My new school was a shock. Run down buildings, old school buses...I'd never ridden a bus before, now I rode it twice a day with my little brother. We got up early and waited in the dark for the bus to arrive. On the days we were running late he would honk once a minute for three minutes. He really was a nice guy, considering his job. The kids on the bus were wild animals, scowling at each other at 7:30 am, hurling insults for no reason at all. The girls wore absurd amounts of makeup and seemed angry all the time. One girl had scars on her face, and after being invited to a sleepover at her house and seeing how they lived, I wasn't a bit surprised. Her parents weren't there the entire time, and we watched Children Of The Corn alone in her living room. When I went to her kitchen to get a piece of cake, roaches scrambled all over the counter top and dishes. We slept on her bedroom floor without blankets, and I woke up with at least 30 spider bites on my legs. The next day we talked in her driveway, and she was cold and secretive about everything. She wasn't friendly to me, but I still felt sad for her and obligated to be her friend. Turns out she didn't want any new friends.
After school my brother and I would lock the doors and watch HeMan: Master of the Universe, and eat Jello Pudding Pops. Mom bought Little Debbie snacks for us, and we never seemed to run out. I remember her coming home and cooking supper, then falling asleep on the couch while we did math homework. She was exhausted in every way. One day I sat in the passenger seat of her Mazda and held her hand while she cried. That was horrifying. My grandparents were pure love and comfort. Mamaw kept us in the summer, and cooked three meals a day. There was always a homemade pie or cake after supper. We picked peaches in her orchard, and watched Papaw work in the fields. He would take us out to the well house and let us "help" him irrigate the cotton. The cold well water rushed over our feet and the smell of cold water and fresh soil was pure joy. We'd ride in the Jeep from the field back to the house if a thunderstorm blew in. Again, that magical smell of rain coming had a way of cleaning out my soul.
This was the year I accepted Christ. My best friend in the neighborhood had invited me to a local church, and I kept going on my own after that. I'd ride my skateboard to church on Sundays and slide it under a bush to hide it. My Sunday school teacher was a kind lady, never critical. The preacher had acne scars all over his face, but he was always smiling. The ladies in the church would smile and pat me on the shoulder, and it felt like pity, but maybe it wasn't. I took the prayer of salvation seriously, even at the age of 10. It was a very real psychic and emotional change in me, and it came at a good time. I genuinely saw people differently after my baptism. Colors seemed different...softer. At that age I understood how simple God's love was, and I accepted it fully. It wasn't complicated at all. It was beautiful. I felt less alone, and no longer lost in the events of my life.