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[personal profile] violetcheetah
This started off as stream-of-consciousness writing to my shrink, and I'd like to be able to turn it into something more precise and focused, but my mind, for months, has been unable to think in a precise, focused way. So rather than pretend to myself that someday soon I'll tighten it into "real" writing, I'm just going to post it now.



I was on the register at work for four hours yesterday. It was a lot. Usually I'm only there for 2 or 2.5 hours. Even when there are no bad interactions with customers, when most of my time is spent joking with them and at ease, it drains me. Yesterday, one young black man needed to mail a large envelope, Certified; when he presented the envelope, all he'd written was the street address, and under that, the company name, with no city-state-zip line. I didn't say anything, just wrote in the line, which he -had- written on the Certified form, at least. I don't think he's stupid; it -might- be that he isn't neurotypical, because I had to redo part of the transaction and wasn't sure how to do it because it was a rare occurrence, so I asked Charlie, the clerk with the most clue, how to proceed, and the young man was quietly apologetic, and I assured him it wasn't his fault, just that sometimes the computer doesn't tell me what to do, and he said, "So it's an anomaly," and I agreed, and then he repeated the word quietly in variations of the phrase a number of times, apparently comforted by having the concrete word in the midst of what was likely confusing. So I don't think he's stupid, but I do think the public school system has failed him mightily, that he made it to adulthood without anyone having shown him how to address an envelope, and now he's trying to navigate the world without rudimentary skills that even most low-level blue-collar workers making minimum wage take for granted. It must frequently be frightening, and humiliating, and it fills me with rage that this shy, gentle guy was probably written off as hopeless by the time he was six. He was my last customer before I took my break, and I was shaking for the first 15 minutes of the break because of anger and hopelessness and helplessness.

There was a white guy on Monday who came in to get his first passport. Looked really young, 18 or 19; came in with a friend. I didn't wait on him, just overheard bits of the clerk's instructions to him, and he was confused by a lot of it. He took the application form over to the table to fill it out, and at some point turned around, obviously with a question. I wasn't waiting on anyone, so I was the only clerk to make eye contact, and he asked, tentatively, "Where it says, 'Occupation," what do I put?" I asked if he was a student or if he had a regular job, and he said he had a job, and I said, you just put down the name of the job you do. He had managed to get to adulthood without knowing the definition of "occupation." How many other things about the everyday world are confusing and incomprehensible to him because the school system wasn't able to get him probably a fifth-grade-level education?

We have a new worker at my post office, a PSE, the temp-contract thing I used to be. He started Friday, and will be helping with dispatch, with Mike and me. We need the extra person, have needed someone else for months — actually, a year. We got another PSE a month or so ago, Joe, who caught on quickly, but he's moving to early mornings. The new guy will be his replacement. Joe's been teaching him the job the last three days, with me sometimes showing him new tasks if Joe's busy. The new guy… is not catching on quickly. It's painful. He doesn't retain info, doesn't seem to understand the logic underneath the tasks, the reasons things have to be done the way they are done. It's like trying to memorize multiplication tables without knowing how to add. He's a nice guy, and he's trying, and it's. not. working. It's frustrating for me, because it's making my job harder, and frankly, I'm afraid that the manager will keep him here, and it'll suck for me. But it'll also suck for the new guy, because he is just not able to "get" it, and I sometimes see the deer-in-the-headlights fear of screwing up, because he knows he doesn't know. And I don't think he's stupid, but I think no teacher ever bothered to teach him -how- to learn, how to ask the questions he needs answered in order to learn something. Maybe a learning disability, maybe just a matter of learning atypically, but my guess is that by first grade, he was written of as stupid and a lost cause and either sent to special-ed that was just baby-sitting and killing time, or he was sat in the back of the room to stay out of the way while the "teachable" kids got their lessons. And now he's an adult, not that young, and he was hired by an organization that doesn't understand that not every grunt-work job is so mentally easy anyone can learn to do it, doesn't understand that not everyone was taught to learn, and so the organization is probably not going to work with him, now that he's hired, to find a job that he -can- learn to do, so either he'll be trapped trying to do something he isn't able to do and be miserable and off-balance and the butt of other's derision or resentment or outright anger, or he'll be fired, or more likely quit, and have to navigate through the incomprehensible rules of the "regular" world to try to get another job, possibly with the same result. It's not fair to us, and it's not fair to him, and it makes me angry.

And I think about the people I grew up with, the kids who made my life hell on the bus from first grade, and how they were doomed from the moment they were born because their parents didn't know how to be parents, which meant by the time they were in school, the teachers wanted nothing to do with them, and there -was- no one else, no mandated behavioral therapy, no authority to take them out of the home where they presumably learned the various threats they used on me.

I think of my brother, who, without a father beating him for infractions of unstated rules, without a mother who watched and didn't seem to grasp the not-rightness of it, might have been… human, had someone intervened. Who used to be human. And now he isn't.

And as an afterthought, I think about me. An afterthought, because I was "lucky" enough to have been born with or developed the magic combination of intelligences and imagination and empathy and intuition to be likeable — at least to my teachers if not to my peers, or my parents — and to be able to drown out the chaos in my head enough to do my homework, and to grow up to be not a monster (although I feel monstrous, feel not-human, not-a-person, all the time, a background hum in my mind like a fluorescent light), and to grow up to function. Sometimes. For a while. I was lucky. People seem to like me. People love me. Even if I can't fathom why, there are people who want to be around me, who would grieve for me if I died, and I resent them for it on occasion because if they'd just stop giving a fuck I could go somewhere secluded, somewhere with trees and water, and bring a plastic bag and tape, and I would not do that to the people who misguidedly love me, but some nights I wake up from dreams where I've done it and I sob with rage that it was a dream.

I am lucky in so many ways, but how much luckier would I have been if my father hadn't beaten my brother bloody and turned him into the monster with the unzipped fly in the back seat of the junk car? If some benevolent authority and treated my father like the child he was and said, "No! Unacceptable. You have to go somewhere else until you can behave." If someone had said to my brother — maybe when he was young enough to have un-monstered himself, maybe not, but to have said, "No, you have to go somewhere else until you can behave." If someone told me mother, "No, you don't get to shrug and keep knitting when your husband does these things, and if you don't stop him you have to go away." Told her that people actually do feel fear, actually do feel pain… no, she wouldn't have believed them; you can't teach empathy; it would have to be concrete cause-and-effect, action-and-punishment, "If you do this, we will do this thing you don't like." Maybe that would have been enough. Maybe I didn't need a mother with empathy, just one who took actions as if she possessed it. Maybe other grownups who loved me would have been enough. Maybe then I could have become someone who doesn't spend all their energy trying to outrun self-hate, self-disgust, self-horror, and I would have energy left over to help someone, to teach someone, to even figure out how to begin. But I'm tired. Really, I'm too tired to have energy left over for the rage I feel, but I can't shut it off sometimes, so it just uselessly burns me alive without benefitting anyone.



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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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