They used to say that Damien was mental. The kids would whisper this to one another in the school yard as he ran about frantically. He would make strange noises. He was always alone.
Sometimes he would throw rocks at the other kids and scream wildly. But not always. I think he only did this only when he felt like he was being mocked or made fun of in some way. He had a very limited expression. I remember he couldn’t speak very well.
I remember how his mom would drop him to school every morning in their brown station wagon. I hated seeing that car everyday. One, because it was ugly, and two, because Damien. I remember how his mom would walk him to the front door every morning. She looked helpless.
I never spoke a word to Damien. Not that I can remember. I once had to sit beside him in class and I remember that he smelled bad. But I never said anything. He was quieter in class, more well behaved.
All the teachers gave him a little bit more attention than the rest of the students. He needed a special grip for his pencils in order to write. His handwriting was in severe need of improvement. He threw a tantrum once and was taken out of class. But I don’t remember it ever happening again after that.
Damien wasn’t mental, he was developmentally slow. But that didn’t make him less of a person than anyone else. Although, none of us really understood it at the time.
Sometimes I think about people who I have crossed paths with in my life. I wonder where they might be and if they were able to overcome the challenges they were once faced with. But I’ll never know about Damien. This was fourteen years ago.