Day: July 16, 2008

  • Mark Shell


    There was a little boy I went to school with in Swinburne Elementary that I've always wondered about, what happened to him, where did he wind up, stuff like that.  I don't usually care that much about people, being aspie, so this kid made a pretty big impression on me.
    We met in the second grade.  I'm not sure what started it all, but it turned into a 4 year love affair, kid style.  He would annoy me on the playground, I would try to slug him, he would run, I would chase him.  I loved it.  I think he loved it, because it seemed to happen quite a bit.  I know back then I made a big deal about being really ticked off about it, but honestly, it's just about my favorite memory of school, chasing Mark around the playground.
    To me Mark looked like a miniature Steve McQueen, kind of like a little action figure.  I remember the 'little kid' playground pretty well.  I think neither he nor I quite fit the normal kid standard for popularity, so we amused ourselves on one another when we couldn't fit in anywhere else.  I loved doing crazy things like jumping off the swings and red rover (flipping kids over our arms), but when all else failed, I always had Mark.  I guess I was fairly aggressive for a little girl and not very girly with other girls, and had obvious problems with Asperger's that kept me from being more social, so in my mind, Mark was a consistent comrade of a sort, and I look back and appreciate that he cared enough to come looking for me and keep initiating our 'romance'.
    Over the years I remember little kinks in our relationship.  For some reason, Juanita Valasquez took it upon herself to 'protect' Mark from my abusive ways somewhere in the 3rd or 4th grade.  I noticed this was inconsistent with HER abusive ways of other kids, and that she really didn't do it because she particularly liked Mark.  I think she just liked picking on me, and Mark made a good reason.  I remember I once made Valentines for all the kids, and she harassed me about sealing his with a sticker of a pig.  My mom bought me animal stickers.  I lived on a farm.  We raised everything but pigs, and I happened to *like* pigs.  I even did a report on pigs in the 3rd grade.  I put a goat sticker on Juanita's Valentine.  Apparently she didn't get the significance.  I was called a goat roper in school because my dad was a white (German) sheep farmer.  I rode a bus into town and was low dog on the totem pole in a boom town full of every conceivable skin color, mix, and several Native American tribes.  I gave her the goat sticker because I didn't like her.  But she thought a pig was worse, apparently.  Odd that Juanita didn't give Mark a Valentine herself, but she fussed at me for the one I made for him with my own hands.
    I also remember 5th grade very vividly, in Mrs. Lally's class.  Mark wasn't exactly the coolest guy in the class, and several times he was caught drinking glue, drinking ink out of ink pens (pretty messy), and stealing lunches.  I think I offered him part of my lunch one time, because I figured maybe he didn't get breakfast or something.  I never saw anyone else offer him food.  In the lunch room other kids laughed at him once for bringing a limburger cheese sandwich that his gramma made for him.  I thought it smelled good (I'm a real cheese fan nowadays, use a variety of imported cheeses in my cooking), so I didn't laugh.
    By 5th grade we were on the 'big kid' playground, and by then all my Mark chasing was slowly evolving into a big chase game taken up by all the 5th and 6th graders, until a teacher butted in and segregated us into 'baseball' and 'girl stuff', which sucked.  I think some of the adults must have thought the chase game wasn't 'nice' or something.  I was usually one of the last ones tagged, sometimes in the top 3 fastest runners, so the new playground rules really ruined the rest of elementary school for me.  But I continued to chase Mark when I could...
    One day Mark managed to get outside and catch some kind of big green crawly bug and put it right down my dress in the classroom before he ran back out for recess.  You know, if I'd been a little older, I might have made him go in after it and get it back out, but I was thrilled/incensed and ran out to ~really~ get him this time.  I caught him by his jacket and was dragging him back when Juanita stepped in between us and jerked my hand off his jacket.  C'mon, Mark was a big kid like the rest of us, if he weren't enjoying being dragged around he'd have easily fought me off.  But Juanita was stupid and made a huge deal in front of all the other kids about how mean and cruel I was, always picking on Mark, and she wasn't going to let me do that any more.  (Juanita and her friends went on to torture me clear through middle school.)  Mark was a nut I really enjoyed, once caught his pants on fire skidding on the ground because he had matches in his pocket.  I think I can pretty confidently say Juanita never loved him for that, and probably never even noticed or appreciated that he was different, and most certainly never wondered why.  Other than keeping me from torturing him, I never saw her toss any affection his way, so I'm pretty sure her crush was more on me or something.  I never quite understood her venom.
    I think not long after that there was another recess I was first in from, already in my seat when wide eyed kids came streaming in crying and freaking that some kid had been hit in the head by a baseball bat, and his brains were squished out.  It was Mark.
    As I was growing up, we had a dog who gave birth over and over, and my dad killed the puppies.  He had me help him carry them while he carried a shovel, and we walked out to the 'wash' (a small dry arroyo) to bury them.  Dad would first use the shovel to smash the puppies' heads to kill them, so I really did know what it looked like to have brains squished out.  This was done without warning or explanation, and I responded with no emotion whatsoever, like I usually do.  It's my aspie way of dealing with things.
    So you can imagine the shock I went into in class.  I sat there in my desk vividly picturing Mark dead with his brains smashed out and blood coming out his nose and went numb.  Juanita, of course, marched up to my desk in angry tears and took out her own shock on me, yelling at me for not even crying, I didn't even *care*.  I actually did care, so much that I stopped talking to anyone for a long time, stopped playing on the playground, and started hiding myself more from people.
    I can't recall much in the way of Mark memories after that happened.  There was rumor that his dad moved, but I was never clear that Mark had actually survived.  I really did think he was dead.  I grew rather mean in the 6th grade, but kept it all inside, playing cruel jokes on the kids but never getting caught.  That continued right up through high school, but those are stories for later.
    I did see Mark a couple of years later.  I was coming out of the lunch room across the street from the middle school, I think, and I saw him in the school yard with other guys around him.  I guess he'd dropped by for a visit or something, because I don't remember him attending middle school.  If he did, I must have shut down so much that I never noticed, but why he would suddenly catch my eye like that then is beyond me.  I remember being so surprised to see him, staring hard to make sure it was really him, and wanting so badly to go see him and touch him to make sure.  But he was unreachable, and I don't think I ever saw him again after that.  But it was nice to know he wasn't really killed.
    It took me several decades to realize I loved that little boy.  Scott reminds me a lot of Mark.  He says he ate paste as a kid, and did all kinds of crazy things that make you wonder how a kid like that survives to adulthood.  I don't know why Mark has popped into my mind over the last few years, maybe it's part of the midlife assessment thing.  I think I feel good about having a little kid romance in my past, if you can call it that.
    Mark, I hope you are having a cool life, with a great family, and that everything has gone well for you.  I hope you don't mind that I entertain a little fantasy that you could have grown up to be someone really awesomely cool, like Jack Bauer, and that I was part of your training.  (haha)  But don't worry, I'm well grounded, and yeah, it's just a fantasy.  Just a couple of kids chasing each other around on a playground.  But for some reason, that meant a lot in my life.  Thank you.  And Scott, if you read this, don't worry, I still think you're the most awesome.  I'd put a few pictures here, but Twink super glued the coolest ones into that big scrap book (you're going *whew*!).

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