Middle school was probably the worst time of my life. I'm not sure what it was exactly, but I'm theorizing that it involved the transition out of elementary. Everyone feels as though they've graduated out of the child classification and into a new, mature land; in many ways, this can be correct. But we took it upon ourselves to stand up straighter and say things louder. Because that's what adults do, right? Beliefs, opinions, insults... we felt the need to flaunt them like a new outfit, despite not even being of an age in which we could thoroughly understand the situation at hand. We were older than the children on the playground by one full year. I remember having a tough time with "bullies" in seventh grade, but to be fair, my "bullies" were my preexisting enemies from elementary school, back when I was butted out of the dueling circle because I was a girl (I stopped watching Yu-Gi-Oh! shortly after that exclusion commenced). In elementary school, I wasn't ‘bullied.’ True, I was called names a little bit for dressing in boy's clothing (the hand-me-downs we had), but I LOVED that. I loved being the tomboy who sprinted around the playground, make believing I was a Jedi Knight, a Kung-Fu master, or an explorer on a new planet. I loved holding snakes and toads, and wished that I could take one home. I was COMFORTABLE being a tomboy, and so when kids began trying to make me feel bad for it, I reveled in the taunts that were said, and fought for my respect (even wrestled, PLENTY of times).
In sixth grade, I hurt a friend, and resolved to never cause undeserved injury again. I no longer allowed myself to physically fight people who called me names. That was, surprisingly, the start of the worst school years of my life; middle school. I did not yet understand that I actually NEEDED action to back up my words. In sixth grade, I popped my instigators in the nose. In seventh grade though, due to my resolution, my bark was far, far bigger than my bite. And that was when the hailstorm started. New words started being used as insults, and they didn't match me at all. Gay, fag, emo, slut, and I couldn't wallop the kids because of my self-promise. Luckily, I got through that year with the help of my friends... though, I was in for it in eighth grade.
From the start of eighth grade, I was quieter from being alone for most of the summer with my thoughts. Also, I was now keeping a secret from everyone, because two of my friends had confessed to me about their own secret relationship. Right off, I wasn't exclaiming the things that I was in seventh grade anymore. More timid, I held my tongue at a constant rate. Still, my "bullies" called me names that were not kind (or accurate) by any standards. I isolated myself within my small group, and then, about a third of the way through the school year, my two friends revealed their relationship to my other two friends, who were accepting. About a month went by, and things were nice. The five of us, my sisters from other misters. And then, the unthinkable happened. One of my friends started hanging out with another group. Due to an extreme amount of 'he-said-she-said,' we stopped speaking to one another, without ever having a single ill conversation. We never rekindled our friendship completely. Now, I had three friends. One, let’s call her Paige, did not like the other, and split off a bit as a result. She still spoke to me, but for the most part, she left our group alone. Then, I just had two friends to walk with, sit with; the two who I was keeping the secret for. The teasing kept coming. My two friends came out of the closet, and my world exploded. All of the unreasonable teasing now seemed logical to outsiders and bystanders. I hadn't had a boyfriend in my entire life, and my remaining friends were openly lesbians. The teasing progressed to new levels. The things people were accusing me of were disgusting, and I lost my voice entirely. What could I say against it that would simultaneously make them shut up? They wanted a reaction, and after a month, I was too exhausted to give them even that. Every accusation was wrong, but would they listen to that? No.
I stopped talking, and after roughly three months, the audible teasing decreased. I still felt the heat of glares on my back, but I pretended to ignore those. My friends still had fight in them, and so, they continued to be teased unrelentingly. But for them, I imagined that it was very much like 'tomboy' was to me, or 'human being' might be to you. It wasn't a false accusation, albeit of crude word choice and venomous tone. They were lesbians. It didn’t bother them to have people saying that they were “Gaaaaay.” If I looked at you and hollered “Huuuuman,” how insulted would you be? It’s only insulting if the vernacular is crude, or, if you don’t identify with the terminology. Like little old me.
The worst part was that one of the two remaining friends, let’s call her Tiffany, was not a nice person. She caused much of the misery in my life, and was in fact the main contributor of the ‘he-said-she-said’ that tore me away from the first friend to leave our group. The reason I did not desert Tiffany’s side was because my final friend was also her girlfriend, Marie. Towards the end of the school year, my friend Paige told me to choose between her and Tiffany. I was conflicted. Paige had deserted our group months before hand, only speaking to me when I was apart from the others, and leaving Tiffany meant leaving Marie. Marie had been my friend since kindergarten, and we are still closer than blood to this day. By this point of the year, I was anemic, ghostly pale, having regular migraines, never stood up for myself at home or at school, and at the point of Paige’s steely confrontation on the matter, I thought it was officially game over. I didn’t know what to do. If I stopped being Tiffany’s friend, I wouldn’t have to deal with how low she made me feel. Heck. If I stopped hanging out with both Tiffany and Marie, the teasing would probably have stopped altogether. But I couldn’t leave Marie. The school year was ending, my grades were in the toilet, and apart from Marie, everyone seemed enraged with me. EVERYONE. The gossiping circle in the hall, the thoughtless tormenters, the teachers who pursed their lips when I walked past them. Home life was messy for other reasons, and really, nowhere felt safe anymore. I believed that my life was ending… then, on the morning I was supposed to make the decision between my friends, I woke up early. I was tired and it literally felt like my head was going to explode, an ache pounding like no other in the center of my brain… and I sat around, trying to think through the pain. All I could think was, Game Over. It wasn’t a fun game. I had lost all value in my life. And though part of me was dreading it, I knew that there was no way to escape what was coming. As I reached this dreadful conclusion, my headache stopped… I stood and discovered that I had, for the most part, lost control of the right side of my body. But I felt no surprise, and thinking back, I’m going to peg the lack of reaction to my amygdala being blocked. I went to the bathroom, then, my right side completely lost to me, I floundered haphazardly back onto the living room couch, not quite making it all the way and sinking down the leathery surface to the floor. The dread had left me. I wasn’t thinking about people glaring at my back, or teachers writing detention slips. I was thinking about my four friends, when they were my friends, my sisters. Other thoughts swam through my mind, cartoons from when I was a child, pleasant remarks from my past, and it was almost like I was in a dream. I was tempted to laugh, it was so amusing. For the first time in two years… I was completely content with the moment at hand…
Something made me pull myself back up on the couch, using only my left side. It was surprisingly difficult. Something made me wait for my mom’s alarm clock. I waited for her to wake up, come out, and start making breakfast for my little brother, Arthur. It was a twenty minute wait, about. I had pulled the blanket back over myself by that point, but then, something brought me to raise up my left arm, and then, to call out in an almost animal noise, which still confuses me to this day. My mom rushed to me, automatically concerned, and she helped me sit up. I sheepishly confessed that I couldn’t move my right side. From there, the memory is hazed. Mom was panicking, dad drove me to the hospital in Laurium, parked outside the emergency entrance and ran in. He returned a moment later with a nurse, and together, they helped me limp into the hospital. I remember that the doctor there was not very nice. My dad was pacing, anxious, and I was sitting in the hospital bed, calm. The doctor started asking me questions, all of which, I was answering “no,” to. Do you have any disabilities? No. At that time, I didn’t think I did. Do you have any allergies? No. I don’t. Do you take any medication? There, the answer in my mind changed. Because, I WAS taking four ibuprofens a day. Yes, I thought, and I opened my mouth, and I told the doctor, “No.” My eyes widened, or rather, eye. My left hand went flying up in desperation, and I shouted, “Wait!” The doctor looked at me. Dad looked at me. I dug through my mind, tearing out the drawer of memories, turning it upside down and shaking it. What was the word?! I KNEW the word! I had to! “Not no, I meant, I…” I said, voice trembling as I scoured through my mind, through my entire life, for that ONE WORD. For all that I had ever lived for, I could NOT find the single statement I had meant to use... “Yes?” The doctor suggested. Lips pursed, I nodded. That must have been what I’d meant. Right? Right? Now, fear trickled into my system, as I found the word to be missing again. The doctor just said it, yet it wasn’t there, and I had already forgotten... I remember my dad and the doctor talking, and my dad was very, very worried… I lost consciousness.
When I woke up, I couldn’t think. I don’t know how else to explain it, but I was still at the hospital in Laurium, and though I was awake and retaining memory, no thought went through my head. I relate it best to how a video camera might record something. Every word had left my mind while I slept those few hours. I remember my older brother, Ray, had my hand. I looked up at him, and he gave me a small, sad, smile. I looked down to his hands, gently clasping my right hand on my chest. Ray had a relatively fresh cut on his hand, starting at about the knuckles and running to about his wrist. Maybe it was a day old. Still. I frowned. I was unable to think, unable to remember, but still, I knew that that was not right. With my left hand, I pointed at the cut on Ray’s hand, looking up to him in confusion. Ray looked like he was about to break, but he smiled at me, squeezing my hand gently, telling me, “I tried to climb a fence.” My face relaxed some, his response soothing me. The memories haze out again, with my big brother still holding my hand.
Later, they were transporting me to a different hospital. Mom rode in the ambulance with me. I fell back asleep. I remember waking up during the ride to Wisconsin. Some kind of air lift, be it helicopter or plane. I could see out the bottom of it, and it was beautiful. The open fields of Wisconsin, smaller bodies of water reduced to tiny drops. If I could have had it register, I’d bet my life on me fainting. I was terrified of heights. But the whole ride, I watched as we glided over it. I heard the pilot on headphones that they capped over my ears. “You alright?” he asked. I couldn’t answer, but his voice comforted me. “How you doin’ back there?” Blocks of farmland transitioned to buildings, and his voice greeted me again, wrapping me in warmth as I felt another weight, dragging down my eyelids. “We’re almost there now. You’re gonna be okay.”
I remember being moved to a stretcher, paramedics and nurses surrounding me. Then, I felt my stomach churning, and I hacked, choking, writhing as I felt acid clawing up my throat. “Turn her over!” a doctor had commanded, though two nurses were already on it. I vomited. A nurse pat my back, making sure I could still breathe.
“There we go… It’s all gonna be okay, hunny.”
My body shook, and I gasped for air. The world started fading out. When my eyes fluttered shut, I had nothing left. No thoughts, no memories, no sight or sound… just the chilled, sanitary air, pressing down against me… and then… there was nothing.