Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and raised on a farm in Cerro Gordo, North Carolina – a town of around 200-300 people you have almost certainly never heard of. The main attractions are: the Wikipedia description of the town’s naming, the one gas station that my uncle owned for the longest time, the Family Dollar, and the new four-way stop intersection that finally made people have to pause, look around and realize they’re in a town called Cerro Gordo.
And I Was Afraid, Because I Was Naked, And I Hid Myself
Adam sang folk songs every day at school, not the good ones from the 60s and 70s but the songs from new bands with city folk front men dressed up as farmers. He’d sit outside on a bench with his grandfather’s beat-up Yamaha acoustic – the kind that was made in America – and bang away some four-chord song for a few onlookers.
Usually, folks didn’t pay him much mind. He had a couple of friends who’d listen because they had nowhere else to go during break and maybe a freshman girl or two who were too dumb to see through it. One – with thick, curly hair and bright yellow braces – came to watch and never even worked up the courage to say hello.
Audience be damned, he’d play the same songs every single day, adding a new one he heard to the rotation once he’d worked on it enough.
When school musical season came around his sophomore year, he was the first to register for auditions. His freshman year, he’d watched from the sidelines, being more focused on shop class and building set pieces that would be on the stage than being on the stage. He wouldn’t let that happen again.
Mr. Foster and Ms. Calloway, the theater and choir directors, were excited. They’d seen him playing as they walked through the hallway that looked out onto the break courtyard. They hadn’t heard him sing, mind you, but a boy who was confident enough to play, and play every day, had to be good enough for a lead role in a school musical. The musical this year was Little Shop of Horrors.
He auditioned with a Book of Mormon song. Foster and Calloway found it odd that he sang it with no humor whatsoever. And they found it disappointing that the boy couldn’t sing worth a lick.
“How can it be?” They asked each other, once he was offstage and it was over.
They gave him another shot, auditioning him for the carnivorous plant and even coaching him on the humor. Foster and Calloway ended up giving the role to a girl with a deep voice and Adam found himself in a background role.
He gave up on singing for the rest of the year. Most silently rejoiced in this, except for the freshman girl with the thick, curly hair, who wept in the bathroom during the first songless break.
. . .
Adam’s third year of high school was the goth year.
He started listening to bands with terrible names, the ones that combined words like bullet with romantical words. He liked that their names were some sort of response to the bullshit of it all, even though none of them made any sense.
He also liked that most of the frontmen of these bands couldn’t really sing. They would scream or shout or give growly head-voiced lines about how sad they were that some girl – some certainly intelligent girl, when you think about it – didn’t consider them worth the trouble anymore.
Adam painted his fingernails dark black for the first time and a hick called him a faggot under his breath in the lunch line. The other hicks laughed.
He got eyeliner next, black, of course. He tested it out for a couple days over a weekend before debuting at school, much to his father’s chagrin – who, for the record, could at least understand the words in the folksy songs. When Adam went to school, another one of the hick boys swiped a sharpie across his forehead while he was grabbing something from his bookbag.
“Thought you missed a spot,” the boy said.
The classroom silently stared for a second, before bursting into laughter. Adam went to the bathroom to clean it off, where he saw the curly headed, now sophomore, girl staring from her classroom. He averted his eyes so she couldn’t see his pain.
He tried cutting himself with a pen in the bathroom, but the point was too dull, and it hurt too bad. After that, Adam decided to go with just color for the fingernails. He saved enough money from his new fast-food job to buy a Chinese-made electric guitar that looked like the leadmen in the emo bands played but didn’t sound quite the same.
He started playing power chords and eventually got his hands on a mini amp that could strap onto his bag at school. The first day he whipped it out at break, a teacher told him to turn it down “exponentially” or put it away. He turned it down, just enough for his audience – the sophomore girl and a new freshman chick with the same black nails as him – to hear.
One day, the sophomore girl got the courage to ask if he had a girlfriend. She knew he didn’t, at least not this school, but she couldn’t muster up enough of that courage to ask if she could be his, so this was the best she could do.
“No, I don’t,” he said, still scratching at a G power chord.
She stared at him some more, her eyes brightening up. He realized.
“Would you…” he stopped playing. “Want to be mine?”
She smiled wide. He saw she was missing a canine. “Yes,” she said.
“Cool,” he said. “So, what’s your name?”
. . .
Adam’s senior year was full of surprises for everyone around him. Mostly for the kilt that he wore to the first day of class.
“Adam, what are you wearing?” Mr. Leggett, the senior history teacher asked.
“A kilt,” he said. A hick boy snickered.
“Hm, okay,” the teacher said.
Over the summer, Adam had given up on the goth thing. There were a couple of rumors about what caused him to jump ship on the emo movement. Some said it was because he got a girlfriend and just wasn’t sad or angry or whatever else that was anymore. Others said it was because his favorite singer in his favorite band was arrested on rape charges – the catalyst for the eventual death of the genre.
Truth be told, it was a matter of timing. The summer got hot, eastern North Carolina hot, and the hoodies and black pants wearing didn’t make sense anymore. Plus, the nails wore off right when his dad found out through a family member’s use of an ancestry site that they had direct lineage to a castle-owning clan in Scotland. With the money he had been saving on city dates for the girlfriend, Adam bought bagpipes. His dad rejoiced and let it be known he was proud.
“You know, these were worn in battle,” Adam said as Mr. Leggett was just beginning to turn back to the chalk board.
“Is that right, Adam?”
A few more hick boys, dipping tobacco in their back pockets and pocket knives stolen away in their boots to pass metal detectors, joined in on the snickering and Mr. Leggett shot glares at them.
“Yeah, England even banned them for a while because of that.”
“Well, isn’t that something.”
Adam only had one kilt and it was hot in August, so he could only wear it once a week when his mom did laundry. The next Monday, when he showed up to history class, one of the redneck boys spilled some of his bright red energy drink on it “by accident.”
“Sorry,” he said, grinning.
He had to throw it away that evening, but his dad – still proud – ordered two more for him. When Adam showed back up to school in a new kilt, he carried a pair of brass knuckles in the elastic side pocket of his bookbag.
The hick wasn’t conscious to look up his skirt, for when the kicks came.
. . .
Most people figured he’d give it up after the incident. Most folks, thinking he was a weird and dangerous boy, didn’t want to be reminded by the clothing item of the damage he’d done to the hick, so he wore it at home mostly.
He’d been suspended “indefinitely.” In School Suspension was spent in the school’s basement from 8-3:30 so as to bring them in and let them out when other students weren’t around. There were two other kids down there with him, a girl who’d snatched a nose ring out of a face and a boy who’d slapped a teacher on the ass. The now junior girl, scared by the violence and suddenly lonely at school, found a new guitar-playing boy to latch onto in his absence.
Neither of his parents noticed the online searches for plane tickets to Scotland and apartment prices in Scotland and jobs in Scotland.
One day, he just packed a bag and left, kilt on and bagpipes packed. The purchases hit their credit cards as he was leaving. He left a note that the town didn’t feel like home to him, and Scotland would, or something to that effect. The same day, his dad stopped by the janitor’s house to drop off a leaf blower he’d borrowed to find his wife butt naked in the foyer. They didn’t notice Adam was gone until the next morning.
The flight was 12 hours. Groggy and lost, he stumbled off the plane to a party of three Scottish homeland security agents asking him to step aside for a quick chat. They wanted to know why he was here, why he’d bought a one-way ticket, and what was up with the Scottish act.
When Adam told them he’d come to live there because his family owned a castle, one chuckled.
“Why didn’t you apply for citizenship then, laddie?”
He suddenly realized that their accents made him cringe and was too caught up in this to think of a good answer, so they put him on a return flight just an hour later. Before he boarded, he got some airport Haggis that he hated.
He didn’t say a word, the whole flight back.
. . .
When Adam got back home, there was no one there.
Sitting on his bed, then pacing around a bit in fury, he flung open drawers in cabinets and ripped apart the sheets on his bed. He pulled out the old Yamaha guitar and broke it in two over his knee. He smashed the bottle of black nail polish against his bedpost. He put on shoes and stomped on the bagpipes until they were crushed beyond repair.
His parents forced him to return to school and ISS, which was made more indefinite by his playing hooky across the world. His first assignment back was to write an essay on any chapter in any book of choice; of which he chose Genesis 2.
“I feel the weight of Adam,” he wrote. “Forced to carry the weight of being the first of his kind.”