…says the freak
Oh yeah, I know.
“Look, he’s blushing. Hahaha!”
“He’s like a girl.”
“No, no, like Rudolph.”
“No, he’s like a tomato.”
Pointing to me like in that film Invasion of Body Snatchers when the aliens spotted a human to suck the soul from.
In Grade Three I went from scrawny (like my son) to pudgy. Whenever the teacher or a girl or a better looking boy would call me out or talk to me I would go beet red.
Of course, the girls would laugh and point, making it even worse. Everybody would join in. Even the teacher would snicker. Different times.
So I learned to become as invisible as I could.
“Noah is sweet and gentle and caring when he’s alone, but as soon as he gets in a group he shows off and says things that he shouldn’t.”
Noah’s teacher leans in to whisper.
“You know, it’s true that Brianna is a freak. But I told Noah. ‘You can think it but don’t call her that’.”
On the walk home from school, Noah is overflowing with excitement about the school trip to La Ronde, Montréal’s amusement park.
“Yeah, dad we have to measure me because if I’m 54 inches I can go on every ride including like The Monster and The Goliath, I mean they’re freaky scary rides.”
He hops along to the rhythm of his mouth… fast.
“Yeah, and you know Ray? Yeah, it’s like sorta sad because he’s like 45 inches so like they’ll put him with the Grade Two’s. I mean poor kid, I feel bad for him.”
“Really, dad, I swear he’s like a head shorter than me.”
“No, I mean you really feel bad for him?”
“Yeah, I mean he’s my age, Grade Three, and like he’s going to be with the little kids.”
“So, how come you feel bad for Ray but then both of you tough guys call Brianna a freak?”
“Because she is a freak, for real, dad.”
“Yeah, but calling her a freak to her face is insulting and hurts her. It’s bullying, Noah, even worse than a punch in the nose.”
He seems genuinely surprised. Despite the continuous anti-bullying campaigns, assimilating the idea that words can hurt and even kill is tough in the thrust and parry of the schoolyard. They’re all fighting to establish an identity. It’s often cruel.
“You know, Noah, when I was your age I was constantly humiliated, like Brianna.”
I tell him my story. He stops skipping.
“Poor you, dad. I feel really bad for you.”
He’s shocked at the thought that the blushing fat kid could be me, his dad, the guy who is unafraid to be crazy, to take down anybody who threatens his kid’s safety, who defends art and beauty and family and takes constant risks with his mind. The guy now in control used to be a blushing victim.
“So you understand, kid, that I know for a fact that words can really hurt. I don’t blush anymore but it took me a long time to get over it.”
“I’m so sorry dad.”
“I know you are. Just remember that when you want to call someone names.”
“Dad, can I ask you a question?”
“Do you think I’m going to get fat this summer.”
Ha! The executioner is afraid to become the victim.
“No. My mom was fat, yours was slim…”
Though she had wonderfully full breasts and butt.
“…and we eat way better than when I was a kid.”
“Dad, maybe we could like make a big salad for supper.”
“Nah…I want a big fat donut.”