Since hearing about the latest school shooting, I’ve been thinking a lot about a guy I used to know. I’ll call him “Sean.”
Sean sat next to me in freshman English. I wasn’t exactly friends with him, but we hung out with the same people. In the parlance of my high school, we were both “freaks” — a catch-all term for any kid who dressed, acted or talked in a way that didn’t jibe with mainstream culture.
Sean was an angry guy. He would lash out for seemingly no reason at anyone around him. I didn’t understand why until my mother confided in me that he had been horribly abused as a child. Sean also didn’t do well in school. He was smart enough, but rarely turned in his homework and often got into trouble for acting up.
Sean liked to shoot guns. He used to talk to me about this gun or that one. It was pretty meaningless to me, since I didn’t know the difference between an AR-15 and an AK-47. But I could tell it was important to him.
And Sean got picked on. A lot. He got shoved and tripped in the halls. Kids would yell insults at him, or even spit on him. This kind of thing happened to a lot of us “freaks.” Some of us shrugged it off, but it really seemed to make Sean angry. One time he shoved one of the kids back, and things escalated from there. He wound up with a black eye; the other guy had a bloody nose. Both of them got suspended.
I don’t know if Sean ended up graduating. A lot of my friends didn’t. They dropped out, or got kicked out. Some of them wound up in alternative school, or got their GEDs somehow. Others didn’t.