I felt cold.
I remember the boys folding out the dark-brick dollhouse and playing their war games. I tried to sit down with them, join in with their fun, but always got crowded out, pushed away, deserted. I shortly gave up and sat with the girls, making drawings or paintings or cut-outs.
That is my first memory. I was four.
Skip forward a few years, and it's the going-away party in second grade. I was transferring to a private school at year's end, and leaving everyone I knew. Whether they celebrated the time we'd had or the time without me that they would have, I'll never know.
Jake was there, and though I didn't know Melanie yet, she couldn't have been too far off. Neither of them were in as bad of a place as I found them in when I came back, but that won't happen for another seven years.
I remember going to bed that night, and when I woke up, the world felt like a dream. I spent the next five years wondering when I was going to wake up, and be back with my old friends in my old school.
That is my second memory. I was seven.
Once I shifted into private school, the memories lie thicker, pictures and places and short interactions with all the people that I would see every year until they graduated or transferred out. One class per grade, and for me, it was the beginning of hell on earth.
Into third and fourth grade I was regularly bullied and ostracized. Nobody would sit with me at lunch, nobody would play with me at recess, and they would only partner with me in class under duress. Who brings a book to recess?
I did, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I stopped worrying about what I was being left out of and instead dove through worlds that not only wanted me, but needed me. I found joy in reading, joy in the worlds between the words, and there I lost myself.
The excessive reading didn't buy me any favors with my classmates, who had catastrophically lower reading speeds and comprehension rates than I did; or with the teachers, who insisted I explain the worlds and disavow the magic within them for life lessons. All I ever wanted was to dive into the pages and never come up for air.
In fifth grade, I started practising martial arts, and it helped me to find some inner strength. Not much, but some. Still, even on the mats, there were cliques and dramas that unfolded that I would never be a part of, children who had started years ahead of I and had an innate gift for physical and rote memory. Even while I felt my school life was all a dream, I felt my time on the mats was a mistake and any progress was a false promotion; I saw no ability within myself even as I rose through the ranks.
In eighth grade, I finally managed to confront my tormentors, and then they merely blamed it on one student who had long since transferred out, but by then it was too late; I was lost.
More Things I Didn't Do