for the nurse to finish with a another kid I took the laces out of my sneakers and tried to strangle myself. 

The nurse heard me gagging and stopped me. I was sent for counseling. They somehow concluded I would be OK to stay in school and classes, but made me go for weekly sessions with the guidance councilor. I wasn't allowed to be in TAG anymore. 

I didn't let myself make friends after that for a long time. I learned that people were cruel, people couldn't be trusted. I learned people would toy with you and abuse you for no reason. I also learned that those sorts of people would abuse forgiveness. They would stomp on your heart week after week and then smile and apologize and guilt you into letting them close to you again. Other things just reinforced that. My father finally cut ties. My grandfather tried to steal the house from my grandmother. My uncle almost left me homeless  A boss exploited my eagerness to please and abused me; meddled into my personal life and bullied me with threats and insults. A guy I met from online had me over and basically jumped me, wouldn't take any signs or requests to back off or slow down and had to be fought off. Those events hurt, but I felt at least that I grew from them. I got very cautious of people. Very suspicious. I seemed to learn a lot of signs of lying, of abuse, of the horrible cycle of "forgiveness". After a while I thought I had built myself back up. That I was stronger, I was smarter, that I was wiser and wouldn't be fooled again. I could start to be more open, less guarded and talk to people again.  

Then today someone who seemed friendly on Twitter revealed that they were lying. They talked to me. They acted nice. They joked around with me. They acted as if they liked me. They didn't like me at all. They were pretending to do so to hurt people and laugh behind their back.

I was going to try to do art today. I was going to try to have fun with my spouse today. I'm writing this instead. Because even though it was small in the grand scheme of things, the sheer pettiness got to me. The sheer time spent got to me. The sheer gall got to me. Seeing his friends on Twitter laugh behind my back at how this person managed to fool me got to me. So here I am, feeling as if all those things just came flooding back and I'm a little kid again. Humiliated once again for letting my guard down even for a second. Hurt for letting anyone even a little close. It's my fault. I forgot how people will lie. I'm writing this because I'm tried of hiding.

I was going to have a good productive day. I wonder what Justin is doing? I wonder what this guy is doing?Somehow, I'm sure they're smiling. They always smile.

1 comment:

  1. I know I already responded in the Lounge, but this moved me in a way that has not happened before. I absolutely detest insincerity and your story resonates on several levels with me. I think you are a good person and you are one of the regulars I would live the chance to meet one day. Take care of yourself and know that some people like you and care about you. Genuinely.