Being Different – Malachi Blake

I was born different. I was nine weeks early. My expected due date was June 5th. I was born April 1st. And when my mom told my father I she was in labor, he thought she was kidding… after all, it was April Fool’s Day. He finally believed her when her water broke and rushed her to the hospital. But I was physically bizarre. I should have been 3-4 pounds or so. Instead, I was 8 pounds and I was 20 inches long. It’s what would be expected for a full term infant. But my internal organs were not those of a full term infant. My lungs and heart still needed to grow. The doctor told my parents, I was the largest moderately preterm infant he’d ever seen.

By the time I was 2 years old, my entire family knew I was going to be super tall and my parents were turned into child protective services. I was 40 inches tall and weighed just a meager 22 pounds. Cue extra visits to the pediatricians and nutritionists and social workers. It took six months, but my parents finally proved they weren’t under feeding me, I wasn’t a picky eater, and I wasn’t exceptionally hyperactive compared to other 2 year olds, I just didn’t gain weight easily or quickly. My thyroid was checked and rechecked and every metabolic test they could think of was run.

My parents had my shoes bronzed that year so they could keep them for eternity. Why? Well, it was 1980 and that sort of thing was cool, but mostly they did it because I was wearing a child’s size 12. At five, I was 55 inches tall, weighed 37 pounds, and wore an adult male size 5 1/2. I towered over my fellow kindergarteners. But I was a lot thinner than them. And we went through another round of visits from child protective services.

The following year, I realized I wasn’t just freakishly tall and thin with giant feet, but I was mentally different as well. I’d been reading books since I was a year old. And in kindergarten, I read all the Boxcar Children books. And I understood algebra. My father was in his first profession at the time, he was a building contractor. And I was faster at doing the math he needed for construction projects than he was.

My mom got pregnant that year with a girl. Mom again went into labor early, just five weeks that time, but the baby was born dead. My father didn’t handle that well. His world collapsed for some reason. He and mom started to fight all the time and he started sneaking around with the 19 year old girl they paid to babysit me.

I was eight when my parents divorced, after mom caught him in bed with the babysitter. I remember the divorce very well. It got ugly fast. My father accused my mother of mistreatment of me, I mean, my ribs could be seen and my hip bones looked sharp as knives, I was so skinny. There were more social workers and more doctors and more nutritionists and I was put on a diet of 2,500 calories a day. I gained just four pounds in six months. The nutritionist and doctor upped it again to 3,000 calories a day… as an eight year old. And my feet continued to grow. And sometimes, my entire body ached, I was told they were literal growing pains. I looked like a skeleton with skin.

Finally, I was taken to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. A doctor suggested I might have a form of gigantism. There are surprisingly several. But they all have symptoms beyond being tall and thin. Some of my endocrine outputs were high, but so was my metabolism, which is unusual in gigantism. Except one… Marfan Syndrome. But Marfan is genetic and no one else in either family had it. Plus, Marfan is really hard on the body. It causes excessive stress on the heart, blood vessels can elongate and form aneurysms, connective tissues like ligaments grow so fast they become weak, tendons are thin, even the skin can be thinned to the point that it is easily damaged. I had none of those symptoms. The diagnosis was shelved because I couldn’t have Marfan, I had to have something else.

While going through all the tests and other crap at the Mayo Clinic, I read the novel Catch 22. One of my doctor’s said there was no way an 8 year old could read such an advanced book and understand it, so he would quiz me over it as he studied my body.

When we got home, I was put into the gifted program in the public school system. It would change my life. I hadn’t been sad when my sister was still born. I hadn’t cared when my dad left. And I didn’t know why. And neither did my mom. Technically, I was a 5th grader, but I went to a special class for reading and for math and one day a week, I went to a completely different school for special classes in science, it was called Triple E and stood for Extended Educational Experiences. We weren’t grouped by ages, but by abilities.

Most kids in this program were bullied, but I was over five feet tall by then. A sixth grader did try to bully me once that year. I fought back and he ended up being hospitalized. I’d never been in a fight before then, but I’d get into many starting the following year. He had outweighed me by forty or fifty pounds, but that didn’t matter. I’d seen red. I don’t remember anything about the fight other than literally seeing red. And another round of child protective services visits began. As did more medical testing. I was 5’2 inches at 9 years old and I weighed 49 pounds, despite eating 3,000 calories a day.

Finally, a doctor decided to do a DNA test and I came back positive for Marfan Syndrome. Since there was no history of it in either side of my family, my father demanded a paternity test (he was paying child support and thought he could get out of it). I was his. Somehow, the Marfan Syndrome had just fluked up in my genetics. Neither of my parents had it.

At 10, my mom met a man, got pregnant and fell in love. Or some shit. Mostly, she got pregnant I think. The guy was a jerk. He was a manager at the company where my mom worked. He hated me. Not in that “paranoid all step parents hate their step children” kind of way… He well and truly hated me. Every time I was left alone with him, he’d beat me usually with a belt, but once in a while with his fists.

I endured it silently for two years. I was smarter than my step father and he hated it. Not just “thought I was smarter” but actually was smarter. My IQ had been placed at 171. I could do calculus, chemistry, and my reading comprehension was beyond graduate school level. And I was moved into even more advanced classes going from once a day to twice. I was learning physics, psychology, and biology at just eleven years old. I had a one year old brother who had been born three weeks late instead of early. And I had no emotional connection to him. As he began learning to walk and talk, my step father took to beating me whenever my little brother got hurt or did something wrong.

Then I met Aislinn Cain. I was twelve by then and that meeting would change my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Aislinn was in Triple EEE classes with me and was learning biology at the same level as me, even though she was nearly five years younger than me. It was my last year of grade school. And like I had, she was excused from reading lessons with her regular class, her reading comprehension and logic problem skills were way more advanced than most kids her age and during those lessons she went to a special classroom to work with a teacher that encouraged her to read advanced literature and do logic problems.

After one of our Triple E days, Ace left her class as usual to go to the special class for reading. After that class she had recess. I had recess at the same time. Some sixth grader decided he didn’t like her, girls weren’t supposed to be smart. He pushed her to the ground and took the book she was reading a book of Sherlock Holmes stories and ripped it to pieces. When she stood up to try to save her book, he grabbed her by the ponytail, pulled out scissors and cut off her hair.

I watched it all happen from the basketball court. I marched over to the kid and punched him in the nose, breaking it. Then I took his scissors and cut off all his hair. Despite my height, I preferred baseball and Aislinn had her older brother help her get me a special thank you present. Her brother was a high school student, nine years older than her. He brought her to my house to give me the autographed baseball she’d bought me. My step father lost his mind. And I’d had enough. When he began to shout at me and I knew a beating was coming as soon as they left, I went on the offensive. He’d already beaten me for getting suspended and now there was a girl and her high school brother thanking me for it and giving me an autographed Bo Jackson baseball. I drew back to hit my step father, Eric grabbed my arm, saw a bruise on it, and he hit my step father. Then he called his dad and suddenly the police swarmed my house.

My mom was pregnant again. She couldn’t deal with the stress any more she said. She asked Eric if she could meet his parents and Eric said she could. My mom took me and my little brother to the Clachan residence.

I don’t know what was said during that conversation, but after two hours, my mom left and left me with the Clachans. Donnelly and Myrna explained that my mom had gone home to prepare to leave my step father and that I would spend a week or so with them, while my mom tried to escape the abusive marriage. I wasn’t sure about this arrangement at first.

But on the third day, Donnelly and my mom showed up at the school and picked me up early. We all drove back to the Clachan home and Donnelly told me I was a psychopath. That’s why I didn’t have much of an emotional connection to my little brother and hadn’t cared when my parents divorced.

He wasn’t just explaining it to me, he was explaining it to my mother. I spent three weeks with the Clachans bunked up with Eric. My mom did leave my step father. Then she immediately fell in love with another abusive man and six months after I’d met the Clachan family, I had yet another stepfather that hated me because I was too smart and I was over five feet four inches tall, taller than my mom even.

Donnelly would arrest that stepfather nine times in two years for abusing me and my brothers. He didn’t like raising some other assholes children as he put it. I’d gotten home from school late because track practice had run long. My stepfather was drunk and didn’t want to have to watch my younger brothers while my mom worked her second job. He slammed my arm in the front door, five times. Breaking it in three places. I called Donnelly and he came and got me and my brothers.

I was sixteen. My stepfather disappeared that night. I and my brothers spent the night at the Clachan home. Myrna went to help my mom escape yet another abusive husband. My brothers were asleep when Myrna and mom got to the Clachan house. According to their statements to police, my stepfather pulled a gun and threatened to shoot my mom if she left. Myrna clocked him with a skillet and left him unconscious on the kitchen floor.

But he didn’t turn up for work the next day and no one has heard from him since. I don’t know for sure what happened to him. I’ve suspected Aislinn killed him, but as I got to know the Donnelly family more and more, it could have been Aislinn, Donnelly, Eric, or Myrna that made my father disappear. Hell, it could have been Patterson or my own grandfather. I just know, the problem went away and my mom eventually managed to break the cycle of abusive men after I went to college.

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