I wasn’t born a loner – but I was born with a brain condition which almost guaranteed that outcome.
When I was almost three, my Mother gave birth to my brother, a sickly blue-baby which required a lot of care and attention. I was not abandoned, but I had a lot of alone time, in a neighborhood with no other children my age. The pattern was set.
A bit of amateur observation and analysis by others, later, in my adult life, indicates that I am probably on the autism scale, a high-functioning Asperger’s. I could have been charitably described as ‘delightfully naïve.’ I do not read social cues. I was intelligent, not a hick, or a rube. I was open, friendly, inclusive – and I got shit on!
The nearest boy my age was two blocks away, just beyond a parkland with a lake in the middle. He regularly played with a boy a year older, who lived next door. I occasionally hung out with them, but slowly realized that they only tolerated me to use or abuse me.
At our end of the little lake, the cedar trees grew closely, up the embankment, pierced by a few game/people trails. The far end could not be reached without going out to the street, and around, because of a minor geological formation, and a field of stinging nettle that I regretted finding – until I discovered a way past.
At the far end, there were open areas of tall grass and weeds. The cedars were in individual, teepee-sized copses. I stuck my head into one of them, to discover that the outer foliage blocked the sunlight, and the interiors were hollow. FORTS! Just what every 10/11-year-old boy needed. I could hardly wait to show my companions.
When I excitedly led them to see my discovery, in the first copse we entered, there was a ‘machine gun’ – a wooden toy that some father had built, with a crank and a clacker on one side. Suitable for a 6 or 7-year-old, the 12-year-old culprit snatched it up and shouted, “Mine!”
A week later, when I repeated my mistake, we found a homemade hunting knife. Instead of leaving it for the rightful owner, he yelled, “Dibs,” and grabbed it, too. Now I felt that I could no longer explore my new play area, lest a resident denizen accuse me of stealing these items.
At the edge of the downtown retail area, there was a dilapidated storage building. I learned how to slip past the loose rear doors. Among other things, it contained three non-functioning pinball machines. Often coming or going, I would slip in and stand at them for five or ten minutes, popping the balls up, and propelling them up, to watch them carom around randomly, and disappear.
When I inadvertently revealed that I knew how to get in, they insisted that I show them. Standing around, watching steel balls doing nothing, didn’t entertain them. The older culprit pried the end railing off all three machines, slid the glass covers down, and had me remove all the balls. Three machines – three of us – we each got five 1-inch ball-bearings. I accompanied culprit #1 back to his house, on the way to mine. As I walked across his lawn, I heard him call to me.
His old house had old-style, heavy wooden storm-windows that fit over the regular ones in cold weather, to add insulation value. For rooms like the kitchen, which might become overheated, you could open the inner window, and the storm-window had a flap at the bottom, covering four round holes that could provide ventilation.
He wanted to know if the balls would fit through the holes. They did – perfectly. “You push the balls in, and I’ll push them back out to you.” So I did. I soon realized that I was poking in five – and getting back four – poking in the four – and getting back three, etc. until I had none. Standing there, like the gullible fool I was, I said, “Push mine back out to me.” “Nope, they’re mine now.” and he closed the flap and the inner window, so I went home with nothing but regrets.
A couple of months later, he wanted to trade comic books. He kept his pile in a cardboard box just bigger than his comics. As I was digging down in the box, I realized that all the ball-bearings were along the bottom. I surreptitiously snaked them out and dropped them in my pocket. As I was walking away, he shouted through the window, “You stole all my balls. Give them back.” I said, “Nope, they’re mine now.” Even with ten balls in my possession, I couldn’t go back to the amusement site and put them back; for fear that I would be discovered and accused of damaging the machines.
I went to school with him so, one day we were walking together in a residential area that was not ours. Twenty yards ahead on the sidewalk was a piece of paper. It looked like an envelope. I assumed that we would just walk up to it and see what it was. Suddenly, he dashed forward, scooped it up and started pawing into the envelope.
When I got there, I found that it was a utility bill for a month’s electricity and water – plus enough cash to pay for it. The owner’s name was clear on the invoice. I felt that we should just walk over to the widow’s apartment and return it, getting a smile, a thank you, a pat on the head, and possibly a cookie. Instead of doing that, or instead of offering to split it with me, or at least give me a small portion, he just stuffed it in his pocket.
Perhaps I read too much evil into too small a sample size, but it didn’t get any better when I had to attend high school in the next town. Mostly I was ignored, sometimes pointedly so, but there was a short bully who loved to sneak up behind me, grab my arm and twist it behind me in a chicken-wing. It was only because my arms were so short, that he couldn’t get enough leverage to cause me pain or discomfort. I would ignore him, and he would get bored, turn me loose and walk away.
One day, two of the well-off guys in my class were illicitly sharing a BIG box of peanut brittle. When class ended, I politely asked if I might have a small piece. At next class-break, they found me and gave me a piece – which they later crowed they had both peed on. Even today, I am amazed that people will expend so much time and energy, for no obvious gain.
I refuse to be mean. I will not be nasty or judgmental. I will not be an asshole. I will not be a prankster, a troublemaker, or a criminal. I know that there are lots of nice folks. I’ve met many of them, but people like these seem to make up the large majority of the population. I eventually realized that I didn’t need or want companionship badly enough to seek it from the likes of these.
To those of you who have been kind to me – and others – online, or in person, Thank You! You are bright and shining stars in a sea of darkness. I’m glad I could be a loner, with you. 😀 😀