As a child, the adults never had a problem buying drugs from me. But there is another drug that I had no idea I was selling to them. That drug was my childhood. My childhood was to blame for their addiction. Because the adults have decided what this world is about and assumptions have been made about what my actions represent in this world, my actions have become a chemical, a dose and an induced state to them. It is only the high of perception that matters. The adults have no use for my shadow, my lingering or my intent on understanding.
I was once handed a pile of discharge papers to sign at the age of 14, with all of the conditions of my release. As I began looking for the spot where I was supposed to sign, I grew conscious of the adults around me and felt stupid. The feeling made it more difficult to focus, and as I flipped through the pages, my parole officer said, “Very intelligent young man. I should also start reading contracts before I sign them.” I looked up and found a room full of pride and approval. They were all under the influence.
Before this, I was sentenced to 18 months in a juvenile facility. I was told that I could be released in six months with good behavior, but as I broke every rule my parole officer warned me that if I got into trouble one more time, I would serve for the entirety of the 18 months.
So I behaved.
I began to attend every program and follow every rule. I managed to reach the highest level of compliance and was rewarded more than any other child in the facility. The staff were amazed at my change and I met every expectation in just a few months. I had proven myself worthy of an early release and a ceremonial farewell was held upon my discharge. I was asked to come up to a pulpit before the entire institution. I was told that I was a perfect example that the program worked, and as a reward I was gifted a watch as a measure of excellence.
My dependency was a drug which the adults loved to consume. I was not dealing that drug; I was leaving traces of it for their skin to absorb and intoxicate them. The dripping fragments of my childhood made the adults hallucinate, and the drug seemed more powerful than the cocaine I had been arrested for selling to them. I could not understand what was happening. The adults seemed so fixated on their world that they took as evidence any images that framed what they believed me to be. There I was, standing in front of an entire institution, being praised. It was a power that I thought I could leverage against them and their world.
Their hallucinations of me made me real. They made me a figment of what I did not know how to deny. A summoning of nothing. So it made me real. The hallucinogen brought me forth to them and led me to my freedom. I was released, moved in with my son and his mother at the age of fifteen—then walked out on them. Within six months, I would be arrested for almost killing an innocent person. My actions had once provided a good enough dose to create the hallucination of an exemplary figure, but they had now produced a lethal dosage that created the grotesque image of a fully realized adult, deserving of a 45 year prison sentence.
This drug is so strong that it is taken as a means to escape the challenging humanity of children. It does not matter what a child does, they can only be rewarded and punished, indeed treated, according to the hallucinations he represents. If my mother brings a strange man into my room and asks my brothers and I who will volunteer to share our bed, and I raise my hand, the man suddenly begins to hallucinate that I want to be sexually molested while everyone else is sleeping. And when my mother discovers him molesting me, the drug brings the hallucination that I am homosexual. It did not matter that I simply raised my hand to please a mother whose affection and approval I deeply wanted at the age of seven. It did not matter that there was a reality to me, an elasticity that remained after being pulled beyond my bandwidth.
I once shook my son violently when he was just four months old because he wouldn’t stop crying. Was I trying to shake the very childhood out of him? The childhood that the adults implicitly led me to believe I could not survive or have a place of being in their world? Was I attempting to stop the high that my son was causing me? The one that would make me hallucinate that he was not an infant? Had I taken the drug that early?
The preferred high of adults is to forget that they were once children. Maybe that is, after all, their drug of choice: to wipe out the phase of childhood altogether to avoid bearing the loss of their very own. A loss of innocence. Freedom. Dependency. Spontaneity. Curiosity. Rebellion. But in all of these—humanity. No adults today possess these qualities. The child within them is dead, so it is not just children that suffer for this loss. There are also nations, races, genders and everything that has expression.
I see this everywhere.
It is in the man who believes that a woman wants it because of the way she speaks or dresses; the woman believes that very same thing of the other women. It is in police who see a question as disobedience and weaponize it. It is in the adversarial “us versus them” rather than a tolerance for differences. A collective arrest, trial and sentence. A punishment between adults that only leaves a sense that a crime has been committed, while condemning them to neither seeing nor hearing children. A kind of sensory deprivation that leads the body to attack the objects it sees because that body takes for granted the object it is mishandling in trying to identify it.
If searching for a signature made me smart, and showing up for programs made me exemplary, then it was only a matter of time that I would be judged as a monster for hurting an innocent person. For if I am to benefit from any delusion, it would follow that I should also suffer from that delusion.