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Social issues: I'm Not Bad, Just Different

Updated on March 19, 2013
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Linda lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. She writes about nature, social justice, and Native America.

I’m not like you. We don’t come from the same place and our lives have not followed the same path. You were born on one side of the tracks and me, on the other. You had a room of your own. I shared mine with three brothers. You had a Mom and a Dad. My Dad left when I was four. We haven’t seen him since.

Mom works two jobs. When I see her, she is tired and hungry. She eats standing up and then goes to bed. I miss the days when she had dinner on the table when Dad came home. Things have been hard since he left. Now, I am the man of the house and I’m not good at it. I don’t know how to fix things like Dad did.


You laughed at me today, when you saw my socks with my toes sticking through the holes. I didn’t mean for you to see them. I’m usually more careful than that. It hurt that you laughed but I couldn’t let you see the hurt; you would think I’m weak. You would never understand.

You have so many friends. I watch them as they file by your locker cracking jokes or inviting you to go somewhere after school. How do you choose between them all? When I’m alone at night I pretend that they have invited me too. I look through my clothes to see what I might wear. It doesn’t take long though. I only have three pairs of jeans and they all have holes in them. My sneakers are falling apart on the inside. That’s what is wearing the holes in my socks. Well, that and age. Mom bought them from the thrift store and they were already thin in the toes. That’s when I realize that even if I had friends, I don’t have the right clothes to wear if they invited me to their house.


Mrs. Wright kept me after class today for missing so many questions on my math test. Maybe you didn’t notice with all the girls that were talking to you. I took longer than usual to put things in my backpack so no one would notice I was staying after class. Mrs. Wright says I need a tutor but Mom doesn’t have the money. It’s not my fault that I don’t get math. The doctor at the clinic said it was because I was born too early and didn’t get enough oxygen. He says my brain was damaged. I look in the mirror and I don’t look retarded. Maybe that’s why you don’t get it and treat me like I’m just not trying.

Mrs. Wright says that if I don’t get a tutor, she’ll have to put me in the special education class. That sure won’t help me make friends. Everyone will know I’m stupid then. I told her I would try harder but I don’t know how I can. I work so hard now that I fall asleep with my head in the book most nights. You make it look so easy and that makes me feel even worse.


Gosh I wish I could hang around after school and listen to your stories. On my way out the other day I heard you talking about going to the movies. I wonder what that’s like. I’ve seen the trailers on the TV but I can’t imagine sitting in front of that big screen watching those superheroes fighting the bad guys. We have a few movies at home but Mom picked them up at a discount and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. They’re old anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Who cares. Even my little brother doesn’t want to see them anymore and he’s only seven.


Mom came home early tonight and said they are changing her shift again. She said my brothers and I would have to stay alone all night while she works the midnight shift. I hate it. Our neighborhood isn’t safe and my little brothers get scared when they hear the gunshots. They cry and wake me up and then I’m scared too. But I can’t let them see it. Mom says I have to be brave. She says I’m the man of the house and she is counting on me to take care of my brothers. I don’t think she remembers that I’m only fourteen. Maybe that’s because we quit celebrating birthdays because we didn’t have the money. I heard you tell Jason that your Mom got you four tickets to the Chris Brown concert. That’s so cool. I wish we were friends. Maybe you would ask me to go.

Well, we both know that’s not going to happen. We’ll never be friends because you think I’m a retarded freak. The way you look and laugh at me, I’m starting to think so too. Isn’t it enough that you’ve made me hate myself? Do you really have to hate me too?


I’m just different than you. I’m not dirty. My clothes may not be as nice as yours but they’re clean. Mom washes them every week. Even when there’s no money for the washing machine downstairs, she washes them by hand. She tries really hard to help me fit in but you won’t even give me a chance. You won’t even speak to me. You just laugh.

It’s starting to piss me off. Mom would slap me for talking like that but I can’t help it. I want to be normal. I want to have friends and do things with them after school. Why can’t everyone see that I just want to belong to the gang? Is that so wrong?

Ask my little brother how tough I am? I hit him the other day when he told me I looked gay. He’s still got the bruise and backs away when I come close. I’m tired of all this crap. Doesn’t anyone get it? Does anyone care?

I guess not because here I am, still alone; still wishing I was one of you. All I want is for someone to notice how hard I’m trying and that I could be fun too. But no, you don’t have the time and it would embarrass you to be seen with me. I get it. One of these days you’re going to pay. I’ve had about all I can take in the fourteen years. My Dad left. Mom works all the time and I’m the one taking care of the kids she had with those other two guys. She’s too tired to even say thank you anymore. And the kids, well, they’re a pain in my butt too. I wish they were gone. I wish you were all gone. I’m alone anyway so what difference would it make? Would you even notice if I was gone?

I’ll find a way out of this mess. I’m not going to do it anymore. To hell with all of you. I didn’t ask for this and maybe it’s just time for all of you to pay for treating me like this. That might make me feel better…

It's Up To Each Of Us

Is this a conversation that is taking place in your neighborhood? Is it the kid next door or the one down the street? Have you noticed them? Have you seen their pain? Are they crying out for help but finding no one there? Isn't there room in your heart for one more?

We can make a difference in these young lives if we reach out before it’s too late. We have to get there before they self-destruct. We have to reach out before they hurt themselves or, someone else. These kids are powder-kegs waiting to explode. They are our responsibility as a society. They are our future. Will we get there in time?

© 2013 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.


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