Despite my parents best efforts and years of religious schooling, I turned out completely non-religious. With one exception. I'm a firm believer in hell. I know for a fact it exists. Hell is the place you go to be tormented by Satan's minions. A place where you live in fear and agony. A place where those around you thrive on finding ways to pick you apart and feast on your emotional carcass like ravenous vultures.
Something happens to kids (girls especially, I hate to admit it) that turns many of them pure evil between the ages of 11 and 14 or so. Maybe it's hormones, maybe it's actually their own insecurities, maybe it's an inbred instinct to attack the weakest members of the herd. Or maybe they're just little bitches. But middle school is the definition of "hell on earth" for many of those who don't fit into the popular, "jockular," beautiful cliques. We all survived it, some with more scars than others (literal, and figurative). And now a lot of us are going through it again, as observers.
This morning I had a flashback to those horrible years thanks to my nearly 14-year-old son. An eczema sufferer, the dry winter air has done a real number on his arms and has spread its damage to his face. Yesterday he started a new treatment, but until it kicks in, he's an itchy, patchy, flaky mess, slathered in prescription ointment. This morning, when I went to wake him up for school, he down at me from his top bunk and simply said "Please don't make me go."
Ever seen one of those television moments where the background blurs and zooms by, and suddenly the main character is standing there in their own past? In an instant, I was lying in my own 1978 bed, covered in chicken pox scabs, begging my mother not to send me back to school: "Tomorrow's Friday. Just let me stay home until Monday. Please!"
Sure, I'd managed to get by so far in middle school, buy only by the skin of my teeth. I went to middle school in three states on two coasts. I was perpetually the "new girl." The chubby new girl. The chubby new girl with the huge rack. Becoming the class clown with C-cups got me by, but not even a self-deprecating sense of humor and mastery of a filthy vocabulary could spare this funny, "Rubenesque" chick from ridicule once they saw me covered in Calamine and pox. So I begged. "If your temperature is normal in the morning, you're going." Thanks be to God I still had a fever the next morning. Well, actually, thanks be to the Thermos full of boiling water I kept under my bed that night. The minute she left the room with the thermometer under my tongue, I went into action. Thermos open, thermometer in, swearing that it instantly got up to 112 degrees, and shaking it as hard as I could until she came back. "That's odd. You don't feel like you've got a 101. I guess you lucked out. Stay in bed."
So when I heard "Please don't make me go" this morning, he didn't have to ask twice. I could see the pain in his face, anticipating being tormented for his splotchy cheeks and swollen eyelids. I'm a good mom. I'm not evil. And since federal law prevents me from going to school with him and shoving the tormentors into their lockers or giving them swirlies, he was allowed to stay home for the day.
And made to clean the living room.
Maybe I am just a little evil.