When I was young—around six years old and living in Key West, Florida—my dad sent me to a horrible place. I can’t remember if it was a day camp or day care or whatever. It was odd because I had always come home right after school. There was always someone home. This particular day, however, was different and as I was sent off by dad, I remember feeling anxious. One comfort I had was my best friend, Brandon Mullins. He had been going to this place regularly so at least I had him around.
You know how you get nervous about your first day of school? That’s what I felt like. I didn’t have any negative feelings about going to this place, I was just nervous. Oh, that was about to change real quick. I remember that a bunch of us kids were milling around on the outside of the building in the outdoor hallway. This guy appears and starts yelling at us for no reason. He barks orders for us to get into a line and then to put our backs against the wall while he did a roll call. Who the hell thought boot camp for kindergartners was a good idea? Because I would like to line him up against a wall and…
I don’t remember much of the details but I was so miserable. I think at one point I had burst into tears because I remember Brandon coming up to me and whispering, telling me to pull it together. “They’re like this all the time. Just do what they tell you to do. It’s not so bad. You’ll get used to it.” Used to it? Like hell I was going to get used to it.
I remember being called into someone’s office. If this had been school, I would have likened it to a principle. Now, I think of this person as a commandant. Maybe I was there because they like to meet the new “recruits” or maybe they thought if they removed me from the other kids, the guy could straighten me out. They took me away from my friend and I was positively petrified of the guy across the desk, in front of me. I remember him asking questions. I don’t remember me saying anything back except yes, no, or shaking my head. Towards the end he pulled out a small treasure chest filled with cheap trinkets and told me to pick one. At first, I was hesitant to even put my hand anywhere near it, but hey—a free toy! I was having trouble deciding which piece of shit trinket I should choose. He got irritated and told me to hurry up and pick one. I quickly grabbed the first thing I touched.
I never went back for a second day. I think my mom knew how much I hated it there and that there was no way that I would ever come to tolerate it much less like it.