I’d been holding my hand up for so long that my arm hurt. I shook it wildly in an effort to get the obviously blind teacher’s attention. I made grunting noises and ooh ooh sounds to further encourage her that I knew the answer, but she wouldn’t call on me.
“Billy, what do you think the answer is?” She smiled sweetly and I could almost feel the sick pleasure she got in torturing me. “Does anyone else want to answer?” Each word from her lips was like a bamboo shoot under my fingernails, another volt of electricity through my brain.
“Cindy, that’s right!” She exclaimed and heaped on the praise. I continued to imagine that she was hoping for me to explode. I didn’t understand why she just wouldn’t call on ME!
I finally broke down right there in class. It was too much. I started crying. At first it was merely a trickle but then as the full reality of what was happening to me I started to guffaw and gasp with spasmodic shudders.
My feelings were like a large balloon constantly filled to the breaking point. Each time Mrs. Tatangelo called on another student it was like she was jabbing a needle into that balloon. Every poke was taken personally. Every word was scrutinized, weighed, measured, judged and the final verdict was that everyone in the class was against me and this particular day it just happened to be my birthday.
That was second grade. I was only 6. I’d started school early, skipped kindergarden and was right there smack dab in the middle of kids a year and sometimes two years older than me. If I had a superpower back then it would have been the ability to “Feel” things on an extreme level. I was constantly aware of everyone and how they treated me. I was super sensitive. I took detailed mental lists of every betrayal, every slight and I remembered it whether I wanted to or not.
This has been my blessing and my curse my whole life. My inability to shut off my feelings or being overly sensitive to things. On some levels it helps me be the kind-hearted person I am, but on another level it leaves me blubbering over the slightest inconsideration or cruelty. When people don’t show up for my events, I take it personal. When people don’t like my ideas, I can get volatile.
I’m better now that I’m older and I understand myself more, but I’m still not 100% happy with how I respond to things and people who are out of my control. With every strength there seems to be a great weakness.
It’s been 27 years since my teacher didn’t call on me in second grade but I can still remember those feelings I had as if they were this morning. If I took my heart out of my chest and examined it I am sure it would mostly be a large pile of scar tissue, but I don’t mind so much, scars are what remain after a wound heals and those scars are what make me me stronger.