Cowfucker Bill was not the only human I saw broken by the bully culture of Newton. In fact, I saw it happen as soon as I started kindergarten to a kid I will call Jake Treese.
Jake was an odd duck, to be sure. Not only was he blatantly effeminate, he tended to perseverate and obsess and was very willful. This put him at odds with the macho ideology that boys in Newton were supposed to live up to. Brave warriors who would one day grace the Friday night lights of Cardinal football so that all those who lived before could continue to recycle the same moments of glory over and over for the rest of their lives. Jake was never gonna be that guy, so he became a pariah the moment he walked into the classroom.
I was not bothered by any of that. My main point of contention with Jake is that he always wanted to argue with me that ABBA was a better band than KISS, which still seems like a ridiculous position to take, even in light of Gene Simmon’s self-exposure as the Embodied Copyright of Douchebaggery. That was my only real beef, although I have to admit I also found his spastic behavior to be pretty annoying.
However his relationship with the other guys in our class and school was far more defined by his inability to conform to tuffboy norms. He was berated, heckled and accused of things none of his accusers could possibly have understood much about at their age. Which suggests these judgements, accusations and rumors were probably first heard leaving the mouths of older folks who should have known better than to utter such depraved cruelties about a child to another child. This is how a bully culture is created, and how it has thrived in Newton for generations.
Its was little wonder then that when forced to defend his heterosexuality from such a young age, a 2nd grade Jake molested a female classmate on the playground by de-pantsing her and exposing her nude body to all around. Likely a feeble and misguided attempt to assert his manliness, which left a young woman wounded and all of the adult authorities shaking their heads in self-denial.
“How could this happen?”
A few years later he tried to burn down a port-o-potty with fireworks, and was sent away to some sort of institute of reformation, where I suspect he was pumped chock full of psychoactive chemicals and shame.
When I came back in high school, he was no longer the spastic kid I had known. He was like a wraith. He was pale, gaunt; sunken eyes locked in an empty stare that never seemed to be looking at anything. He was in special education, where his drug addled mind was not challenged, and where the tuffboys would not even stoop to bullying. He was overmedicated, tamed, put away and forgotten.
Following the path he had been thrust on, he began to self-medicate. Halfway through high school he transferred to the alternative school, and eventually dropped out to get wasted full time and was absorbed into the meth culture, last I saw him.
I do not know where he is today, if even alive, and mostly I don’t want to. There are such things as too much pain to even witness.
Jake was not the only kid I saw bullied. There were other non-macho boys, overweight girls and others who did not conform to Newton Standards destroyed as well. Or at least driven into a hole it took many years to escape.
When I returned in high school I became a minor target myself, due to my odd tastes in music and fashion, which always managed to become popular with the kids who picked on me, six months or a year later. I can remember this one guy, member of a prominent local family, right in the middle of social studies if I had “like lice and bugs and shit” due to my long hair. I looked past him directly at his class beauty girlfriend and responded, “No more than her,” which turned her mocking expression into an icy stare. They both shut up. I was always a lot sharper than those meathead nitwits, which kept me out of and got me into a lot of trouble with bullies. It also helped that I was a pretty big guy, and not some runt to easily be picked on. I was just big and strange enough to them to be too much of a question mark to push too far.
But it wasn’t just the socials I got heat from. The greasers, the kids who lived in shop class and had been smoking since sixth grade, were also a source of harassment. If you were gonna be an underdog, there was also a standard to conform to, and I failed happily there as well.
I can remember the day before I was to go see Ozzy live for the first time. He was my idol and I was so excited I hadn’t shut up about it for a month. When I got to metals class, one of these greaser bullies was just waiting to tell me the news he had just heard on the radio. Ozzy had cancelled due to a health issue. It was not going to be rescheduled. I was crushed, but I knew better than to show it. Nonetheless the entire class we spent fucking with me about how hilarious it was that my dreams were being crushed.
And there was also violence, mostly petty, but always enough to keep me terrified and on edge. And I knew I was not the only one, or even the worst. I knew that this entire town was sick with something and that all of the bile it spewed was bigger than anyone of us.
Newton hasn’t changed much. And it likely will not in the foreseeable future. It would have admit, confess and begin to atone for its darkness. But that would require humility, which is about as rare as winged kangaroos in a town that has an unhealthy obsession with constantly referring to its pride.
And pride is a cardinal sin, ain’t it? Don’t try explaining irony or hypocrisy to a Newtonite, though. That’s ‘faggy’ talk, and that will get your entire life ruined for the sake of sport.