Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Rolling a fag

There was a point in my life when I was completely lost. I was not sure who I was or what I wanted people to think I was. I was in great denial about my sexuality and was at the cusp of what would become a destructive time in my life.
At the age of 14, I entered high school. For all teenagers this can be a tragic point in their lives but for me it was particularly painful.
I had left grade 8 at the top of my class. My grades were great, I was popular and I was considered cute by the girls which was important to me. I then entered the halls of high school like a maggot. There were men walking around the halls with beards and moustaches and I was barely shaving. People were loud and obnoxious and I was just trying to stay clear of most of them and get my ass home everyday. There were only a handful of kids that left my grade school and went to the same high school as me but almost instantly everyone split up and fell into a "click" of some sort. I didn't seem to have the same luck. So like all "normal" 14 year old boys of the 80's I decided to get a perm and bleach my hair blonde. As my 14 year old friend Karen was my salon specialist for both of these procedures they did not turn out as well as we predicted. I didn't look like Kirk Cameron or Corey Haim. I looked like an idiot who let his friend give him a perm and bleach his hair at the same time. It's funny now but when I had to go to school the next day it was terrorizing.
That was the first time I skipped school. I couldn't go through those doors with that Gilligan hat on and get through that day. What if someone took the hat off my head? What if someone saw what I had done to my hair? I didn't want to give those people another reason to pick on me. I already ate my lunches alone behind the school and when I did eat in the cafeteria I sat at the table with the mentally challenged people because they didn't make fun of me.
I went home that evening and begged my mom to take me somewhere to get my hair fixed. She saw what I had done and called my Aunt Marge. She was a hairdresser and had a salon in her house and Mom and Dad had me in her chair before I went to bed that night. Aunt Marge fixed my hair and made me look "normal" again, but I still felt like a freak.
As the semester progressed the teasing got worse. My brother, who was at the school didn't participate in the teasing and he did try and help me fit in by telling me to stop acting like a fag and act normal. He really was trying to help me and I know that he knew things were tough for me there. Deep inside I knew that he did not want me at his school and wished I had just gone to another school so he didn't have to explain to his friends that I was his brother and that he didn't have to watch me go through all the shit.
In October my brother and his girlfriend went to Scotland to visit her family and around that time the school announced the first School Dance of the year. This dance was the buzz of grade 9. It would be our first high school dance and was going to be a blast. I tried to think positive and the few people that I was considering my friends were all going so I decided to go ahead and buy a ticket.
The day of the dance came and my brother had just returned from his vacation but he was way to cool to go to a school dance. So I was going to go alone and meet people there. My brother went out for the night and I took this chance to grab his new Dr. Martin shoes and black leather jacket that he had bought in Scotland to wear to the dance. Well I knew everyone would see what I was wearing and I would instantly be cool and all the girls would be dancing with me and laughing and having fun. Billy's shoes and coat were going to make me cool. I just had to get it back in his closet before he got home.
So like Cinderella I went off to the ball. I took the bus and I remember walking through the field between the bus stop and the school. I remember seeing my breath as I breathed heavily, panting almost, in anticipation of this event. There were people drinking beer in the parking lot. I smelled drugs. I had never drank a beer or smoked a drug in my life and I was just focusing on the door. My walked turned into a bit of a jog as I ran through the thugs and I heard one of them say as I passed "nice coat fag." That was the best compliment I had ever heard at that school. I heard that comment and felt like maybe the coat would work. Maybe people will start to accept me for brothers jacket if not anything else.
When I got into the school they made me put the jacket into a coat check and I felt like my ball gown was stripped away. I walked around the gym for hours wishing someone would ask me to dance. A few people said hi to me but most people didn't even see me. They just didn't even see me.
I watched people my age laughing, dancing, making out, and having a blast. People were sneaking out the back door to smoke cigarettes and whatever else they were smoking. I just wanted to leave. I had two tickets in my pocket, one for the bus and one to get my brother's coat back. As the dance was over the crowds of 80's teen's came flooding out of the gym and I was in the midst of it all.
I was waiting for my turn at the coat check when somebody came up to me and told me that I was going to get "rolled."
The word "rolled" echoed in my head. It was a word that kids used to describe being beaten up, robbed and stripped of your clothes. I stood there and said nothing. My mind was racing. I had my brother's brand new coat and shoes on and could not possible let some gangster steal them from me. If they didn't kill me my brother surely would. As the jacket was passed to me I immediately put it on and tried to find an alternative way out of the school. As I looked around the foyer around the gym I could see chains and locks around all of the doors leading out to the rest of the school. The area was completely sealed and there was only one door to exit the building. The gym had been emptied and locked so trying to sneak out one of the gym doors was out. I had to go out the only door available, the one I came in and the one where thugs were waiting on the other side for me to come out.
Students were coming up to me and laughing and saying "good luck fairy." I remember one girl asked me "where is your big brother now?" I wished he was there but he wasn't.
I saw 2 police officers standing by the doors getting ready to leave and I stopped them, explained to them that there were people outside who were going to roll me and beat me up and I asked them if they could give me a ride up to the bus stop. "Sorry kid, we are off duty" was the response as they walked out the doors and into their cruiser and pulled away from the school.
I looked out the doors and saw people were all gathered around waiting for this event. There were a couple of familiar faces and even a couple of sad faces. Those few kids that actually didn't want this to happen. I could hear my heart beat in my head and I could taste the tears rolling down my face. I had to open those doors and walk out. I had to just face what was going to happen and try my best to save this coat and shoes.
I pushed open that door and walked out trying to act a proud as a peacock. I announced that my father and brother were on their way to get me and I guess my lie was clear as all I heard was laughter. I walked through the people gathered all around and as I approached the edge of the parking lot I was thinking that everyone was wrong. That I was safe and was not going to get beaten up. I took a deep breath and sigh of relief when I felt a hand grab my left arm and pull me back. A notorious thug named Richard was standing beside me. He spoke softly and gently. He said "that's a nice coat and shoes you have there Jason." I said nothing in response. I was frozen in fear. Suddenly his grip got tighter and another guy held my other arm. I could hear the crowd getting excited and suddenly as I turned my head toward to crowd I saw a guy running toward me, jump in the air and kick me square in the back. I fell forward onto the ground in a dramatic thud. My face scraped the pavement. I could taste blood. I couldn't catch my breath. I heard someone say "Get up faggot cause we are gonna mess you up!"
I was pulled back up to my feet and again held back by both arms. this time I watched as that guy was running at me again. This time he was in front of me and running toward my face. He was going to jump up and kick me in my face. It was at this point that I knew I had to save myself. I didn't know what to do but I knew that I had to do something. Like a mother lifting a car off her child with super strength I felt a power rise from inside me. I thrusted up my right fist to hit the face of the guy to my right and pulled free and started to run. I ran like Forrest Gump on a good day! I was running into the darkened field that would be the perfect place to beat a kid to death in and leave his body but I was not going to let them catch me. I would not look back. I just ran and ran and ran. At one point as I was running through the pitch black darkness I felt my ankle turn and I fell to the ground in a deadening halt. I turned my head and literally, in mid air was one of the thugs, mid pounce as he was ready to tear me apart. I could hear the crowd for the first time. They were cheering me on. I dug deep and leapt back into action and ran all the way to the bus stop! By the time I reached the bus stop, I was away that they has stopped chasing me and had gone back to get their cars and get me either waiting for the bus or they would chase the bus until I got off and roll me then. I never got on that bus. I jumped over a fence and ran a couple of blocks through a cemetery. Then I literally ran through people's back yards and down side streets until I got home. I was a little bloodied and bruised but I had the coat, I had the shoes and I had my pride.
It has been almost 25 years since that night at the school dance and a lot has changed since then. I no longer let what other people think or say have any influence whatsoever on me. I could care less if "cool" people like me as I already know I am as "cool" as it gets. As for bullies hanging around looking for weak victims to pounce on, bring it on losers. I'm a big boy now and if you weren't all in prison I would totally kick your asses!


  1. Jay, I remember you in that photo like it was yesterday. In fact, I think I danced with you at that dance! (Or was it another one?)

    Anyway, it is heartbreaking to read this. I had no idea. Seriously. At the time I had no idea that you were gay or bullied.

    Of course, in my adult life, when I found out you were gay I thought "of course he is". It wasn't a surprise at all. But at the time? I don't even remember thinking about people being gay. And I don't think I ever saw you that way.

    I'm so sorry you had to deal with that shit. And I even feel a pang of guilt -- like, I should have known or something.

    We teach our kids about acceptance all the time. My oldest has a stutter, my third has allergies and is a little squirt next to his friends. I tell them all that I love them every day and I tell them -- as often as I think about it -- that they are perfect, wonderful, little people.

    I wish I could, but I can't do anything about those assholes 25 years ago, but I am doing my part now by teaching my kids to accept themselves and others. And trying to teach them to stand up to bullies; to protect themselves and their friends.

    You are doing a great thing here by writing and sharing your stores. Keep it up.


  2. Amanda you are an awesome mom and your efforts with your kids will no doubt change the way our kids grow up and treat each other as adults. I know that you were one of the smiling faces at that dance that night as you always were while I was at that school. I also remember that you, karen and craig skipped off school with me the day of the perm! It is weird what our brains retain. Some peoples greatest memories all lost completely on others. I definitely smile When I think about you back then, as I do now!