#MNR: PALZ, Part 2
Butt ass naked truth: this blog is going to delve deep into the mind of a benevolent neurotic. I don’t mind at all if you laugh at my pain; humor is humor, personalized, and isn’t subject to another’s interpretation. All I ask is that you respect the fact that I (as always) kept it a 1000 and was willing to open my walk-in closet and embrace my skeletons. Alright? Bet. Buckle up. Twist you one of those left hands Fred G. Sanford used to talk about. This is one of those.
Ok y’all. Part one threw a well-deserved alley to my true day one and pal Nick Thomas from Strong Isle. But for part two we’re going to take a trip down I-95, jump off in Richmond for the Powhite Parkway, then take 360 East to South Boston, VA. It’s 1991. I’m an eighth-grade student at Halifax County Junior High School. Yup. I’m so old that middle schools were still junior high schools. Anyways, I was definitely a fish out of water. I went from an elementary school with just under 200 students (mostly kids I’d known since I moved to VA a few years earlier) to a junior high school with well over a thousand students. Yeah, I knew a lotta kids from playing rec basketball and football (champs seventh grade year) and from staying with my mom and step pops on weekends “in town”, but NONE of the kids I knew were in class with me. I was in all Honors classes. That didn’t bother me because I’ve always strived for excellence. And I’ve always been pushed from Shareon, so I didn’t really have a choice. But junior high studies are a big step up from elementary work. A big step. In retrospect, I had an eighth grade Earth Science teacher by the name of Walter Knapp. That man was as tough as a Jeff Houses roach or Edenwald Houses rat, tougher than all the instructors I’ve ever had outside Shareon, my maternal grandmother Mary Warren, my sixth grade Patricia Younger, and two of my university professors (all except Mr. Knapp and my Political Theory teacher Eric King are deceased). So yeah, class was tedious and hectic. Sure, I started on the o-line for the football team, but I didn’t even sit with the brothers in the back of the bus on away trips. My social skills were on like a 3.5/10. I wasn’t comfortable talking to girls at the time, not girls I was interested in. I could converse with girls I had class with or who were cool in general, but I was a selective mute around the pretty girls I was unfamiliar with. My self-esteem and self-confidence were extremely low because of all my early childhood trauma. Now that’s one thing. But it wasn’t as bad as the other two things (in my eyes) that intertwined to ensure my underwhelming junior high era. Outside of my true shy guy personality, I had no squad and no type swagger. The first is self-explanatory. The second is a bit more layered. We all know what self-confidence does for an individual. We also know that with a teenager a lot of swagger comes with your style of dress. Shareon was one of those old school mothers that never embraced the spoil your children philosophy. She was raised to be oblivious to designer tags, so developing that philosophy was easy for her. That’s her. That shit wasn’t easy for me. I’m from the first generation of name brand worship. My Nikes didn’t have Air on the back. They were just plain Nikes. I hadn’t had a pair of Jordans since my nana Thompson sent me the Jordan II (two) in a sympathy care package years back. None of my clothes came out of anywhere past a JC Penny. Throw all that into one ball of uncertainty that also included NEVER going to any weekend functions outside of church on Sunday or an occasional church youth group event/trip on Saturday and that was me. Tyrone, plain and kinda tall, just a bit chubby. And lest we forget the gap in my teeth, something a certain cute girl ridiculed me about through tenth grade. C’est la vie. Before y’all judge me and call me an ungrateful ass child, you’re absolutely right. I was. But I’m proud to say that that tough upbringing transformed me from an ungrateful child to an appreciative and hard-working adult.
With all my shortcomings, I still managed to navigate through my daily school life without any significant turbulence outside of fighting for my life to receive a C or B- in Knapp’s class. I stayed clear of the bullies and thugged out niggas. Understand this: junior high meant ninth grade, meaning high school aged kids went to school with us too. The homie Brion Scott (we became cool later in life, that’s a good guy) was like 17 when I was in eighth grade. Nigga had a full beard and was mean as hell. Still is. I was scared to fucking death back then. And best believe, he wasn’t the only tough guy roaming the halls and locker room. There were so many fights in that school that administration had to adopt all types of new policies. Shit got so out of hand they started suspending all fight spectators (whom teachers/admin could “identify”) for three days. Three days suspension on your “permanent” record just for standing there and watching free entertainment. Bastards. But shit, there really were AT LEAST 40-50 kids encircled around every fight. In all fairness, it WAS type hard for teachers or admin to get through the crowd to break shit up. But fuck all that. It was even harder trying to see the fight behind like a million MF. To add true perspective, it was so crazy that you could tell if there was a fight in proximity to your classroom (even with the door closed and instruction taking place) because the floor literally began to shake like a damn San Andreas tremor. And I definitely heard whispers about who was bringing their strap to school with them every day, at least two or three cats.
Everything else was regular, except when it came to lunch. Lunch was the ultimate test of worth in junior high. The table you sat at meant everything. All the lame kids literally sat the same long ass table every day. I told y’all earlier I wasn’t a member of any crew, squad, clique, nada. I was one of the lame kids, eating my lil slice of pizza, fries, and honey bun, drinking my lil chocolate milk in isolation amidst others. I never spoke lame language, so I didn’t really speak much at the table. But I was definitely one of the lame kids. A nobody. That was until the day the homie Scooter invited me to sit at his table. Scooter was a kid I knew in passing from Westside, a part of the county where there is a considerable amount of us-skinned folk in proximity. Scooter was one half of the number one candy selling crew in HCJHS, along with the homie fat Reggie from South Boston. They made a killing selling Air Heads, Jolly Ranchers (the old school ones that were shaped like Air Heads), and candy bars. They had an actual staff of candy pushers on payroll that they paid every Friday. Scooter cleared well over fifty cash a week just running the operation. And Scooter could fight his ass off. He had hands that were grown man sized at age 13, 14, and knew how to use them. He was respected in every circle, even by his enemies. And his affiliation with Reggie meant he had love from some of the would-be ops from the other side. Much like all kids who have “it”, Scooter ran with kids much older than him. One Saturday night while riding in a car on the way to a movie theater in a larger town about a half an hour away, Scooter, who was riding in the back of a hatch back as the sixth and youngest passenger, was ejected from the vehicle when the car hit a bump on a country road. Somehow, gravity, inertia, or some physical science and physics type shit I don’t know anything about caused him to end up under the back tires. He died immediately. Word spread around the school that Monday morning like a Cali wildfire. I was devastated. Sam “Scooter” Mitchell was only fourteen years old.
The most fucked up part about it all, outside of losing Scooter, wasn’t the thought of losing my seat at the table. That remained, literally and figuratively. It was the fact that I couldn’t outwardly mourn for the homie. I wasn’t one of his day ones. We didn’t go to primary school and get into mischief around the neighborhood together. His day one homies woulda ridiculed me to no end if I woulda mourned frfr. Y’all know how we get anytime one of us dies. Errbody gotta be the best friend, closest cousin, the favorite child, the number one mistress/slide-off. And on the flipside, anyone who “over mourns” outside the immediately family/circle is fake or just trying to draw attention. Forget about discussing it at the dinner table. And I didn’t know WTF a grief counselor was until after 9.11.2001. I was (to anyone who even noticed) just some kid who sat at Scooter’s lunch table. But Scooter did more for me than most people in life could ever do. He gave me a seat at the table. He invited me, a nobody, into his world. He let me know I belonged. That did more for my self-esteem than anything else in this life has, believe it or not. All types of people came through that table during any given lunch period, including the pretty girls. I had a couple of conversations with a few. It did a lot for my little self-confidence. Some may ask if it hurts to not be able to let Scooter know how much he meant to my life, but he knows. I tell him all the time. I’ve been speaking to a few of my dead homies for a while now. The conversations are mostly one-sided, but they’re therapeutic. I gotta let them know the part they continue to play in this greatness that exists today. They are my motivation. Take it from a brother who was something from nothing. That’s all my time y’all. Thanks for taking a moment to hear (read) what I had to say. Many blessings.