Monday, January 12, 2015

The Boy Who Flapped

For as far as I can remember, my attention span has Needed Improvement. In elementary school, we received a report card with a non-traditional line of lettering: S equaled "Satisfactory," G equaled "Good," VG equaled "Very Good" (a coveted honor), and N equaled "Needs Improvement." N might as well have been written in red and smeared across our little chests because these weren't grades on our assignments; they were measurements of our character. This was a time when our abilities to Pay Attention, Cooperate with the Teacher, and Work Well with Others, were observed to alert our parents of how we functioned as a small human being. Though I didn't realize it at the time, they were not unlike psychic tea leaves, predicting how well we'd do in middle school, high school and, depending on the number of Ns, college. I was always awarded G or VG when it came to creativity, class participation, and shouting my thoughts--the fun stuff. Paying Attention was my hamartia, my fatal flaw, my hovering demon that, to this day, could turn a harmless road trip to upstate New York into a five-day epic through Toronto. I saw a lot of N's when it came to paying attention.

 My brain likes to flap away into the air, imagining fake circumstances, reminiscing on great and terrible memories, or writing really great titles to books and movies that have no plot, cast, or opening paragraph. I love these thoughts, because they excited me, and I loved being excited. I love it so much I consider it a hobby. At a young age though, I had a physical "tell," when I got amped up. As my mind flapped away into the ether of my imagination, my body was back on earth, jumping up and down and... flapping. I flapped the shit out of my over-sized hands and couldn't stop until someone got embarrassed enough to pin my arms down. Even for a child, it was not an easy thing to watch. Imagine an old lady at a restaurant who's been doused by the falling cocktail of a clumsy waiter. She can't get up because she's old, so she just flaps her hands in a wet panic. That was me from ages 4 through 13, except I was also jumping up and down. Eventually, my dad bought me a trampoline so I would stop shaking the floor boards.

This, combined with the focus issues at school, encouraged my mom thought I might be tested for ADHD. I don't remember whether the test was specifically for ADHD, or if it was just a general scan to check for any an all abnormalities, but I was brought in for something.** In order for the test to work properly, I had to sleep soundly for a certain amount of time with a helmet of wires glued to my scalp in a room with three different computer screens, a microphone and a strange nurse. This would be impossible for me (or anyone with the sense of touch) under any normal circumstances, so my mom had me stay up all night in order to be tired enough to be tested successfully. We watched TV, made snacks, and played board games. When I started to snooze, she played "Hit Me Baby One More Time," at high volume and I managed to sing along with full choreography.

The next morning, I was real tired. I dozed in and out during the car ride to the mysterious sleep center until we arrived at what looked like a dentist's office made out of felled trees. We had to wait for half an hour while I struggled to stay awake. When my turn came, a woman that I will describe as hard-bit brought me into a room where she applied a hat of wires and sensors that had to be glued to my fucking scalp. To comfort me, she told me about her neighbor who wanted to sleep with her, but he wasn't gonna get it, and that Annie was an ugly name. I was too tired to ask whether she was really a nurse or another patient, so I followed her into a bedroom with the screens and the microphone.

"Okay, go to sleep," she said, pointing to the twin sized bed next to a desk.

"Um..." I said, wary of the entire situation.

"Aren't you tired?" She asked, slightly incredulous

"Yeah, but this helmet of wires kind of hurts," I mumbled.

Nurse Feelgood pursed her lips and moved back a wire clipped to my earlobe, which created an intense pinching sensation.

"How's that?" She asked.


I tried to sleep, but I fucking couldn't with the Hell Raiser hat glued to my scalp, so I kind of failed the test. The nurse informed my mom that she couldn't get a valid reading and I had to come back again some other time.*** I definitely slept for the second time around but I'm unsure of the results. I didn't receive any medication or therapy, nor was I forced into to doing children's yoga, so I guess I ended up being fine. Perhaps the lack of focus was just a phase, a small brain elbowing its way through manners, volume control and listening skills and grow to where it could calm down and be still for five minutes.

Unfortunately, things did not unfold so graciously. I continued to flap at random. Like that time in 6th grade when I foolishly tried my hand at team sports.

My Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Dresssuit, surprised my class with an afternoon trip outside to the field. We were elated and demanded that we play kickball. After we filed out and picked teams, my team lost the coin toss and had to pitch first. I was assigned right field, a spot reserved for the mentally challenged, and dashed out to take my post. The prospect of catching a fly ball was so exciting that I managed to laser point my focus to the infield for about 15 minutes of play until the game was paused. One of the kickers started moaning how horrible the pitcher was at rolling the ball in a perfectly straight line. This carried on for about two minutes, which was enough to make me lose interest and wander into a fantasy that I'll probably never forget.

The year was 2002, a time when British pop sensation, S Club 7, was at its cultural peak. I was such a fan. Ever since they sang Ain't No Party Like an S Club Party, Fox Family, I wanted to become the eighth member and make out with the blonde one named Jon. The previous night, I had watched them perform the song live for a screaming audience. I had thought about it all night, and all the next morning, and as fate would have it, right at this moment during the kickball game. As my classmates argued about line curvature, a veil came down over my eyes and I imagined myself on a stage. A sea of wild fans screamed below me as I danced intricate choreography alongside my fellow S Clubbers. There were elbows rocketing back, there were hips moving, and punctuating each move was a high-kick maneuver where I clapped my hands under my lifted leg. I was having the time of my life imagining all of this. Only, I wasn't imagining all of it.

I would like so badly to tell you these moves only happened in my mind, but alas, t'was not so. I had somehow possessed my own body and I danced in real life. An odd silence snapped me back to reality when I turned and realized my entire class was staring at me. Some were laughing, some were looking on, stunned by second-hand embarrassment. Mrs. Dresssuit stared on, too, wondering if she had a schizophrenic on her hands. Five blacked out seconds later, the game resumed, and a girl named Shmennifer told me I was, "messed." This hurt, and for a long time, I let it bother me. But in hindsight, I would have traveled back in time to myself at that moment and whispered, "Keep dancing, you will never see any of these people again after Middle School." Now, as a 26 year old man-child with dependency issues, I like my flapping brain. It's the closest I've gotten to flight without a pair of actual wings (so far).

I understand the title, "The Boy Who Flapped" sounds like, "The Boy Who Fapped." I knew some of you sick bastards would see the connection immediately so I tried like heck to find a way to insert masturbatory innuendos into this post.  I'm not that clever so, instead, here's a picture of Linda walking in on Brad from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

We've all been there, amiright?

*Get over it.

**I would ask my mom to clarify, but she doesn't remember doing this at all.

***I don't remember this one. We're fucked.

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