Red, White, and Black: The Story of the Fat Kid in Gym Class


I never ran your mile every Monday because I didn't give a shit. And I didn't give a shit because I was much too busy dealing with my family and figuring out who I was or wondering why everyone insisted on calling me "Beaver" when I would say how much it hurt me (time and time again), or if I had any real friends. Because I've always been on the outside, I've had to interpret and analyze life differently than everyone else, so for years I did nothing and allowed all of you to step on me. I would take all of the insults, all of the negativity, all of the hate that you and my peers would give me and lie awake at night dreaming of the day when everything changed. I would cry myself to sleep most nights, knowing my only comfort was the day I escaped Lancaster's clutches. That was nine years ago.

I'm 21 now, and I fucking wish that Monday mile was the biggest problem in my life right now, I really do. I wish that I didn't have to become aware of the blatant racism and classism of our desert community, that white people would stop calling me their "nigga", that I didn't have to turn to drugs and alcohol to escape my problems, but most of all I wish my mother didn't have to resort to prostitution to provide for her family. And I wish she would understand how fucked up I feel about it and that I know she will never admit it. I don't think I will ever be able to honestly say that I love her, and that crushes me a thousand times more than that fucking mile ever could.

I'm sorry that I couldn't understand physical fitness sooner and the impact it would have on my life, but I am happy to report that I am now skinny. And not only am I skinny, but athletic, healthy, and damn good-looking. The physical imperfections that plagued me in my early youth have now become my most admirable traits. Those buck teeth everyone loved to point out are now the best set of choppers this side of the Mississippi, and a crucial part to my trademark smile. Every push-up, every squat, every lunge that I ever have done was so that I could reclaim myself from the image and person that I allowed everyone else to create of me. And it worked. I felt healthier, happier, and finally growing into the person I always dreamed of being.

Coach, I wish that our relationship didn't have to be this way, but like so many other people that have come and gone in my life, I don't feel remorse for how things ended. Choices were made, and regardless of the reasoning, our lives are now what they are because of it. I wonder what you would have thought if you found out that an endless cycle of incapable and damaging father figures were coming in and out of my life, that I needed literature because it was the one place where I didn't have to be me, or that I tried to commit suicide only two years later after leaving your class, but then I think back to the days you would look at me and shake your head in contempt at my internal subordination. I could see the disappointment in your eyes behind your stupid sunglasses (that only middle school P.E. teachers wear) and guess that my depression and weakness is just what you would have expected out of me.

If you could only see me now; I've partied with basketball stars, mingled with celebrities, and had experiences I never thought possible. I have you to thank partly, because the memories I have of you are a constant reminder for me to never quit on my personal mission in life and what I have to do for me. All because of you... and everyone else that wrote me off. There's a reason why the nerd becomes successful, why the weirdos become innovators... we internalize everything to prove people like you wrong. And I'm gonna keep fucking doing that until some balding coroner with two kids and a fucked up pension checks off "Deceased" and drives back to the home he will never pay off.

Is everything perfect? No, the stakes in my life have never been higher. The weight of my decisions is physical. My failures are historical, but I am now prepared for them. I'm ready for what the world wants to throw at me because I've seen it at its worst, and I kept going. I survived. Nothing can stop me anymore. You laughed at my fruitless physical efforts, they laughed when I said I wanted to become a rapper, but no one is laughing anymore except me.

The Fat Kid in Gym Class