Yes I was failing classes. Yes I had the worst possible nemesis actively harassing me almost daily. Yes my dad was still in and out of my life, even though he knew new bullies were threatening me. Yes there were talks of suspending me from school, something unheard of, there, at that time.
None of that bothered me.
Before smart phones and tablets distracted and addicted children, we had to actually like each other. In the third grade it was Ashley Planes. I again never told her. I had some sort of complex about confessing my love. I assumed no one would like me since I was different and I felt embarrassed because of it. A classmate of mine liked her too and she liked him back. I took some of my mom’s earrings and gave him to give to her. I don’t even know why. I guess I wanted to be the reason she smiled, even if indirectly.
In Judaism it’s said that one of the highest levels of giving is when the recipient is unaware of the giver. Love should be altruistic. It’s funny how we understand this intuitively as children, until our modern world suffocates it out of us. This gives credence to the idea we discussed in chapter 4, that children are in tune with the divine before they arrive.
I was forming something of a double life. I was becoming very active in my church due to my mother. Church was in Wheeling, West Virginia. Because of some of the slander I gave WV earlier for being so country, you maybe wouldn’t expect Wheeling to be hood. But East Wheeling is, and that’s where I went to church. It may also seem to you like those rougher elements of the city wouldn’t be imposing on my church going experience, but you’d be forgetting about one thing. Most hood kids went to church when they’re young. Ok so the hood kids today probably don’t, but the hood kids back in the 90s definitely did. Their parents knew what they were up against in those streets, so they tried to keep them in the church as long as they could. It’s how I know that expression about ‘raising a child in the ways of the church’.
So while I was spending my weekdays with white kids, whose parents were mostly upper middle class. My weekends were spent with black kids, some who would eventually gang bang, others who already were.
I know how hard this is to believe, but surprisingly enough, these city kids didn’t like me. Saint Clairsville was one town of many, making up the tristate area of what is often referred to as The Ohio Valley, or The Valley. The only town you maybe would have ever heard of there is Steubenville, Ohio – famous for the Mafia, Dean Martin, The Sopranos, and the Wu Tang Clan. If the Valley was California, East Wheeling was Compton, Steubenville was South Central, and St. C was Beverly Hills. So here I was, the kid from Beverly Hills (but with no money) around the kids from Compton. Yea, they didn’t love me. Even though I was fighting as much as I was, even though I was getting in trouble in school, even though I’d end up having my own legal cases to fight, besides the assault against me, I still wasn’t considered tough enough to get respect from the streets, yet.
Did this juxtaposition of opposing lifestyles within my early years help to frame my perspective, hopefully cultivating intellectual duality and understanding? Does that sentence even make sense, and thus, do I even have any of those traits? All questions I’m not prepared to answer now and I definitely wasn’t then.
In the midst of all of this going on, I had moved on to my new 4th grade crush. Rachelle.
Not that she liked me back, or had any idea that I liked her. Just the fact that she existed could make me feel the way I felt, that was enough. That was hope. That was my escape from it all. Whatever else was going on, I could leave there, just by thinking about her.
With my advanced understanding of the inner workings of the cookie monster, you may have gathered I was watching a lot of TV, and you’d be right. But what I hadn’t come to realize was the effect all of this programming was having on my subconscious. For example, I always thought that everything would end up okay. While that may not seem like a negative at first, allow me to expound. TV shows usually have happy endings. I had come to expect that everything was magically predestined to work out. In order to create the change we desire, rational human beings understand, we must exert our energy to coerce the external world as well as inner. And even then sometimes we fail and things fall apart. Expecting anything to happen without taking responsibility for it’s outcome isn’t only foolish its lazy. And that’s what TV did to me.
I hadn’t learned this though until Rachelle. I found out that she liked someone else instead of me, my next door neighbor of all people. This is when, for the first time, I understood that the main character doesn’t always get the girl. I somehow came into possession of a note she had written for him. It said: “Dear Eddie I think you’re cute but don’t tell anybody”. I was devastated. I cried. My parents asked what was wrong, I told them I hurt my thumb. My dad found the note and told me to stay out of other people’s business. It was maybe the best advice he had ever given me, up to that point.
Things with Eddie and Rachelle wouldn’t work out sadly enough. Why? Years later we would find out that Eddie was in fact gay. She didn’t see that coming.
My idol, Tupac, once told his friend turned deadly rival Biggie, ”If you want to make money, rap for the bitches. Do not rap for the niggas. The bitches will buy your records.”
In other words, women know what’s popular currently. Which I guess is why they tend to set the tone for pop culture and fashion. In school they like who seems to be the coolest, at that moment. In adulthood, they go after the professional athletes and doctors. They tend to like their men older, more established. They’re put off by lame dudes, broke dudes. Who can blame them? I can’t. But as with any and everything, there’s good and bad to it. The bad side of going after what’s in right now is that it’s short sighted. What if that doctor is being investigated for insurance fraud and on his way to losing it all? What if that kid you don’t think is cool now is on his way to becoming a best-selling author? A big picture strategy is necessary in war, or in this game, of love.