Fifteen years ago, I was really into mythology and monsters. The monsters of Grecian mythology were my gateway drug into the world of beast, but the monsters created by H.P Lovecraft was my cocaine. I would spend many nights writing short stories about monsters like the ones Lovecraft described, but they never seemed quite right to me. My abilities as a writer were never satisfactory enough for me to share my stories with anyone. I still think that is true today. Illustrations however were no problem at all… well, except this one time.
Now I don’t know how familiar you are with the “South” here in America so let me take a moment to get you up to speed. All the things you think are probably true. The South is by far the most fucked up part of America. I have lived here most of my life so I should know. The public school systems in the South are often intertwined with the local Christian churches. This basically means that if you are not Christian in the South, then you are about to have a shit time (It’s even worse if you happen to be black or hispanic).
The reason I bring this up is to show how a person like myself could easily be targeted by the school system. You see, I’ve never had a belief in a God or any kind of spiritual inclinations at all. It had nothing to do with making a statement or proving a point. It just wasn’t necessary for me growing up to give a shit about something that had no impact on my life. My mom would go to church occasionally and give money when we had no money or food. What did the church do for us in return? Give us used jackets once!? Oh well, better be grateful. That new speaker system in the church sure sounds nice though. Yeah, fuck that.
With all of this in mind I now take you to the setting of my 8th grade science classroom. I asked my science teacher a simple question one day. “What came first? Hydrogen or Oxygen?” I have no idea why I wanted to know this, I just remember asking the question because what happened next forever burned that exchange of words into my memory. As my science teacher struggled to find an answer for me, another student approached our conversation without invitation and said ” I thought God created the world, so wasn’t everything created at the same time?”
I remember thinking that this had to be a joke question. I looked back to my teacher with a confused look on my face. “That’s not Science” I said
“But it’s in the Bible.” The student shot back.
“Yeah, I know. But those are stories. ”
The teacher shot me a disdainful glance and then turned to the student. “You are right” the teacher said to the student.
The words seemed to echo in my head. I looked around and noticed another student nearby nodding in agreement to the teacher’s statement. The teacher continued the conversation with the student without another glance in my direction.
I slowly walked away knowing that I had just encountered a pivotal moment in my life. My search for an answer was thwarted by a teacher with an agenda. It was surreal. I felt I could no longer trust my teachers or my school with my education. The seed that was planted in my mind would have far-reaching implications for my life that I will tackle in later post. For this story, just know that I was the outsider in my class without any doubt.
A few days after that event I was again in the science classroom waiting for my bus. To fill my time I was working on the picture you saw at the top of this post. The science teacher took notice of my work while passing by but made no comment. A moment later she returned and told me that I was “not allowed draw things like that.”
“Why not?” I protested.
“Because it goes against the school’s zero tolerance policy. You can’t draw weapons of any kind. He has a knife in his shoulder!”
I knew she was right, but I also knew that my drawings had never been an issue before. I obliged her request and pulled out a different picture to work on.
Immediately she told me to “Put that away”.
“What’s wrong with this one?” I asked without hesitation. I could feel myself getting angry now. I knew I was basically being harassed at this point.
“You can’t draw weapons or gore on school property.” She said this with a kind of smugness that I’ll never forget. It was like an iPhone user telling me how much better it is than an android (We can argue that out in comments). I wanted to protest. I wanted to argue. I just remained silent and slammed my notebook shut. She took this as a threatening gesture and decided that I deserved detention the next day.
The next day, detention was being held by my language arts teacher. When I arrived, my art teacher was also present. They both wanted to know from me what had happened, so I told them my story. They listened without judgement and when I finished they both agreed that I should not be drawing those things in the science teachers classroom. However, I was told that I could draw whatever I pleased while in their classrooms so long as it did not interfere with actual school work. While this didn’t correct the overall problem, it was at least a patch I could live with. Someone understood…
In my finale week of 8th grade, my language arts teacher presented me with a book.
Inside the book she scribbled me a note that I have read many times in the last fifteen years.
Ms Dillbeck (a teacher who deserves an entire blog post of her own), was one of my first supporters. She didn’t care about what I was drawing, writing or believing, only that I was drawing and writing. When she gave me the book she said something I will never forget.
“keep drawing your monsters, they can’t hurt anyone. The real monsters are people”