There was this kid in my neighborhood, David, that was slow. I don’t remember how slow he was, but I knew he was in the special ed classes and he was not as emotionally mature as the other kids his age. I don’t think he was retarded in the downs syndrome sense, but he wasn’t “normal” in the “normal” sense.
*Note* If that description seems insensitive, it’s not intended to be. It’s just the best way I can describe what I remember. I make fun of a lot of people. Hell, I make fun of most people. But I try not to make fun of people who don’t deserve it. I’m an asshole, but I’m an asshole with limits.
Anyway, one day on the bus ride home from school, David was asking me questions. Non-stop. I was around 15 at the time, and he was driving me damn crazy. I was probably a lot more tolerant than most kids my age as I had already worked two summers–and numerous weekends–at an organization that prepared folks with mental disabilities for the “real world.” In addition, my mother worked for this organization full time, so I knew David couldn’t help himself. But I was also 15, with much less patience then I have now. And I have very little now.
So, David had been asking me questions since he had gotten on the bus. I was getting more and more irritated and my answers were getting more and more clipped. Hell, I don’t even remember what most of the questions were, they were just questions about this and that. Finally, the bus was coming up to my neighborhood, so I pulled a cigarette out of the pack in my bag so I could have it ready to light when my feet hit pavement.
“What’s that?” David asked.
“What’s it look like?” I replied.
“Well, there you go.”
“Don’t you know smoking’s bad for you?”
“Why do you do it?”
“Don’t know.” I was willing the bus to go faster, but it wasn’t working.
“You think it makes you look cool? You trying to be cool? You smoke, you’re cool?” David was being real snide at this point. And I was done.
“Yes, David. Smoking is cool. That’s why I do it. You want one?” I pulled out another smoke and waved it in front of him.
“What?!? NO!! SMOKING GIVES YOU CANCER!!!” And, with that, he turned and stared straight ahead. Hell, if I had known that’s all it would have taken, I would have done it earlier.
Look, I knew he wouldn’t take it. I wouldn’t have offered if I thought he would. I don’t even know why I offered the smoke. The things you do when you are young and stupid sometimes have no explanation.
Finally, the bus stopped at my corner. I grabbed my bag and stood up to get off, but David, who was sitting in the aisle seat, wasn’t moving.
“Move.” I said.
Goddammit, move your ass.” With that, I pushed him. Not enough to knock him out of the seat, but enough to get his ass moving. He moved.
I got off, lit up, took in some cancer and walked home.
Just another day–or so I thought.
I wonder if had I known about the shit storm that hit the next day if I would have done anything differently.