Saturday, December 29, 2007

Devens Loses Its Charm

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that may have happened as late as the Spring of 1957 before I became 8 years old. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

I think it was in the Spring of '57, that, after a series of disputes with friends, who then became former friends, I lost interest in talking to people altogether for a time. Instead I just wandered aimlessly about Fort Devens all day long avoiding other children. Some of the time I daydreamed, some of the time I just walked and enjoyed the rhythm of my steps.

To this day I have the ability to do nothing and be alone and enjoy it. Anitra is amazed at my gift for sitting and vegetating.

The ability to be alone and happy just being is very rare, in my experience. I find most people are terrified of extended periods of solitude. It's really three gifts combined. 1) I can entertain myself with my own thoughts, 2) I can "peace out" and vegetate, and 3) I'm not afraid of being alone.

One of my greatest fears is imprisonment. If I were sure that any jail time I experienced would be in solitude, I wouldn't be afraid at all. It's the thought of being locked up with other people that freaks me out.

Anyway, I'm not asocial, in spite of all that. Just because I don't feel a need for human company doesn't mean I turn away from it whenever it shows up. So when I ran into a bunch of kids on Detrobian Street, up the hill from my house on Chancellorsville, who expressed an interest in being friends with me, I figured, what the heck.

The heck was, that after hanging out with these guys (3 or 4 of them) for a while and getting along fine, we were joined by a friend of theirs who asked my name. When I told him he said, "Hey, I've heard of you! You're the half-brain!"

It turned out that his father was one of the doctors who treated me at the base infirmary when I jumped/fell off the jungle gym, before I was sent to Maryland. His father told him of X-rays that showed the extent of previous brain damage. Whatever the father said, his son took away the idea that I was only operating with half a brain.

The reality was that about a third of the surface of my cortex was destroyed when I was hit by the car in Hawaii. But there's more to the brain than surface. Anyway, it happened early enough that I'd recovered.

But I couldn't explain that to this kid, who was now cheerfully telling all his friends that I was a half-brain, his father the doctor said so. I wouldn't mind so much now, but at age 7 it was unbearable.

After that got going, I didn't want to live in Fort Devens anymore.

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