From Rich Boy Cries for Mama a memoir by Ethan Minsker
In 1986 I was at boarding school outside of Boston. I had just gotten a Mohawk and, because it was against the rules of the school, hid it under a bandanna. This story takes the reader off the path in my memoir so I'm cutting it out and dumping it here. This is all true of course.
My first class was with the teacher from the dorm. The assignment was to bring in song lyrics and read them in class. He didn’t say anything when I stood up and had on the bandanna. “I’m guilty of a racist crime that happened ninety-nine years before my time,” I read the lyric sheet from a Minor Threat song. I noticed my reading was a little better. I hated Landmark but I was learning. I would never have admitted it at the time, thinking it would have just kept me there longer, but it was true. It was the routine, the very thing I hated most. They forced me to sit at my desk and muscle through the work. Even if my eyes burned, I sat there until the time was up, trying to read. With no distractions, I started coming around. It was slow and almost unperceivable. I picked the Minor Threat song because I liked the meaning behind it. In Washington, sometimes you got crap just for being white. Like I was personally responsible for slavery even though my family immigrated to this country sometime after. I had read over all of the lyrics on every record I had. My reading started with the lyric sheets. Songs are short, and I finished before my eyes began to burn. In front of the class, clutching the black and white sheet, I was nervous. I imagined the other students’ eyes piercing me, but all but one looked half asleep. The one kid who was listening looked at me with a sickening hatred.
“That song sucked,” he said. I wasn’t even finished.
“Go fuck yourself,” I said back. The rest of the class suddenly awoke, but were quiet, watching the two of us.
“I have to get you boys peeing through the same straw,” said the teacher. The teacher went on to explain how song lyrics were poetry.
The kid behind me was a red head. He kept watching me. I leaned back in my chair and pretended he wasn’t there.
“Fuck me, fuck you punk!” he said, throwing his books at me. One of them crashed into the side of my face. I stood up and threw my desk back at him, knocking him to the floor. The kids sitting next to him got up and moved to the back of the room. The redhead stood up and came at me. The teacher jumped in between us, holding him back. I didn’t move and just stood there, my arms held across my chest.
“Fuck you, fuck this class. I’m outta here,” he said and left.
“So what happened in your English class?” asked my roommate later that night. “Everyone was saying it was a crazy fight.”
“It wasn’t even a fight. He threw his books at me so I threw my desk at him.”
“It sounds kinda crazy.”
After dinner, I looked up the redhead’s number in the school directory and called him. He lived off campus.
“Look man, it really didn’t have anything to do with you,” he said. “I just can’t do the school thing anymore. There are too many rules.” He came back for a few days, then transferred to someplace else.
I knew exactly how he felt, but I couldn’t quit. I didn’t want to let my parents down. Maybe I was admitting that the school was working, but how long could I take it?