My grandmother used to tell me that with the severity of my learning disability, had I been born but a generation or two earlier, I would've been thrown in an institution, because the ubiquitous they wouldn't have known how to deal with me. They barely did in my generation I was born into. My mother would tell me I was possessed of dazzling and brutal intelligence, and that I could do anything if I just set my mind to it. That blessing and curse of being told one has potential. Both matriarchs would say I was special.
I knew someone who would say when one was special it meant you could read to them slow...
And that's how some of the teachers and the si lai nan jen treated me. Of course, being too tall, too skinny, with eyes too big for rest of my face and that overbite I had until I was sixteen did nothing to help. My father told me the story of a teacher who told my parents how I all but autistic. How I would never graduate high school, never be able to drive, and never be able to hold down any sort of employment. My father went on to state if there was one time he ever really wanted to hit a woman, it was during that meeting.
He told me of that meeting on the day of my high school graduation, and he went on to mention he'd sent an invitation for said graduation to said teacher. When my name was called, I strutted toward the platform with all the eighteen year old heavy-metal/punk-rock swagger I could muster. Upon receiving the effigy of my diploma, I looked out into the audience, my left hand shot out, middle finger pointing towards the heavens, defying those who called me retarded and stupid through all those years and lifetimes, defying gods I may or may not have believed in once upon a time.
How I managed to get my diploma after that little display was probably luck, or the powers-that-be being too gobsmacked at my gall to do much else...
Back when I was dancing with the dead for money, Madam Lung was a nurse with high-risk children. She would mention to some of these whelps and their parents, even and especially those with learning disabilities of any kind, about her quirky friend who was once told he would amount to nothing and how he not only published a book, but also helped save and enhance human lives by working in organ and tissue transplant. When she first told me that, I felt awkward, being placed in the spotlight by proxy. In the end, I did thank her for thinking so highly of me to mention that saga to children she performed checkups on.
My experience with my learning disability is what I thank and blame for a particular sense of relentlessness I possess, which is spiced with spite and angst. My brother, who has the same disability, just not as severe, was done with the special-ed classes by the time he was in high school, whereas I was in those classes until my graduation, thus showing how far education had evolved in that period. Then again, I was in the lab-rat generation. My brother does not understand my sense of tenacity, because he's not had to spit and fight like I did. Sometimes, I envy his ignorance, but other times I mourn it.
It was tenacity that got me to the monoliths of downtown. That got me published. Jezebel once remarked I had a nasty tendency to get what I wanted, and only someone who was either daft or insane-or perhaps a little of both-would get in my way of going after what I wanted. I remember questioning my best friend's analogy during those periods of devil deals that constituted the acquisition of the House of Owls and Bats. Someone else I knew spoke in tongues of comfort regarding my sense of relentlessness;
"The only time you don't get what you want is when you decide you no longer want it."
And I dug in. I let the fangs drop and talons extend. The demon that sometimes hides behind my eyes, hiding like an ambush predator in some nameless African river came a little closer to the surface.
Get in the ring, mutherfucker...
And we all know how that story's turned out...
With the coming of warmer weather, I've pulled out my bicycle once more. In the name of saving some fuel and bringing into shape a different set of muscles, I've resolved to ride to my obligation at least once a week. Sempi has harassed me about it, being all hippie-health-nut like.
By the Road and the flight of birds, it's only two miles down valley from home. I do more than that on an average walkabout. The kicker is a five hundred ninety-nine vertical-foot change in elevation. That sudden change in altitude is why the narrow-gauge coils over and over itself from one depot to the next.
The ride down is dictated by sheer gravity. I peddle but a few times. It's going back up where I find myself getting to work; the gear where the legs go so fast but the movement is methodical in its pace. My lungs, though a long time clear from having smoked, still carry a hint of adolescent asthma-although quick sheer climbs can wind even the most in shape. I plod on, reciting a dysfunctional mantra Sabina and I have uttered on more than one walkabout; just a little further.
Then I get to that point where I see a sign denoting one of the train depots. The roof-lines of some of the houses come into view. I know it'll level out soon, and I can switch back to regular gears. It's then I dig in. I let the fangs drop and talons extend. The demon that sometimes hides behind my eyes, hiding like an ambush predator in some nameless African river comes a little closer to the surface. I get tenacious.
Fuck you. I will not let this beat me.
I used to say there has yet to be a force in the universe that can break me. A now departed friend, angelic in his broken-winged countenance, would warn me against such an assertion, saying one day the universe would send that force my way. I have reached a point where I cannot readily anthropomorphize the universe to think it even cares about little old me. Still, sometimes when staring out into the entirety of the cosmos, I catch myself awaiting that challenge, feeling the tenacious sensation to dig in.
Get in the ring, mutherfucker...