Right away I didn’t fit in. As we’ve seen, immediately upon my arrival from Florida at age 14 I was marked as a weirdo, a perfect target. And the trauma began immediately.
Once my new chums discovered that I was nervous and jumpy, the Hot Ass became a go-to trick. The Hot Ass was a pithy variation of the Hotfoot, wherein the perp held a lighter under my plastic chair until I would jump out of said chair, shrieking in agony and, hopefully, tossing my books and pen around the room. This was especially popular during tests, when my bewildering antics would make me the focus of the quiet room. Often my perp – usually Mike Welch – would say something snarky about my causing a disturbance as the eyes of the class bored into me and their howls of laughter carved into my soul.
Because my toes turn in (“Just like Jackie Robinson!” I would say to the great amusement of my chums, who couldn’t have given less of a shit about Jackie Robinson), they said I ran like I had a brick shoved up my ass sideways, thus making gym class especially traumatic. I would usually skip class and run laps in the gym after school, then walk the four miles home. It was easier. Much less humiliating.
Remember the Cookie Monster anthem, “C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me!” I was serenaded with my own personalized version! “W is for Westbye, that’s weird enough for me!”
But nothing would ever come close to the hell and agony of being known as Twacker.
In the long view, I love the fact that this incident occurred in the very same gym that inspired Carrie: at the time it was my own version. Freshman year at Lisbon Maine High School: I was standing at a urinal shaking off after using the urinal for its intended purpose just before gym class. Kevin Lerette came up behind me and jumped to the conclusion that would break me for the next two years.
“HE’S TWACKING OFF!!! HE’S TWACKING OFF!!!”
I knew in those first few nanoseconds that this was going to be a game-changer for the worst, but I couldn’t imagine how bad it actually would be. Word spread like so many proverbial wildfires (or Hot Asses), and I became known as Twacker, thus indirectly preceding Pee Wee Herman and Fred Willard on the path of infamy.
It stuck. In a quiet science class, my desk-mate Katie asked if anyone had any hand lotion. Mike Welch immediately piped up, “Why, is Westbye horny?!?” The memory of the entire class laughing and staring still burns under the scar tissue of time.
And so it went, and it didn’t stop until mid-way through my sophomore year.
It took me years, and years of therapy, to come to terms with the word “trauma.” I always blew it off. Trauma is what one experiences after seeing their entire family bludgeoned before their eyes, or after escaping a fiery plane crash. Not me! Not someone who just got picked on a little. But the more time I spent on the couch and analyzing myself, the more I realize that I was traumatized. There is no other word to describe the toll that was exacted on my psyche during those years.
I have come to terms with it all, and I am becoming okay with it. And I’ve had many last laughs over the years (Lori, our prom queen, is one of my best friends now, and she didn’t even remember Twacker. And I doubt that Mike Welch’s band has sold out the House of Blues Boston on a Tuesday night.).
Still, trauma runs deep, and it will take many more years, if ever, before I can undo that level of damage…