Michael walked to school the same way that he walked to school every day. Headphones in his ears. Eyes lowered. Quick pace. He didn’t like doing this. He wished he could be one of the kids who hit home runs, or one of the kids that could kick a soccer ball right into the corner of the goal, or even a kid who excelled at math or geography and always had the right answer.
He wished he could be one of those kids, but not because he liked math, or geography, or even soccer or baseball. He liked quiet things. He liked drawing, and painting, and bugs. But crowds of people did not form to watch someone draw. There were no National Painting Leagues with stadiums and team colors. No schools offered scholarships to students based on their knowledge of insects. These were quiet things––the kinds of things that Michael liked.
He didn’t like football games, or concerts, or dance parties. He didn’t even like music, most of the time. He walked to school with headphones in his ears, listening to silence.
He had a couple of friends. One guy who liked bugs, one girl who liked painting. Michael hung out after school sometimes and talked to his friend about bugs they’d seen recently. Sometimes, he’d see his other friend between classes, and they’d talk about paintings they were working on.
But nobody else understood Michael. He was weird. He was that kid that likes bugs and paint and notebooks. He didn’t care about playing football, or baseball, or getting good grades. His grades were in the low range for students in his grade. His teachers had asked him dozens of times why he got bad grades. He didn’t answer them, usually, but he knew why.
Sometimes kids made fun of him. They laughed at him for liking bugs. They laughed at him for getting bad grades. They laughed at him for liking painting more than baseball, or tag, or recess, or basketball, or Halloween.
Michael couldn’t understand why the other kids laughed at him. Was it enjoyable for them? Did they feel insecure about themselves? Did laughing at him for liking bugs and not baseball make the other kids feel better about themselves?
Then one day, Michael walked to school without headphones. He figured that since he never actually listened to music, he would start walking to school without them. On his way, he heard some kids laughing at him. He wanted to go home. He wanted to go home and get a rock, and run after those kids and hit them really, really hard.
He wanted to curse at them using every curse word he knew. The F word, the S word, the D word, the H word, the A word. Maybe even the C word. He already knew exactly what he would say.
But he didn’t go home. Instead, he sat in class, and didn’t learn anything, because his mind was busy thinking about cursing and throwing rocks. Then, at the end of the day, he went home.
The next morning, he put his headphones back on, and went back to school. Eyes lowered, walking as fast as he could.