Saturday, January 11, 2014

I Came In? by Laura Cradick

Please welcome Laura to the blog. - MSMjr

My name is Laura Cradick and I have Aspergers Syndrome. I don't say I do in this essay, which I wrote for college English I, because I've been told I shouldn't tell people I have Aspergers unless asked. I'm in school for screenwriting, and currently have a script being produced in class.

As I said before, I wrote this for English I. It's a sort of memoir of my last year of public school (the same year I was diagnosed with Aspergers) and how that affects my first day in college.

-I Came In?

I've just started school, real school, again. I haven't been to actual classes, had assignment due dates, or partners to work with for six years. In a way, home schooling has damned me, and the transition to college is like descending into Hell after escaping once before. The anxiety comes rolling back as I walk up the path to the building, I've completely forgotten how to act in a school setting as a student. I try to suppress the piercing thorns adorning my mental armor, but they find a way through the crevices, like weeds, and bare their points to anyone who comes near me. I find myself nearly growling at people who pass too close. My memories of that year in 8th grade come crashing through the shoddy, eroded gate I had built to keep as much in as I could.

I've written this down maybe twenty times now. It never seems to leave me. You know how people say writing things down makes it better? This apparently doesn't apply to my pathetic little story from 8th grade. I say pathetic because, compared to what the other kids in this class have gone through, mine is very tame. It was psychologically scarring, yes, but it's not like have PTSD or any of that sort. It also traumatized me, according to my therapist; I find that bull, how can something so minor and something that nearly all kids go through scar me? I'd better stop thinking on paper and just tell the story. Again.

From second grade until halfway through 8th grade, I had a set group of five friends. All of them were guys, all my age, all with my same interests. I guess I was ok to play with them because I knew what they were playing as during Bench Mortal Kombat, and I didn't act like a normal girl. Something must have happened between 7th and 8th grade, though, because four out of the five decided they had had enough of me. I'm not sure what that 'enough' was, and I still don't.

I went to sit down with them at lunch one day, and they wouldn't allow it. Now, in our group, we were somewhat known for the fact that one day you'd be kicked out, and the next you're back to trading Magic cards. So, I waited to be taken back. And waited. Waited another day. They weren't taking me back. I'd go to sit down, and they'd put their feet on the open seat. I asked the one to let me sit down, but he had no say over the rest. He never stood up for me, though he never mocked me, either. He was completely neutral and left me to deal with the wolves, as it were. Did I miss something?

The question lingers in my head as I enter the building, and nearly on instinct I opt for the stairs to the third floor rather than spend a minute in an elevator with peers. I ascend and take two steps at a time, as I did in middle school. I'm already falling back into routine and I haven't even seen the classroom yet. I reach the top of the third flight and take a long breath. I was starting to enter into a panic attack, and using half my energy I'm able to avert it for the time being. Recovering, I find my way to the room, wherein about sixteen people are sitting at desks and chatting. I paused at the door and thought back to school, trying to find a way out of this situation.

After a few days of pointless arguing, I went and sat with the outcast table. These were the kids that not even my group would acknowledge. I sat there for about a week until what would become the chief tormentor of the four came to talk to me. He told me I was stupid, a terrible gamer, no one liked me, and I was never allowed to sit with them again. Really, I have no idea what I did. At lunch, all I ever did was eat, listen to my music, and read.

When the outcasts heard this, they moved away from me, like I had a disease. I suppose I did them a favor when I sat at the single empty table in the whole cafeteria. By this point, I was being told the aforementioned insults daily, as well as others that the ravenous lions that made up my peers would tell me in the hallway. Only one person would dare sit with me at the empty table, and that was one of the teachers, Mr. Langer. I used to spike my hair, and whenever Langer passed by, he'd pat my head and say 'ow' jokingly. He tried it multiple times here, and it didn't work.

Langer tried to talk to me during lunch, but I never replied. Thinking back on it now, I really wish I did, but I couldn't bring myself to speak. Finding no solace in the lunch room any longer, I would just get milk from the line and retreat to my haven, the band room. The teachers there would let me play my music on their surround sound speakers and I would sit in there all lunch period just listening. But, once the vice principal found out, I was no longer allowed in there. My remaining days during lunch were spent with my mom in her car in silence.

My mom would tell me how, every morning before school, I would become some other person. I wasn't LaLa anymore, I was an automaton. Heavily armored, the plate mail bearing down on me causing my shoulders to stoop and my head to drop. My thorns would grow and continue to spread as the weeks went by. Some mornings I would beg her to let me stay home, telling her my stomach ached or I had a migraine. And, I did. I was so completely stressed, my body itself reacted. But then I would hear the only true word that still infuriates me: Excuse. An excuse is a lie, used to get out of a situation. I never lied, I was physically incapable of lying. And then to claim I was lying; it still makes me furious.

There was only one person who kept me from leaving the school, and that was my English teacher Mr. Anderson. He had taught my siblings, so he knew my family well. English and Language Arts were the last two classes of the day, and I loved the class so much I wouldn't allow the insults, rumors, or isolation from my peers keep me from it. Even with the chief tormentor in the classroom, I felt safe; he wouldn't dare say a thing to me with Anderson in the room. And he never did.

I loved the class so much that I wanted to become an English teacher. I would stay after school and help clean up the classroom or do whatever I could so I could learn what it was like to be a teacher. I even helped my math teacher, who I thought was a witch until I started actually talking to her. But I mainly stayed for Anderson. It was like having a guardian. The man was a mean creature- he had court ordered anger management classes for instance- and didn't tolerate any jackassery in his classroom. I idolized that behavior.

I wasn't legally allowed to say he was my friend, some bullshit about jacked up grades or something, but I did so anyway. However, my new found friendship turned against me. It was a new and multipurpose tool my peers could use to mock me. The main one that sticks with me is that they would claim I had a crush on Anderson. I can remember returning from a field trip on the bus in the winter and I was wearing my coat (a sort of safety blanket) while sitting directly underneath the heater. I spent the whole trip home talking to Anderson, and due to the heat, my face would turn red. The kids took this as a sign of a crush or more and would laugh at me. It didn't help that no one liked Anderson because he was kind of a mean guy. So I would remain after class, allowing everyone else their precious time to leave while I helped the teachers, some times until 4:30.

Back in my first college class, I find a seat that's the furthest away from anyone, and sit down. My fears are still controlling me, I'm not allowed to be near anyone or be nice to anyone. It did me no good in middle school, why would it here. I can only hope no one sits near me. My thorns permeate from my body with a poisonous air, and, thank god, not a single person took the seat next to mine. The teacher begins to speak, but I can't concentrate on what they're saying. All my energy is spent making myself translucent to the other students. Within an hour, I'm already exhausted. My mind knew I was unable to resist the urge to feel sorry for myself, so it continued to make me live 8th grade.

Christmas Break came and went, and as we returned to school, we found that Anderson was gone and we had a substitute. Every day I would ask Langer where Anderson had gone and he would say the same as the rest; he was sick. It was like this for two months, and soon I'd to start leave school after lunch. By March we were told he had been fired, but not given a reason why, and that the substitute teacher was to become our new English teacher. Everyone cheered, they really, actually cheered at this. I had snapped. My one remaining tie to the school was broken. My guardian was gone.

The new teacher was terrible. What finally tore me from her ever redeeming anything she had done was giving me a C on a project about Krystalnacht. I'm not one to care for grades, but I did care for why she had given it. She claimed that Hitler had apologized for what had happened and that I was giving the class false information. I was completely stunned by this utter stupidity.

The day after that minor affront happened, I was informed by my mom that I was to start home school. I think I genuinely smiled for the first time in months when I heard that. You're probably thinking my ordeal wasn't so bad, but I'd like to say that all I wrote of above took place either in the lunch room or English. So, two hours out of the full seven hour day. And believe me, my peers did not waste those extra five hours on such mundane things as pleasantry.

I've been back to the school multiple times, as I found that I didn't like my peers, but I adored my teachers (well, most of them anyway). But I've never talked to any of them about what happened. I have no scars to show what happened to me. All I have are these perpetual memories that I relive every day. These stupid, menial memories that I should have gotten over years ago. I miss my teachers, and I miss Anderson most of all.

My first class in six years ends, though I stay behind in the room waiting for everyone to disperse. The events of 8th grade run through my head at a blinding speed for the umpteenth time that day- I just want to go home. It was then I realized that if I can't defeat these memories and the endless repetition, I wasn't going to make it in college. It's a long and arduous process, but I'm slowly wading my way through.