It’s 1:30 in the morning, and I’ve been awake for the past two hours.
More like a flashback than a nightmare.
It was a moment from my teenage years. Approximately the spring of 1978, if we’re being reasonably accurate.
At that time, I was attending school at Lisha Kill Junior High School, a 9th-grade-only facility in South Colonie (and #10 on my list of the twelve schools I attended from kindergarten to high school). It was not a happy place. I was teased and bullied and tormented at school, which was invariably interrupted by getting beaten and punched and rejected at home.
And I had a flashback to one moment.
It was around February of 1978. That was the time when apparently I ran afoul of one of the Lisha Kill bullies, one who actually lived in the mobile home trailer park on Central Avenue, maybe about five mobile homes away from the double-deep, double-wide where I lived.
And word was out. There was going to be a fight that afternoon.
Not on school grounds, oh, no. That was the rule. You couldn’t fight on school grounds. If you fought on school grounds, then parents would be called. And nobody wants to tell parents that their sweet little angels were involved in fisticuffs on campus.
No, these kids waited until the school bus dropped me off in front of the mobile home park. As long as I couldn’t get from the street to my home, I was fair game. And sure enough … I could see the group of classmates waiting for me. Twenty or twenty-five, at least.
I pleaded with the bus driver to drop me off two or three stops past this. He refused. “Not my problem, you deal with it,” he said to me. “If you ignore them, they won’t bother you.”
That’s right, folks. Pontius Pilate had a school bus driver’s license.
I got off the bus. Several classmates blocked my way. Others waited until the bus driver pulled away, giving the all-clear as soon as he was out of view.
Then came the fight. Well, “fight” is a charitable description. It was more like an all-out assault. Punches. Kicks. Even a bite or two. I had no defenders. No support.
It was at that point that one of my classmates attempted to pick me up and drop me on the ground. Which he did. My head bounced off the blacktop. I felt a ringing in my skull. I reached up to my temple. Wetness. Looked at my hand. Redness.
And laughter. Laughter from people who I was supposed to study with.
I tried to leave. A few of them kicked me and swatted at my bleeding head.
They had their fun.
I remember going home, finding a white towel, and holding it to my head in the hopes that the bleeding would stop. And then I had to figure out what to do so that my stepfather wouldn’t see the bloody towel and beat me for ruining the laundry, or something along those lines.
It was a very bad situation. At one point, I just straight-up stopped going to school. I skipped maybe three months of 9th grade. I didn’t want to go. I was fearful for my life. And nobody would stand up for me.
Child Protective Services? Ha. They were called. They could have saved me. And they didn’t.
The school? I talked to the guidance counselor. She told me that because it happened off of school property, there was nothing she could do. And then she threw in this bon mot. “Well, they can’t all be wrong. Maybe you’re provoking them. Maybe you’re the reason why they’re mad at you.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that was what existed for guidance in the South Colonie Central School District in 1978. Remember this.
And for you long-time readers of my blog – this is part of what I referred to as my toxic childhood. To the point where I was willing to live with a different set of abusive parents, and trace physical abuse for emotional abuse. Because at that point, I had no choice. It was that, or deal with the dimly fading mists of mental sanity.
And tonight … for some reason … it all came back to me. That one moment. The bus stop in front of the mobile home park. The assaults. The bounce on the ground. It came back like an ulcer in my stomach.
Trust me, there’s still a residual feeling of ugh every time I drive through that part of Central Avenue. The mobile home park has been reformulated and rerouted; the adjacent mobile home dealership is now a storage unit facility; and what was once a small hotel on the property has found new life as an ice cream shoppe and a laundromat.
I know I shouldn’t revisit these moments from my past. I don’t want to. I hate that this was as much of my childhood as it was. I hate that whenever someone from my past tries to friend me on Facebook, and I see that it’s someone that went to school in the South Colonie Central School District at the same time I did … I can’t accept that friend request. It’s just going to remind me that those who could have helped me either cheered my assault, or found something else to mind their time.
And what I hadn’t thought about in years … maybe in a decade … came back in vivid color in the mists of a humidity-induced nightmare.
Maybe now that I’ve blogged about this … perhaps now I can go back to sleep.
And hopefully, the nightmare won’t return.
time to bury the past and move on. How many years have gone by?
With all due respect, Dave, much easier said than done. “Get over it” is not easy, ESPECIALLY when you aren’t believed. It’s devastating, not just the beatdown, but the grossly inadequate response of others before and after.
Just yesterday, I was telling a story about not being served at a bar near Fenway Park, on June 14, 1991, even as the bartender acknowledged that he saw me. Wrote about it, even. And what made me angrier than the actual incident was not being believed.
So, good luck, Chuck.
PTSD: it’s not just for soldiers. Your experience is too familiar to too many of us.
I attended Albany High School from 1979-1981 and it was just as bad. The guidance counselors were seemed completely untrained and just refugees from the classroom who didn’t want to teach kids or have much to do with them. Lots of Vietnamese kids just arrived, but they were essentially all on their own – targets for bullies and budding sociopaths. 3,000 kids and just handful of hall monitors. When I passed by it earlier this summer and saw the construction, I hoped it was being demolished. No such luck though. Get over it? I remember every freaking day 40 years later. I transferred to a smaller private school and had a better experience.
I don’t think any school should have more than 1,000 students, and even that’s pushing it. Better to have a number of smaller schools than one big dumping ground for parents who didn’t give damn and administrators who wanted to be elsewhere.
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