Blacking Out While Playing Simon in 6th Grade

I was 12 years old, was 6th grade and — after my 5th grade science fair victory — somehow I was living this “future scientist” lie my abusive older brother forced into my life. My science teacher (Mr. Schwartz) would endlessly compliment me on my science fair project in 5th grade and all I could do is nod politely. It all felt weird and felt like a lie because it was a lie.

To be honest, the feeling was similar to the one I had getting a commendation card in 3rd grade for my book report on Roberto Clemente where I just hand copied the promotional flap copy from the book and somehow won. But this was different. Winning a science fair somehow implied you would be a scientist, a “genius” or something like that. I didn’t want any of that and yet it was foisted upon my by a miserable overbearing brother and his deeply unresolved parental issues that were projected straight onto me.

So anyway, it’s 6th grade and when it came time for me to do a new science project, I decided to make a model of the human eye using a pink rubber ball cut in half and cobbled together with other improvised things I collected in my junk drawer. It was very “outsider art” in its own way. I liked it! So did my dad. It was detailed, accurate and — most importantly — something I conceived of and created on my own. But when I brought it to school and showed it to my science teacher, Mr. Schwartz, he said expected more from me.

When I showed the project to my brother he literally said, “Why did you make this garbage?!? You should make a better thing!” His bellowing and screaming was not unexpected; young or old he would show no tact, care or concern when it came to tearing into someone for trivial reasons. But I didn’t care about winning or losing a stupid science fair; I wanted to make something on my own and not live a lie.

Near the end my 6th grade school year, my brother was attempting to not meddle in my elementary school life anymore. This me coming up with my own science fair project without his knowledge or interference. But he insisted that I bring the Simon electronic game him and his wife liked to play. I kinda hated that and thought it was stupid; I was more into playing Mattel Electronic Basketball. But he basically bullied me into taking it to school to show off to the science class in some weird way of asserting my tech knowledge.

So instead of doing something like shove it in my closet and lying about bringing it to school, I brought it to science class and basically said, “My brother wanted you to see this,” and before you know it the class was playing Simon. Like I said I hated the game, but I felt no power to tell my brother, “No!” So here I was, playing this game I didn’t like for reasons I didn’t like with fellow classmates who thought I was “showing off” since an electronic game like Simon was a luxury for anyone to own in a poor, working class neighborhood like that in the 1970s.

When it came to be my turn to do what you gotta do to play Simon, follow the light pattern and hit the buttons, I couldn’t see the flashing lights. I complained that the room was too bright, so the teacher closed the shades a bit to darken the room. I was upset, confused and a bit dizzy and, most of all, I still couldn’t see the game lights. I was feeling anxious and just passed my turn to let the awkwardness pass. Other kids in the class looked at me weird because, to be honest, I was acting weird.

After a few more rounds of Simon, the class ended and when I went to pick up the Simon to take it home, I felt anxiousness in my hands and eyes. Pretty confident my vision and mind blanked out then — and before — when I tried to play the game. I was dissociating. My mind knew that I didn’t like any of this, but unable to stop things from happening my senses attempted to protect me by blacking out when I needed to not be there.

When the weekend came around, my brother came by on one of his seemingly never ending weekend visits. So I returned the Simon to my him while he smugly asked, “So did your friends like it?” to which I simply responded “Yes!” to. How else could I respond to a toxically loaded question asked by an abusive 32 year old to a 12 year old? After I passed it back to him and he left to head back to his home in Washington Heights, and I went back to my room to crawl into my bed and bury my head in the corner and turn off the world for a while.

An acute perception does not make you crazy. However, sometimes it drives you crazy.

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Jack Szwergold

Jack Szwergold

An acute perception does not make you crazy. However, sometimes it drives you crazy.

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