In the summer between 7th and 8th grade, Bill had moved away, Ian and I didn’t really hang out, and Pam was busy with some older man. I was bored and looking for friends. I found one near my house, while skating around and he was doing the same. Let’s call him Jed 1his name was actually Sean, but that’ll be confusing cause I’ve got a few Seans in my life and it’s more accurate to give him a … Continue reading.
Jed was a country-boy redneck type. His house was filled with crosses and American flags and they all listened to country. He also listened to metal, thankfully, and I introduced him to punk music. He was a tall kid, but goofy lookin’. He was also born with poor hearing, which improved as he got older, but he never learned how to say the letter “R” correctly — instead it sounded more like a “W” sound.
We spent a lot of time together that summer, and I went camping with his family at the lake several times. It was fun riding in a nicely-equipped full-size RV, minus the whole drive there and back which was wall-to-wall FM radio country music about… I dunno, workin’ hard, or havin’ a big truck, or… stuff about jesus, or… whatever the hell else contemporary country wanted to yodel on about in the early-90s. I usually brought along a walkman and my gameboy and tried to drown out the sound while Jed and I played cards and things like that. When we got to the lake, we’d go fishing, or play this electronic Laser Tag spinoff game called Survivor Shot 2which was so much fucking better than Laser Tag for so many reasons into the wee hours of the night.
One time, while we were jumping on my trampoline, Jed spotted a black kid walking across the street. He yelled out “howdy nigger!”. I stopped jumping. “The hell’s that about, man?”. Jed brushed it off “ahh I’m just kiddin’ with him”. When you’re young, you have a tendency to excuse behaviors and make up excuses about shit, rather than rock the boat too much. I told myself he probably knew the kid and he wasn’t actually as much of a racist redneck as all signs pointed towards him being.
Given all the wild shit I put up with throughout elementary school, I paid very little attention in class, and my education level outside of English class by the time I hit 7th grade was probably closer to 3rd or 4th grade. I barely know history now, but back then I was so ignorant to history that in 5th grade I actually had a teacher read aloud the wrongest history answer she’d ever seen. The question was “what was the Boston Tea Party?”. My answer was “a quiet day in the park in Boston, enjoying some Boston Tea”. Critically, as it relates to this story, I entered 8th grade knowing just about nothing about WWII.
Jed drew a swastika on my binder one day. I said “what’s that?”, and he told me it was a symbol of freedom in WWII Germany. “Kinda like the rebel flag in the south”. It looked kinda cool, and I stupidly bought into his insistence that it was a “real rebel thing to do”. I know how fucking insane this seems, even saying it now, but I truly just didn’t know.
I’m sitting in Math class one day and this kid named Shane 3or at least that’s what I’m gonna call him now cause I don’t remember his name was sitting next to me, seeing me litter my binder with elaborate swastikas. He was a quiet, overweight kid with really long hair and one of those long-ass chain wallets. The first time I ever heard him speak was when he grabbed my binder and said “what the fuck is that shit?”. He looked angry. I said “just… y’know.. swastikas. rebel shit”. He laughed in that “ohhh now you done fucked up” kinda way.
After class, he came up to me with another guy, Navon, and this time it was Navon who grabbed my binder and said “what the FUCK dude?” and threw the binder at me. Shane said “yeah, the kid’s a little fuckin’ nazi”. I didn’t have a response, cause I was pretty sure I wasn’t a Nazi — I didn’t even know what a Nazi was. I just said “no, no… I’m just… my friend drew them on there and I thought it looked cool”. Navon said “If you don’t believe in that shit : remove it. When I see you after school, those better all be crossed out”.
I didn’t know what made those two so angry, but I figured if these two guys who were the same style dude that I was were that pissed, I probably oughta just cross ’em out. It didn’t help that several people throughout the day would say “WHAT THE FUCK?” when they looked at my binder. I didn’t want that kind of attention, and I kept remembering Jed’s little “howdy nigger!” attempt-at-a-joke. I thought “wait… is Jed a racist?” — Yes. Yes he was.
When Navon saw me after school, I showed him the binder and I’d crossed out or drawn over every single one of ’em. A few of them were replaced with logos for some bands I loved, to which Navon said “heyyy… good band” about a few of them.
I ended up going to high school with both Navon and Shane 4I’ve got a story about Shane’s dramatic high school exodus at a later date, but I was never really friends with Navon. I kinda avoided him for the most part. I figured for sure this dude always thought I was secretly a Nazi and just complied with his request out of fear of an ass-beating. I never wanted to bring it up, cause by the time I knew WTF the whole swastika thing was about, I looked back on the memory of that binder and just felt wracked with guilt and shame and embarrassment. I was hoping he’d… forget, maybe? But I didn’t wanna ask.
A few weeks ago, after the 2nd Faith No More show, I saw Navon. He said “I read a few of your stories, man”. I said “hey, thanks!”, and then told him one day I’d need to write the story of how he and I met. He said “yeah, when did we meet? Must’ve been 8th grade”. I said “you don’t remember?”. He did not.
I proceeded to tell him the story that’s prevented me from ever thinking I could’ve been on cool terms with him for the past 20 years, and he just laughed his ass off. I told him “literally, until this exact moment, I was sure that every single time I saw you, when you walked away, you’d turn to whomever was near you and say did y’know that motherfucker’s a nazi?“.
He didn’t even remember it. What an idiot I am.
|↩1||his name was actually Sean, but that’ll be confusing cause I’ve got a few Seans in my life and it’s more accurate to give him a redneck name|
|↩2||which was so much fucking better than Laser Tag for so many reasons|
|↩3||or at least that’s what I’m gonna call him now cause I don’t remember his name|
|↩4||I’ve got a story about Shane’s dramatic high school exodus at a later date|