At some point I just stopped playing games. Stopped caring about them, even. Stopped reading science fiction, stopped playing Dungeons & Dragons, stopped associating with old friends. Stopped being myself.
You can see the change in my school pictures. There's a point in time somewhere between grades seven and eight where I practically became another person.
I realize I'm not alone in this. There's an obvious biological explanation for it. We call it "the great change," and it happens to everybody at around that age. (If it hasn't happened to you, hang tough! It's coming!) The body thins out, hair grows in strange places and your voice goes haywire. All of that happened to me between those two sets of photos and puberty explains a great many of the changes, but not all.
We can stay the course here, say that the hormones increased my awareness of breasts and that the adjustments I made to my appearance and behavior were designed to ingratiate myself to the owners of them. That would certainly be the easy answer. In fact, I've used this explanation myself - to myself - but I always knew it was a lie. The real reason I changed so much, so rapidly, was Bobby Kramer.
Bobby had it in for me from the start. I'd just transferred to a new school in a new town and knew no one. Few things now, as an adult, are as terrifying to me as that first morning of school, standing in the yard and waiting for the doors to open, surrounded by people who all knew each other, but who didn't know me. I looked out of place. I looked wrong. Worse, I felt wrong, and I looked like I felt wrong. And I felt like I looked like I felt wrong. Nothing good could have come from this and nothing did.
This is where Bobby Kramer comes in. He walked up as if to say hello, stuck out his hand, grabbed my left nipple like it was a shower knob and twisted it until I was certain it would come off. Welcome to the new town, kid. Welcome to your new life.
This is the part where I wax philosophical on the act of twisting another person's nipples. I don't know exactly what I was expecting from my first day, but a nipple twist from Bobby Kramer wasn't on the list. As introductions go, it was a bit extreme.
Bobby Kramer was, as far as people go, one of the worst I've ever encountered. He was a small person, terrified and afraid and he turned his fear into aggressive actions directed against those he believed could do him no harm. I'm ashamed to admit that in this estimation, in my case, he was correct.
The nipple twist on the first day of school was followed by a series of abuses, none too terribly invasive, but all traumatic. A knee to my thigh in the lunch line, a punch in the small of my back. A slap on the head. All little taunts devised to inform me of my place in the social hierarchy - below Bobby. Finally, one day on the bus, I'd had enough. Bobby was behind me as we filed to our seats. He punched me in the back and I ignored him as was our custom. Then he did it again.