We enter into this world in an orgasmic explosion rudely introduced randomly to one another. We are sheltered, we are fed and we are encircled by warmth and flesh. A light suddenly appears and we are thrust into that light, whose effervescence, we soon will find, is not as consistent as promised. A pair of arms, a breast which we are too young to appreciate, a bed with bars and us, thoroughly lacking any voluntary motor functions.
Years pass and you find yourself in a chair, in a class, in a building with rules to destroy any sense of independence or unconventional thinking or behavior. You must conform. Some of us reject these rules and end up with labels such as “Bad kid” or “disrespectful.”
Sometimes we are blessed with a teacher who understands and embraces individuality. Those are the ones we will remember forever. But other times we are given a teacher who hates their job and is not afraid to take it out on the kids.
“There must be something wrong with him, he cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes at a time. He doesn’t stop disrupting the class.”
I still cannot understand how I can be silent when a humorous situation presents itself. I also cannot sit silently while being forced to listen to someone who considers themselves my superior yet possesses none of the qualifications.
At 8 years of age I was punished and sent to the principles office for making a comment about how God looks.
“I picture God looking like the weatherman on Eyewitness News, Tex Antoine.”
“You picture our Lord, our heavenly Father as a weatherman?” The Rabbi, standing over six feet tall and looking down on me as I sat at my desk.
“Yeah. He always knows how the weather is going to be. Only God knows the future, right?”
“How dare you.”
“You compare Hashem with an actor? A weatherman?”
“Is that wrong?”
“Go to Rabbi Pearl’s office now.” Rabbi Pearl was the principle.
“Because you are disrespectful and do not understand the holiness of God.”
He pulled me by my ear and led me to the door and closed it behind me. I walked to the principals office confused and in tears.
That was in 1974 – two years later Tex Antoine made a comment which got him fired from his job and exposed his less than Godly like choice in words.
In our most impressionable years we are forced to attend school. Seven or eight hours listening to lectures and biased opinion pieces about history, morality and God. We are told how to feel, how to act and how to speak. Blue is blue, red is red and black is black. You sit at the easel and you try to create your own color with shades of blue and red – mixing the colors in one dish – the ear is pulled again.
“Have you ever seen a blue rabbit? What are you doing mixing two colors? Now your brush will be confused.” The teacher admonishes.
“My brush will be confused?” You respond.
“Don’t talk back to me.”
So you bounce the brush into a clear bowl of water until the colors are erased and you are told to paint the rabbit white. You dab the brush in green and you paint the rabbit green – because thats the color you choose to paint it. You state your case and it ends in an argument. The real reason you chose green was to piss off the teacher. You are 13 years old and tired of the rules. Tired of how they want everything to match and to make sense based on their own ideas or understanding of normalcy.
“You are getting an ‘F’ on this and I want your parents both to sign it. Give me your phone number I am going to call your parents tonight.”
So you forge the signature and you leave the phone off the hook all night hoping no one hears the blaring noise. The phone is placed back in its cradle several times when someone makes a call – but each time they hang up you go back and kick it off the cradle once again.
High School is another building with the same ideas of conformity. So you rebel and tell them, “Fuck off.” You get suspended and berated by the principle and my father. My mother talks to me and understands. There are a couple of teachers I am blessed with who help shape my persona and help me identify my gifts. I dream in class of being set free from the building so I can become an actor, orator, writer and a stand up comic.
College is not an option for me because I cannot be forced into compliance forever – the windows to the classroom throughout my incarceration in education facilities were always a tease to me of the freedom I could not taste. So I went to work.
All the while – from Kindergarten until then – I was obsessed by the female – with her soft hair and her soft skin. The lips which smile, frown or whisper words I could not, still cannot fully comprehend. The scent, the walk and the intelligence. The humor and the neck…the legs…
This distraction has plagued me, inspired me, hurt me and saved me throughout my life. This distraction has kept me imprisoned much like the womb, the bars of my crib and the school rules enforced by the stagnant unyielding ignorant adults.
This distraction will inspire me as well to act, sing, orate and write words of love, fear, failure and victory.
Oh the calamity one finds themselves in when 30 years have passed and you find yourself still imprisoned. Instead of teachers there are clients, bosses and family members. In place of the desk and chair there is the cubicle with the desk and chair.
Oh the pain you can feel when the bars are thickened with failure to excel. The death of a salesman becomes part of your inner turmoil and the will to be true to yourself are like the windows in the classroom – so vivid yet so unattainable. Dreams are remembered yet repressed for the need to be steeped in a reality of getting to work in order to earn the money for food, clothing, shelter and all that come along with that.
So the distractions seem like an escape – but her eyes they seem to have cooled off – perhaps too much failure to excel or to walk among the giants. The prison bars are my physical self, not enough walking and way too much talking.
Fifty one years have passed and the feeling of being a stranger in my home persists. Lost among the found, the wounded and the healed are strands from the past I will not, ever be able to partake in again. The parties where I stood aside, the crowded bars where I sat in a corner and the living rooms of friends where I became a wallflower.
I act to protect my inner sanctum where my true self is hidden somewhere beneath crumpled paper with words written, unread, unheard, unborn.
I orate to distract from the true voices and words that might escape me when my guard is down and the days end quickly.
I sing to cry and to express the opera within my heart.
I laugh and I try to bring humor to all who surround me, to protect them from the inner me which must be muted from all who can see or hear.
I am invisible to all and to myself, forever a stranger.