Simon’s demons and fears were strangling him on a daily basis as he struggled to cope with his complicated and painful existence. He was often hungry, tired and cold and found it increasingly impossible to focus his muddled and exhausted mind. He often wriggled in his wet dirty clothing seething with emotional pain, over work at school he could not understand and social situations that confused him. Deciphering pages of text that made absolutely no sense, in words he could not read, was becoming a progressively frustrating experience for him, particularly since the information had no meaning in his own life. The relentless monotony of being left out of discussions, sitting in a chair for several hours a day was becoming an increasingly impossible task. This experience was so painful for him that he most often shrugged off help and avoided eye contact. It was very difficult for anybody to help him. After prolonged periods of this behaviour ~ soon he was very alienated from the school culture. It seemed that nobody could help him. Kids kept their distance and very busy adults had to turn the other way and help kids who were receptive. Sad. But true.
Eventually Simon decided that since nobody really noticed him, and nobody seemed to care, maybe, ” I will just disappear”. How hard can that be? He hid his head inside his hoodie and started to ignore everyone around him. He let his mind travel to a far and distant land where he was free of pain, guilt and anger. He tried to imagine a better place.
Escaping reality in his vivid imagination was surprisingly easy. Frequently he had resorted to similar tactics when his parents argued and the atmosphere at home was toxic. Simon could sit on the bench in the hall for hours on end, because he wasn’t really there. He was hiding in his hood. Sometimes he could even crawl under the bench and pretend he was asleep. Nobody noticed. Simon liked this new role because it put him in charge of a very difficult situation and, life in school was actually, far more reasonable, than what was happening at home. Sometimes, on the bench, generous kids would give him some of their lunch and the principal always made sure that on pizza day, Simon got a piece of pizza and a chocolate milk ~ life on the bench was even better than being in the classroom because Simon loved watching all the action in the hall and he could sometimes get up and walk around ~ things that were more difficult to do in the confines of the classroom.
Most nights, as Simon trudged through the deepening snow of winter, he dreaded going home. He loved his mom but, things were tough. His Dad tried so hard to be a good Dad but he just was not capable. Unemployment, a lack of education and mental depression were all too common in his family. Why do I always feel like the adult in my house he asked himself? How come all of these crazy situations somehow land in my lap and I have to deal with all the fallout. This night when he entered the house his mom was laying on the couch with one arm lying on the floor beside her. Her breathing was shallow and there was a stub of a cigarette in the ashtray still burning. “Mom!! Mom!” he shouted as he held her by the shoulders and shook her gently. He could not rouse her from her drugged stupor and felt completely helpless in this situation. There were far too many nights like this for Simon; each one eating away at his diminishing confidence until eventually he was emotionally bereft and exhausted.
His late arrivals at school increased and his ability to focus was almost impossible for him.
And then one day another lost soul joined him on the bench. He had never met Devin before, but he knew the boy got into lots of trouble. The boys sat quietly on the bench. They did not speak that day.
One week later, they found themselves alone on the bench again. “Get on that bench”. So they did.
There was plenty of hustle and bustle around them as students went to and fro, bells rang and floors were swept. Often others tried to understand, but perhaps it was too late….these boys felt like strangers and outcasts. Nobody really knew what was inside their heads.
Devin would often catch Simon out of the corner of his eye, and he soon realized that they had a lot in common. Simon didn’t really have to do much to receive the disgust and derision of those around him. On the long bus rides, Simon already had a reputation for creating disturbances and bullying younger kids. It was impossible for Simon to recreate his tone of voice, and alter his aggressive, threatening language ~ he learned this behaviour a long time ago when he had encountered several incidents in which he was the brunt of a joke or received a push or shove that sent him to his knees. Very often in the first years of school, nothing he did was right. He had arrived at school with very limited language capabilities and was very unfamiliar with any of the routines he encountered in the classroom. He could not put his shoes on easily, or do up his zipper and he felt clumsy and awkward with his peers. This feeling of insecurity never left him, he always felt alone and scared. Simon had to capitalize on his survival skills which were primitive and often naive, but he had very little choice.
The school year came and went and neither boy was able to fit in. On the bus they were often ridiculed and laughed at, until the time came when they were no longer children. By the age of twelve their motivation for school had dissipated. Simon had resorted to bullying other kids in an attempt to survive, and Devin retreated into his hood.
Early in the next school year, they met again on the bench; But, there was a change occurring that neither boy was aware of.
Very few words had been spoken between them and yet they had a deepening understanding of each other. Devin often looked at Simon with a softness that was alien to him. Simon shrugged him off with body language that said, “stay away”. But Devin felt sympathetic towards him and understood how difficult it is to arrive late every single day. “Why are you late again?” Devin asked. For years Simon had repelled any questions with a look of derision but, on this morning, Simon did not look away with indifference and loathing. Simon felt he knew Devin. Instead, he held his head in his hands and a tear ran down his cheek that he quickly wiped away. ” My mom is sick.” He answered. Devin put his hand on Simon’s shoulder and said nothing. Their eyes met briefly.
Then, one day they met in the playground and jumped the fence. They ran into the woods with their jackets flowing until they reached the downtown core. “This town is too small,” said Devin. “We need to get out of here.” Simon couldn’t believe his ears ~ what a fantastic idea. He knew that his family wouldn’t miss him for a day or two and he desperately needed an adventure.
The streets of town were bustling and transport trucks heading to Toronto were easy to find. With no hesitation they jumped in the back of a semi and hid themselves in the cargo. And so their adventure began.
Chapter 2 is on its way.