So I’m not here to try and impress you. I’m not here to change your life. I’m just here to tell you a story that will make you laugh. It’s about a guy I know.
I know this guy who everyday tries to be normal, but he’s not. People tell him all the time how outside of the lines he colors. He doesn’t care. He has some problems. This guy has had sixteen medically confirmed concussions. That’s fifteen confirmed traumatic brain injuries. He has had some serious problems. He has spent over two days in comas and over five days in other worlds, where he wasn’t the same person to people in this world. It is absolutely crazy that he is still here with us, and I know this guy.
This guy is kind of hard to talk to. He jumps around as fast as his brain can switch gears. Going from hard science and physical chemistry, to a question on how we interpret the passing of time due to information and philosophy faster than a normal person can blink an eye. He was insane in the best way, at least most of the time. The problem was you couldn’t really tell that every state he had been to school in considered him mentally disabled. He was more mentally able than most people in most things independent of a subject or who else as in the group. Yet, he still carried a large chip on his shoulder for not being what he could have been barring head injuries. The funny part was, that even though he had all these head injuries that crippled him in so many ways, he never wore a helmet. He was like Neil Patrick Harris in a cut scene from the trip to white castle, asking for something to go wrong with no protection. This guy was cool though. He at least held most people down with his ample ability to cut through bull shit. It was the second time I met him that things started to come out like a gay dude after he graduates high school and moves out of his podunk home town.
Sitting around a kitchen island drinking what seemed like my second beer as we finished an eighteen rack and his disability got brought up. It wasn’t even quite what I expected, and I knew the whole situation going in. One excessively drunken friend was combating us trying to put him to bed with a trash can. He had already thrown all the ups we thought he had, but we were still set to set him down and put him out. That’s when the almost incoherent drunk yells started. With most words cut up and homogeneously colored we couldn’t gather much to pick out. That was until he started with a few underlying insults. We heard that most of our friends at the party had a small dick. One girl who had always been keen for our friend was also cute according to him. We weren’t supposed to tell her, but he told us she was cute. That’s when it hit me. For all the offensive and drunken words I ignore this one wasn’t gonna slide in. Now it wasn’t new for someone to say the R-word when they were belligerent. Nor was I new for being someone who called out his use of the word, that would be retardant if I was! What was new was adding the personal edge. It managed to slice through all other bullshit and actually kind of hurt when he said it.
Now we loved this man, he had been one of our closest friends for the last decade. If we were ever that put off by his drunken words that was more the reason to beat him up and hang him out to dry. Better us do it than some rando’s who won't even make sure he was taken care of and absorbed the lesson set to learn. So when he said,
“Now you’re more retarded than him, and he’s actually retarded.”
With a glare from everybody as they glazed over the drunk man like a donut and set their eyes on the steaming cup of coffee right next to him. The man who had been at his side the longest, remained soberest all night and taken care of the most people and party mishaps was now in the spotlight. The drunken man hesitated for all the attention to pool up in a puddle above the draining speech he was about to release.
“Nobody hit him in the head, He’s special.” A stupendous look of engagement as his eyes were picked up and set on another to be sure they understood, “He’s retarded, but you’re special. Cuz he's not special like that, just retarded.” The last two words left like kernels out of a high school popcorn machine minutes before the game. Popping with laughter and an excitement we couldn’t match. We were too in tune with the real world to have his blissful ignorance. Everyone except the "retard".
I’m not sure he knew if he was smart, or if he just knew how smart he could have been. Either way, he was set aside from everyone else and he knew it. A beautiful man who was smart, funny, very in shape, and could talk to anyone, especially the ladies. Yet he couldn’t get a real relationship going or a solid friendship like he’s had before the head injuries. I’m not sure if anybody didn’t know it, or anybody knew it as well as him. It would have been a little awkward if he didn’t cover it up with his own personal awkwardness first.
It’s not like he wouldn’t talk about it either. It wasn’t as obvious as our friend in the wheelchair but his stories may have carried as much, if not more weight. I would try to ask questions and make light-hearted jokes in situations like these but it was always a task. What was I supposed to bring up? I tried once for the cool things I’d heard about head injuries.
“Hey man, at least if they hit you hard enough one time you could hope to wake up and have learn’t a new language!”
He calmly turned his head to face you. Without him opening his lips you knew that this had been a detrimental joke to make. You could tell from his facial expressions you were about to experience the full roast like he’d categorized you as a coffee bean.
“Did you really learn something new if it took the space of something else?”
Confused as fuck, you were appalled by the little amount you understood from this question that seemed so simple. He went on,
“I don’t see it as learning something. I mean the man who learned mandarin after being in a car accident had never studied the language. He had never even thought about it. Unfortunately, most people would say he didn’t even have a good grasp of English, his native language.”
The sideways look as you knew the rollercoaster car had made it to the top of the first hill. The potential was at max here. You braced for the ride. He took off,
“They don’t tell you that man forgot all the English he knew when he suddenly could only speak Chinese. They don’t tell you he lost knowing who his family was, what he did for a living for the last fifteen years and the look of love from his son's eyes. They don’t tell you he was so confused that they had to have him strapped down to the hospital bed for the first few days as the translators would only relay what they thought was the need to watch him. He was only talking about death for the first however many days. Yeah, so I mean it would be cool to learn Spanish or something but I’m not so sure I wouldn’t rather keep it the way it is. I mean I’d even like a little less synthesia in my next head knock if that’s possible. I mean first, you have to believe in my experiences, but I sure do.”
The glare he gave me was meant for some doctor that had obviously been on the wrong side of his opinions. I’m not saying I would trust him over a doctor, but I would trust him over most people I’ve ever met in any subject. He was the dumbest smart kid, or the smartest dumb kid you will ever meet. One of the two if not both at the same time. I’m not sure how you would overlap those two, but he had overlapping senses that confused me every day, so it wasn’t anything new. The weirdest part of all this as I sat there, scooting a freshly bagged trashcan next to our friend’s head on the left side of the bed as we put him down, was his attention to detail. Details I was sure no one else noticed but he seemed to count it as easily as seconds. Without changing the pace of his breathing he uttered the next phrase like someone who had to drink their own poison so they weren’t at risk of giving away their side’s secrets.
“I see how it can affect people if it’s used derogatorily, but it can’t be left to not use. It only gains weight like an obese singer claiming she has always had a plus-sized body. It becomes its own worst enemy. Someone being mentally retardant, or retarded still holds as much water as the weight that presses on our singers vocal chords. Not using the word only adds weight to when it is used. It would be the equivalent for our singer only eating when her stomach was completely empty, and when she did eat, she ate only the fast food she had been craving the whole time she wasn’t eating. It’s essentially the least healthy thing someone can do. The two percent maximum difference in human DNA, whether it’s epigenetic, or straight from your RNA in the DNA polymerase, it won’t allow for THAT much change. I'm not calling out anyone's decisions, just their hypocrisy.”
Your eyes locked his. He knew you’d zoned most of the last few sentences out. You were still trying to figure out how he got to that point before he took off again. He knew, and he didn't care if you were listening. He was just trying to tell the universe and whoever may have been listening to code better. To not put such simple problems in front of him. He couldn’t grasp why people had such cognitive dissonance in the most empirically backed branches of his science. He started again,
“I mean forget a subpar singer, forget a mad flute solo, and forget the fact that anything they say can be easily proven false if you didn’t spend your common cents on that cup of lemonade at the last stop for the queen bee. It doesn’t matter for people like this. We can fix any and all of our problems if we start from where they begin. The longer we let them go unresolved the more variance we have in where they can end up. If we start with the children. If we start with how we can learn and how they are taught, we may even be able to teach more logic and reason to them than we have ever had!”
His eyes got big as they were filled with loads of potential. He saw it in people he had never met. He was reeling in his own dreams by teaching children how to see an enlightened version of what we do. His vision didn’t get any more nearsighted as he continued.
“If we can even get a one-degree change in direction early on when they are learning it’ll make drastic changes by the time they are in our seats. We can look like a utopia pictured in one of the everything goes too well sci-fi stories. It’ll all be white, silver, and platinum. We will be able to touch these kids like Midas! Fuckin’ gold everywhere.”
His face froze in the position it was in. Half claiming the underlying energy these thoughts had given him and half in despair for the realization of what he had just said. He slowly turned his head to see if you had caught the slip as well. With a sneer and a snigger, you jumped at the opportunity to change the subject.
“Yeeeah, I don’t think we wanna go around advertising you touch kids. I mean troop leaders, fathers of the church, and every stepdad on a few websites might tell you differently, but I would be willing to bet.”
It was his puzzlement you saw coming up that already had you worried. Without missing his opportunity he jumped.
“I mean I can’t speak for anyone, everyone, or someone who I don’t know. However, I do know a guy.”
The face he made back to you looked like he’d planned on this conversational turnaround the whole time.