I grew up in a very small town. My graduating class was less than 300, I went from pre-school to graduation with the majority of my class mates, and everyone knew a little something about everyone. Small towns have their perks but, by the time you graduate, you either love or hate everyone. My dad grew up in a small town and my mom grew up in an even smaller town. Every now and then, I remember my parents talking about people in their classes dying. Death in itself is strange to think about, but it’s even more strange when it’s someone you know.
Remember: small town, perks and drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is how clicky things are. I started out as being a pretty popular kid. Beginning in kindergarten, making friends came as easy as learning every ones names. I didn’t ever have to try to fit in, it just happened. Over the years, my group of friends got smaller and smaller, tighter and tighter. Middle school was a breeze, then in high school, that’s where everything gets rough for some reason. See, you would think for such a small town that by high school, everyone would be as close as family. This just isn’t the case at all. In high school everything gets complicated. Everyone starts dating, most people just want to be “popular”, and they’ll do anything to act as cool as they can be. That’s when I started becoming “unpopular”. I noticed, pretty quickly, how all of the people I thought would be my friends for ever were not even the same people.
Eventually, I tried my best to stay out of the limelight. I didn’t want people knowing everything about me anymore. I was done playing high school and ready to get on with the rest of my life. It was my Senior year. What every one thought of me was mostly wrong. What everyone assumed of each other was only made up from the rumors they had heard from other people. It was disgusting. There was one boy in particular who had gotten a pretty bad, and let me add ridiculous, reputation. He had longer, dark brown hair. He wore nerdy, slim framed glasses; the same pair he had worn since I could remember. In the winter he would wear this awful trench coat. That’s how the rumor started. People stayed clear of him because, for some reason, the trench coat landed him the label of ” the guy who might shoot up the school“. It was outrageous! People who had known him since elementary school were adding to the rumor.
Trench Coat Boy was not...normal, but he wasn’t not normal either. He was just more of a nerdy boy who had poor fashion sense, and obviously did not care what people said or thought about him. I was done playing high school and knew very well that Trench Coat Boy was not harmful to anyone. I wasn’t afraid to sit by him or talk to him or be associated with him.
It was second semester and one of the last classes I took was Debate I. Debate I was a class made up of Freshmen and Sophomores. Needless to say, this was a blow off class for me. I walked into the first day and searched the room. Nobody I knew was in this stupid class. I was not about to sit next to some snot nosed freshman. Starting at the back of the room, I look again, slowly making my way up towards the door, and there he is! Trench Coat Boy! I decided that Trench Coat Boy and I were going to become very good friends. I sit next to him and he says hello and uses my name. We joked around about the class, and then thankfully, one of the boys I had been in school with my whole life walks in late. He sits on the other side of me. All three of us joked about how neither one of us even needed the credits in this class. I could tell it was going to be one class I actually looked forward to.
Over the last semester, the three of us had a great time in that class. We stuck together and created some of the most hilarious speeches. All of the younger debate kids hated us and the teacher ended up loving us. Trench Coat Boy already had a monkey on his back. I could tell that even though he had never done anything, the younger kids, who I’m sure made up their minds the minute they saw him, treated him a little differently.
In middle school, Trench Coat Boy had not yet been labeled Trench Coat Boy. He was different, but not Trench Coat Boy. He used to be able to do this insane, mad scientist like laugh. Everyone loved it. If we had a substitute teacher, we would all gather around him and beg him to do it. Him being able to do his famous laugh still didn’t make him cool, but for a split second, it made all of us have something in common besides the shitty town we were all from.
I used to think nothing about school ever bothered Trench Coat Boy, at least that’s what he said. He would go on and on about how he didn’t care about what anyone called him or what anyone thought about him. I believed him. I thought he was one of the few actually cool people in my school. I’m not sure exactly when, but some time after we graduated Trench Coat Boy hung himself.
In school I used to day dream about who was going to grow up to be who. Even the weird kids in school, I knew this was only the beginning for all of us. I knew none of this would ever mean anything in the real world. All of the nerdy kids are in college right now, getting ready to begin amazing careers in amazing subjects. All of the “popular” kids are having the times of their lives, some of them have already passed the time of their lives, and they’re egos are being shot down by reality. At one point, I thought about Trench Coat Boy’s future. I guessed that he would become some famous celebrity; of all people, I truly guessed Trench Coat Boy could use his mad scientist laugh and make it in a movie or something. I didn’t think he would be the first to go.
You never know how things are going to turn out. But I think it’s safe to say that stigmas and judging people is stupid. If anyone would have put all the useless high school bs aside for a second and sat down and talked with Trench Coat Boy, they would have known that he was just like any one of us. He was scared of what graduating would bring, he laughed at inappropriate things, he was just a person. Since graduating, I have learned that it truly doesn’t matter what people wear or what color their hair is or how many tattoos they have. Everyone is just trying to find themselves. So lend a helping hand by becoming one less person to judge them. You might actually find some pretty cool people when you put all the outside stuff aside.