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That Time When I got Ambushed by a Bunch of 12-Year-Olds

by Cory on February 9, 2019 6:37 PM (Edited February 9, 2019 6:39 PM)

A few months ago I decided to go back to therapy and I was telling the new therapist about myself and I got into a whole bunch of anecdotes about how I hated being a kid. I actually ended up thinking a lot of them were pretty amusing in a Diary-of-a-Wimpy-Kid kind of way. So here goes.

When I was in my third year of high school, I got ambushed at school by a bunch of 12-year-olds. My school had a new science wing where you have to leave the main building and cross a street to access. The closest wall had large glass windows and two glass doors in the center, like a bank. In front of that entrance was an arch that stood on two brick pillars on either side of the door. Shrubbery and parked cars filled in the empty spaces beside the walkways. One day after school I was walking to this entrance and two kids popped out from behind the pillars, perfectly in sync. They stood blocking me from the science building door and I stopped hard. They glanced at each other and then both smirked mischievously. One of them said “heya”, and as if that were some signal the rest of his crew came out of their various hiding places and formed a circle around me. I looked over my shoulder observing the situation as it evolved and my heart skipped a beat. I was surrounded.

Before I can say what happened let’s rewind to 4 years ago.

I’m eleven years old and already in a high school. Not because I’m a genius but because I went to a high school that also had a middle school tacked onto it. For those who are unfamiliar, American high school contains years 9 to 12 and middle school is years 6, 7 and 8 or just 7 and 8 depending on the particular school. I was in seventh grade, but still younger than everyone else because I have a late birthday and I skipped the fourth grade because my mom told me how to do fractions when I was 6 right before I took the state aptitude test.

In the warm, waning days of seventh grade a father says to his son, with the timbre and seriousness of a season 1 Homer Simpson, “Boy, you need to win the science fair.” My dad and I were watching a documentary about national science fair winners on Discovery channel and he had an idea.

Let me tell you about my dad. For much of my ignominious school career, my dad was a notorious micro manager. The helicoptering was especially bad with school projects. Sometimes it felt like my dad actually liked working on them. He usually found a way to include some new hobby he was working on at the time, like baking or woodworking. It was embarrassingly obvious that I didn’t do some of these projects myself. It’s a complex feeling for a stupid little kid really. I hated standing there feeling people judge me and I hated taking compliments for stuff I didn’t do. I don’t know what the popular opinion was but it was probably split between contempt from classmates who could tell that my parents did it, and ambivalent credulity from teachers who saw a tiny round-faced, bowl-cut, nerdy kid with dorky glasses straight out of The Goonies and just assumed I was a “high achiever”.

Fortunately for me, there was no science fair that year, so my dad settled on the next best thing. In class, we solving word problems that has us relating distance, speed, and time. My dad volunteered me to create a bottle rocket for a “hands-on” demonstration to the math teacher. He found someone’s plans online for a bottle rocket you could make out of a 2 liter soda bottle, a bike pump, and some copper plumbing. It required tools to cut and screw in the pipe, solder, and a torch to build this design. When it was ready, the math teacher (who, incidentally, looks exactly like Ayatollah Khomeini) was completely stoked and let everyone in the middle school know about the demonstration. He brought everyone out into the yard to watch. My math teacher fucking loved that bottle rocket and he was amazed that I could do plumbing like a grown-ass man. He asked if he could keep the bottle rocket and of course I said yes (I definitely didn’t fucking want it) and then I promptly forgot about it.

So fast forward and now I’m standing in the middle of this circle of 12-year-olds. I’m thinking about how small they are and wondering if I was that small when I was in seventh grade. After a slightly too long pause, I say, “uhh…. hi? Do I know you?” Their smirking grows more intense and they tighten the circle by a step. They can smell blood now. The alpha kid tells me they’re seventh graders and that the math teacher was showing them the bottle rocket thing. The alpha kid says the math teacher was raving about me and how I made this and what a math genius I was. I don’t really know what to say. But then again, I usually don’t know what to say in any situation. I’m still trying to gauge whether they’re trying to make fun of me or if they actually just want to talk. We stand there awkwardly for a few moments before they leave. This encounter was aggressively uncomfortable, even compared to my other shit-social-skills experiences. What the hell was that? Why were they hiding? Why did they stand in a circle around me and how did they know I was going to the science building just now? Did they know that they look like creepy kids from a horror movie??? What the fuck.

So yeah, that’s what being kid-me was like I guess.



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