I have been through a lot of emotional turmoil over the last 6 years. A failed marriage, 2 failed relationships, loss of my mother, my best friend, and my dog. It seems that the only thing I haven’t lost is enough weight and my mind..well the latter is a bit suspect. I’ve never considered myself to be normal mentally anyway. Normal is boring. Fitting in is boring. I am by no means a follower. I like being an innovator. I like being creative and expressive in my own unique way. I can be brilliant at times. That may sound arrogant and to be honest, typically uncharacteristic of me, but I feel it’s time to embrace it and stop subjugating myself to others opinion of myself.
Most of my life I have lacked confidence. It’s not for a lack of ability but insecurity. The proverbial monkey that we carry on our backs of our own creation. It all goes back to childhood (what doesn’t?). I was about 18 months old, My mother had left me with her friends to baby sit and they went out joyriding and drinking, leaving me in the back seat of the car with the windows open. I caught pneumonia and was very ill for a while. I was a chubby baby but after my illness, I was extremely frail.
I remember almost everything about my childhood. I have memories that when I share them, people react in disbelief. It’s uncommon, but I guess I was born with that gift. I remember a lot from my infancy thru toddler years. Back then, we wore plastic covers over our diapers. I can remember what color they were. I can remember the pins in my diapers, my bottle, the mobile over my crib, my baby shoes with the little metal bells on them, even the socks that I wore. And, the kicker that blows everyone’s mind, I can remember first sight. Yes, I know that sounds incredible but it’s true. I usually don’t share that with people because of their reaction. I can’t think of a reason I’d lie about that. It gets annoying trying to convince someone that I’m telling the truth so I keep it to myself.
I was also able to read at a very young age. I could read and write, in cursive, by the age of 4. My parents would get drunk and show me off by having me read the NY Times to their friends. This caused a lot of jealousy with my siblings and relatives. That is where it began.
Because of my size, I was picked on relentlessly. I was made to feel like my intelligence was an oddity and for a long period, I pretended to be dumber than I was just to fit in. It was either that or isolating myself. Books and TV became my friends. I started to hate social gatherings because I’d always be singled out for some reason and made fun of. This ultimately became part of my personality. Introversion and insecurity. That shaped the course of my life.
I was always in the gifted classes in school. That was like putting a “kick me” sign on your back for bullies. I got beat up a lot. I was also very short. That didn’t help matters much. It wasn’t until I became a teenager that I finally had enough and decided to fight back.
We lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. It was tough. There was a lot of crime due to drugs and there were a lot of gangs. You had to be very careful or you could end up in a real bad situation. I was in the house one day and there were these neighborhood kids playing around. They were chasing each other and started climbing over the fence into our yard. They were stepping all over my mother’s flowers. Knowing that I’d probably get punched in the face by my mom if I let it happen (yes, it was like that), I went out to confront them. There were six of them. Most my size and one guy bigger than the others. He was the younger brother of these guys known in the neighborhood as ruthless and to be feared. So I yell at them to stop running through my mother’s garden. They stopped and formed a semi-circle around me. I knew I was in trouble but I was in my mothers yard and I wasn’t about to back down. I got pushed around at first, then the punches came. I got thrown to the ground and they stood there laughing at me. I got up and went inside the door. They thought I was running away but I went to get this iron bar that we used to brace the front door, which was also iron. As I emerged, they looked at me in cautious disbelief. The biggest one, Kevin, realizing he needed to show his leadership said, “What are you gonna do with that? You ain’t gonna hit me with that bitch. You better go back inside before I kill you”. I will never forget that feeling. I was as if all the ridicule in my life was balled up into that moment and a wave of fury came over me. I swung that bar as hard as I could, fearing I probably had only one shot before I got stomped. I hit him right in his side and I could hear the rib pop. It was astonishing to me to see him collapse into this pile of gasp and tears. I yelled at the top of my voice, “get the fuck outta here before I kill all of you”. They all ran, leaving him to hobble away doubled over in pain, barely able to breathe. My moment of victory was short lived as I then realized that he would probably get his brothers, who were bigger and were known to carry guns. I think I stayed inside for a week, totally terrified, until my friend Joe that lived a house away came over and was like, “You kicked his ass,,nobody is gonna mess with you”. Kevin was in the hospital and I rarely saw him after that. That moment changed me because I knew I had found courage and the ability to fight back.
I want to make sure that the intent of this story is not misunderstood. I am not condoning violence. I’m simply highlighting a major change in my attitude in life..