When I was 16 years old, I almost shot up a school. I didn’t. Did someone say something to me to change my mind? Did gun laws keep me from being equipped? Did the law enforcement community catch wind of my plans? What saved people’s lives that fall of ’93? Heroin. I shot up heroin and fell asleep.
This isn’t a story that will make you know what the right thing to do. This won’t be A led to B and all was peaceful. This is a story that just happens over and over again, and unless you can make fundamental change to our culture, will just keep happening.
I was a little kid. I was short. I was young looking. I was in the showers in gym with hairless balls while the rest of the guys were sprouting forests to match their mustaches. They had defined muscles. They had angles. I was smooth and soft and hairless.
And boy did they notice.
It wasn’t like the bullying started in high school. I was always a tad too weird. I played violin. I didn’t like what other kids liked. They’d know if I pretended.
But high school was when I was supposed to learn to be a man.
A man must fight, scratch, fuck (only women), yell, muscle his way to the top of the pecking order. There is a hierarchy in manhood. I couldn’t seem to get up from the very bottom. If I even hope to glance at the light at the top deserved me getting punched.
The first day at Wilson High School, some seniors who knew me used me for a football game – as the football. I ran for it when they had to punt. It wasn’t my first bloody nose, and it wouldn’t be my last.
A man must be able to have sex with hot women. It would be weird if he didn’t. He would be questioned. A man’s whole existence is to have women have sex with him, or at least want to. Women owe that to men. If women don’t want to have sex with you, you are nothing.
Women confused me. I even considered that I might be gay. My parents and teachers thought it.
One day this very pretty girl asked me to meet her at the convenient store that the kids in my neighborhood hung out at. I was so excited. She was pretty and popular. It seemed weird that she wanted to meet me.
I was to meet this beautiful young lady after school and I got there prompt. And then I waited. And waited. And then waited some more.
(No cell phones in those days and I didn’t have a quarter for the pay phone – didn’t have her number anyway.)
The next day a group of kids, including the girl, started laughing at me. They made fun of me because I had tucked in my shirt and took my hat off.
The point is how dare I think I could even fathom hanging out with a girl like that.
I was a human shit stain.
I left sports and other extra-curricular activities for drugs. Who fucking cares if you’re high, right? Just me and my dreams.
I would wake up sober and just dread seeing anyone else. My dad would tell me it’s time to go to school. My parents, who loved me with all their heart, would drive me to school. I would walk right through the school, out the back, and on a bus downtown.
I gave up on the idea of becoming normal. I would never get to be married, raise kids, now my own lawn, make pancakes, argue mundane politics with Ron & Nance the neighbors. No sir, I would be a junky. I hoped to die by 18.
The thing about society is that it forces all of his citizens to participate, even if they don’t want to or can’t. Society kept picking me up and wiping me off and shoving me back into its bowels. I would be in school again. I would be told to not do drugs. I was told to be like everyone else.
My parents were beside themselves. They gave me everything I needed and even gave me some things I wanted. They were at their jumping off point with me. I had done therapy and treatment centers, but I kept self destructing.
One of their last ideas was to enroll me in a suburb school. They had no idea that a high school kid is a high school kid. These kids were worse because they had money to add to the hierarchy.
First day of school I watched a kid drive a Lamborghini to the front door, get out of the wing doors, and his father get out and get into the driver’s seat and roar off. I saw a kid with blonde hair so perfect and he had a sweater tied around his neck – like a bad guy in a John Cusack film.
I stepped into the front door and was immediately jumped by some seniors. I was supposed to be a junior, but none of these kids recognized me and due to my young look, they thought I was a freshman. And I just stepped on the high school seal. Tradition dictates that freshmen must pay with blood for stepping on the seal.
Another bloody nose, but I gave them a run for their money.
No one seemed to like me. The reality at this school was so much worse than anywhere else I had gone. I was pushed, shoved, slapped, and punched.
I was at my locker, which was in the middle of a bunch of cheerleaders, which you might think would be great, but it was horrifying. A guy, who had the same last name as me, brought both of his hands as hard as he could against my ears. It hurt so bad that I fell to my knees and then made the worse mistake of my life; I cried.
A man is stoic. A man doesn’t express a feeling. A feeling is something a woman does to annoy men. You are a hardened piece of meat who is an ancestor of hunters and conquerors. Show no mercy, no quarter, no tears.
When I was a kid, I liked poetry and classical music. I listened to Mahler’s 10th symphony when I was 12 years old and wept. I loved art, literature, politics, and music. I didn’t like popular culture. I couldn’t relate to my peers. I would try to pretend so that I could fit in, but kids can smell a fraud immediately.
I also would cry myself to sleep every night. I used to play R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People over and over and cry because the idea that I would have wake up and face this fucking world again was too much.
One time I was in the cafeteria when I was a freshman, and I had drunk some vodka with some bums downtown and then I had drank some cough syrup and I pissed myself. Everyone noticed.
15 years later a guy asked me if that was me. That’s all he remembered.
Not everyone was mean to me. There was these black guys that thought I was funny. I think they felt sorry for me. We would drive around in a Ford Explorer that didn’t have a windshield and smoke crack.
These guys were thugs. Thugs with a heart of gold, but thugs. The owner of the Explorer, who was a little older than us, had an assault rifle tucked into the back seat. They had said he had used it.
I asked him if I could borrow it. I was going to the rich suburb school at that time and I wanted to show those rich fuckers that they had fucked with the wrong guy.
I had dreams about it. I would walk into the cafeteria and open fire. I could picture the carnage. I’m not going to lie, my heart rate went up when I pictured those guys falling to their deaths.
I slept with the gun under my mattress the next day, but I had shot up that night. I went to school and was standing their smoking a cigarette and still out of it. I watched all the kids getting dropped off. I was too high and forgot my gun.
I had to give back the machine gun the next night.
I ended up going into treatment the next week and getting sober and finding a way of life where I never ever want to be that angry and malicious again.
I look back at that time in my life every time there is a school shooting. Of course I would! I was every one of those guys. The only thing that saved me was drugs. I got so high that I forgot to do it.
I can only imagine what it would be like now to be in high school with social media, fads that change faster than the speed of light, online bullying, memes, and the whole world burning into ash from the convenience of your phone.
The pictures and posts on social media that prove to kids like me that I don’t have enough, am not enough to exist. I can see everything I don’t have, relationships I’m not in, places I’ll never see, lives I can never love shove right in my face. And I thought MTV was bad.
And of course everyone is blaming someone or something why this keeps happening. Guns, mental illness, politics.
As an almost shooter I can tell you why. It’s the whole fucking thing. It’s Toxic Masculinity. It is what it takes to be a man in your eyes, your social media version of being a man, your politician explaining what a man is, and what media in general portrays as manhood.
Society in general is to blame. This Puritan American close minded idea of manliness and his relationship to sex, power, and emotions. The society that we created and keep creating is so restricting and stifling. It’s this black & white, masculine & feminine, and yin & yang bullshit that makes everything this impossible category to fit in.
It’s all fucking made up.
Offer the round holes for the round pegs. There are squares out there and you can keep that. You can have that yin & yang life. Just be okay with the gray. Just be okay with spectrums.
Just be okay with crying boys, violent girls, and thems that can’t be and shouldn’t be dignified by a black or white label. Be okay with not wanting what you want. Marriage and buying houses and Frappuccinos and going to Costco.
I won’t tell you if more gun control will help or if expanding mental health funding will change anything, but I can tell you that this, what we are doing right now, has never ever worked. It only works for very few and alienates the masses.
As a kid who almost shot up a school, give up on your precious Great America. Either change fucking everything or keep all the weird boys on heroin.