Morales was always my favorite in A Chorus Line.
She was the vivacious and scrappy Puerto Rican from the Bronx who introduced herself to her fellow aspirants in the audition by recounting the abuse, taunts, and withering criticism she endured from her high school acting teacher, Mr. Karp.
Despite all of Karp’s ridiculous entreaties to “be” bobsledders, tables, sports cars, and ice cream cones, Morales just doesn’t get it right. She can’t be who Karp wants her to be.
And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
To see what I had inside.
Yes, I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And I tried, I tried.
No matter how hard Morales tries, she continues to feel “nothing.”
I thought of Morales yesterday when I heard the news that Scott had died.
Unlike Mr. Karp, Scott held no real power over me, in the structural sense. He wasn’t my teacher. He wasn’t my boss. He didn’t hold the keys to my future.
In the politics of the playground, social standing, and childhood self-esteem, though, Scott held all the power in the world.
Scott was my classmate and torturer.
We moved to Afterlick in the summer of 1977. By October of that same year, I had come to regard him as “Scott Slime.”
When you’ve been slimed, you feel gross. Stupid. Embarrassed. Duped. Humiliated. Ashamed.
That’s how I felt in Scott’s presence.
He was, to me, the devil incarnate. Even as a third-grader, he had sinister eyes, a long nose, and an angular chin. If one believes in physiognomy, Scott’s visage revealed the evil that lay beneath. He had a posse of minions. His followers. While he was not the most “popular” boy in class, he had a preternatural ability to gather the forces of budding toxic masculinity and direct them toward a common foe.
Sometimes, that common foe was me.
In third grade, he made fun of me for liking gymnastics and playing with girls at recess. The summer between third and fourth grade, I was afraid of going to the swimming pool for fear that he’d try to knock me off my bicycle on my way there. Scott had done it before. I made a point of not riding by his green stucco house because I thought he would follow me. I created strategies to avoid him. I designed my life to be smaller so that he wouldn’t see me.
In fourth grade, on a Sunday at the basketball court, he and another kid laughed at me after I got hit in the face with a basketball. I cried because it hurt.
“Boo hoo!” they taunted. They followed me around. “Boo hoo! Crybaby! Crybaby!” They wouldn’t let up. Perhaps these are the travails that a young person must suffer in the course of everyday life. In a ten-year-old’s mind, though, such a humiliation was nearly insurmountable. What would happen at school? Would the bullying continue?
I feigned a stomach ache and nausea. It wasn’t wholly imagined.
My parents didn’t believe that I was sick, but they let me stay home from school. They lectured me about lying and told me the tale of the boy who cried wolf.
“How will we know if you’re really sick when you make up fibs about being sick?”
My stomach did hurt. I did feel like I was about to throw up. Sometimes, we are sick, even if it’s not biological. I was sociologically and existentially ill.
Mrs. Holten, the incapable fourth-grade teacher, with the pock-marked face, teacherly hairstyle, and indiscernible pronunciations of common words, sent homework to me, along with a disingenuous note wishing me well in my “recovery.” Scott and his friend managed to add their imprimatur on a page of the math homework: “Boo hoo.”
“What does “boo hoo” mean?” my mother asked.
“Oh, it’s just a joke.” I had become adept at lying, to protect us both.
In fifth and sixth grades, Scott didn’t torture me as much as he did the teachers and administrators. He screamed at high pitch through the hallways. Without reason. In black t-shirts, emblazoned with rock band logos, he screamed. He carved graffiti into the seat backs of the bus, and sometimes, he cut the faux leather seat backs out entirely.
We even had an assembly at school with the school administrators.
“Who is cutting the seat backs out of the bus seats?!”
I knew. In an act of supreme surrender, I didn’t say a word.
Into junior high and high school, I did my best to fit in with people like Scott. I drank alcohol. I tried to smoke cigarettes. I got suspended from basketball and jazz band. I attempted to like girls.
Like Morales, I became a bobsledder, a table, a sports car, an ice cream cone. Whatever you needed me to be. I tried. I tried. I felt nothing.
Scott and I didn’t have much to do with one another through high school. Except for the occasional snicker when I raised my hand in class or the sneer while passing me in the hallway, Scott didn’t bother me very much. I had an active life in academics and extra-curricular activities. As far as I could tell, Scott didn’t do much except drink, smoke dope, and play guitar and Dungeons and Dragons.
I had heard that Scott had a rough life at home. Hurt people hurt people. So the saying goes. I still felt nothing.
Scott was with our other classmate Chris when Chris drowned in the river. I still don’t know what happened. Scott, Chris, and maybe a couple others were camping down by the river. Was alcohol involved? Were drugs involved? Did it matter? What happened? Scott knew.
We went as a class to Chris’ funeral. Donna Manning played the piano and sang. Chris’ father and brothers looked ashen and grief-stricken. Scott went to rehab for six weeks.
When Scott came back to school, others were crowded around him at phys ed class.
“So, what was rehab like?”
Scott laughed. “No big thing.”
A guy named Brad wrote in my high school yearbook: “You think you know someone and make judgements (sic) about them. We never really got to know each other, but I think you’re a cool guy. Maybe we can hang out this summer. I wish I’d gotten to know you better.”
He was a good friend of Scott’s.
I didn’t think much about Scott for many years until we reconnected at our 20-year high school reunion.
We were outside on the patio of the hometown bar where we had our reunion, when Scott asked me, after a drag on his cigarette:
“So, you’re a homosexual?”
“Wow. So, Tony Weeks is a homosexual? I’ve never met a homosexual before.”
“Well, you called me a “fag” for most of our childhood, so I’m not sure why that would be a surprise.”
He laughed as he took another drag.
“That was a long time ago, dude! All good now,” he said.
“It was a long time ago. And yet, we’re still the same people we always were.”
After the reunion, ostensibly because of our supposed “reconciliation”, Scott and I were in contact for a time, via email. Beyond the usual niceties and half-hearted apologies for making my childhood hell, Scott encouraged me to look up Alex Jones, the Bilderberg Meetings, and threats of world domination by London banks. He was fond of conspiracy theories, including anti-Semitic tropes about the Rothschild family and Jewish control of the economy and media, and he was unafraid about promoting them.
I wrote back.
“My partner is Jewish. My friends are Jewish. I can’t do this with you, Scott. It’s offensive. It’s disturbing. I’m not going to change your mind, but I don’t need to have this conversation. You terrorized me throughout our childhood together. I’m not doing this with you now.”
The last words I heard from Scott were:
“Wake up! Don’t you see what’s going on? You are so stupid. Even if you were the smartest kid in class, you are stupid. I have seen the dark side. I know what’s going on. I know the truth. I have been to places you can’t even imagine. Wake the fuck up, Tony! I love you and I will help you. You just have to be willing to see.”
I never spoke to him nor wrote to him again.
Scott tried to “friend” me on Facebook last year, but I didn’t respond.
He died on February 21, 2020.
Scott had his fans. He managed to marry someone, have a daughter, and even encourage others to contribute to his “end-of-life” fund on GoFundMe. In our youth, he had friends and acolytes — Joe, Jeff, Scott, Brad, Rollie, Larry. He ruined friendships I might have had with others because he told them not to like me. He incited violence, of the emotional kind, when he turned otherwise good people against me. I believe he contributed to Chris’ death, without remorse.
In his obituary, his family said that Scott encouraged others to “carry on, stay close, love one another and help each other.”
A reprise from Morales, from A Chorus Line:
They all felt something,
But I felt nothing
Except the feeling
That this bullshit was absurd!
I don’t mourn you, Scott. Not at all. Bullshit, indeed. I feel nothing.