Repainting Memories

When I was in 5th grade, I wore my mom’s clip-on earrings to school.

Actually, they were my gramma’s earrings, that kind of old, decorative jewelry with the plastic jewels where the metal doesn’t really shine.

It wasn’t meant to be a statement. I just kinda liked the pinch on my ear lobes, the weight of them, and how I could feel a slight jiggle when I turned my head. So I kept them on as I walked out the door.

I became a spectacle in class. I distinctly remember Mr Lausten, the meanest teacher in the whole school, calling me out: “Flamer! What the heck are you doing?” He shook his head.

A defining moment for me: disdain from an adult about something out of the ordinary, a clue that much more was possible than the lines we draw for each other, that the world wasn’t perfect and no one had all the answers. Not even teachers.

I felt like I was on to something.

It always bothered me when a kid was yanked out of line to write a phrase 50 times on the blackboard. I hated how the dirty kid got made fun of all the time.

I was too young to understand how class influenced uniformity and that we’re conditioned to break into tribes, so all I saw was difference and sameness, meanness and isolation.

I never joined in, but I didn’t intervene either. I do remember wondering why some kids were together at recess, and others were walking around by themselves. I’d like to say I broke the rules, that I went against the norms of the playground and stood up to bullies, but that wasn’t the case at all. I wasn’t Superman. I was 10.

I’ll say this, though: After Mr. Lausten made fun of me in front of the class, I didn’t take my earrings off for the whole day, even when they started to hurt.

I suppose it was my first protest, standing up to authority, sticking up for the kids I never got to know but should have, breaking the minds of the people who draw the lines and play within them, and most of all, quietly and righteously telling my 5th-grade teacher he can fuck off.

It was the loudest I could scream at the time.

That day marked the end of the earrings chapter (until high school, anyway), but the beginning of something new. It wasn’t a coincidence that about that time, I dove into Hip Hop, started reading books on my own, picked up breakdancing, and threw snowballs at cars.

I never meant any harm.

I was just trying things out, drawing my own lines, and stepping back to see the designs.

I wonder if this thing has always been in me; if rebellion flows in my blood, or if it’s something I learned. If not the earrings, would it have been something else?

It certainly feels that way.

Even now, upon playback of that 5th-grade memory, I fantasize about standing up on my school desk and ripping a guitar solo.

That would have been cool. It’s not regret; it’s more like coming back to an old painting and drawing back over th lines.

Adding some color.

Making it even better.

A celebration of sorts.

A scream, finished.