Just Like Me? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 18, 2011
“Give it back!” I was desperately trying to retrieve my backpack from Todd. I’ve come to terms with the fact that for my entire high school career I would never live to see a single day of peace. Every day, Todd has some novel and ridiculous action to express his annoyance with my presence.

A million fantasies rushed through my mind of ways to hospitalize Todd. I stared up at his grin. He wasn’t much bigger than me. Sure, he had acquired more muscle power with all his wrestling practices.

“Fine, keep the thing.” I couldn’t take much more. Perhaps if I hadn’t been in such a crowded area where so many kids watched Todd drain every ounce of dignity out of me, I wouldn’t have given in. No. What am I saying? That really wouldn’t have mattered. But I had gotten an unwarranted scolding from my English teacher, so I wasn’t in the best mood.

“Hee hee hee.” His stupid giggle indicated he was pleased. Cleverly, as always, Todd tossed my bag at me as I walked away. He had achieved his goal; I was officially intimidated.

When I was a freshman, I thought that it was natural to be tormented. I had read enough Judy Blume books. My theories about sophomore year had proved false. I anticipated starting a new year, free of pointless conflicts but Todd wouldn’t let up. He was a year above me; I thought juniors had more important things to do.

I reached my fifth-period class. Spanish. Great. I spent the entire class thinking of the day when I would stand up to Todd. But I’m a wimp, the perfect target. Lately, however, Todd has been more than gracious with his teasing. Last week, I made the mistake of wearing elastic waist shorts. But it was a new week.
“Uh, pardon, Senor Brown.” Maybe I should have opened my textbook.

“Pardonome! Senor Brown!”

At least I realized the teacher was trying to get my attention. He didn’t dignify my question with a reply. He just gave me a look and muttered something about chickens and football (I think) and I made a conscious effort to seem interested.

By the end of the period I had come up with a plan of how to get to the lunch room without any discord. Usually the cafeteria was a neutral zone.

Ahhh, I was thankful the cafeteria staff doesn’t serve hot soup. Otherwise it might have been really painful when Todd decided to dump it in my lap. Luckily, I had my gym shorts in my locker that day. Looking down at my mismatched clothing on the bus ride home, I got more upset.

“Why don’t you just fight him?” my friend Paula asked, in the seat across from me.

“Paula, you know I can’t. It’s just … not my nature.”

When I got off the bus that day, I knew something had to change. I was determined to come up with an idea. Even if I had to resort to physical confrontation. I almost backed down – until I pulled my wet jeans out of my bag. I knew what I had to do. This was something, however, that would require careful planning and perhaps several attempts to execute.

Two days later, I entered school ready. Todd. Oh, Todd. Oh misguided, wayward youth who hath dampened my days and left a permanent scar upon my high-school memories and self-esteem – thou shall soon know thine own fury. I know I sound too excited about this. Perhaps those of you that have been victim to understand my anxiety. I had my Wheaties and a nice tall glass of juice. I came close to swallowing a raw egg yolk.

I knew that when that bell rang to file to second period class, I would have to see Todd in the hall. I took a deep breath.

“Hee hee hee.” A simple shove into the lockers doubled with a snicker. Okay. I reviewed my plans.

“Uh, freak, you want to like talk to me?” What can I say? This guy put Shakespeare to shame.

“No, not really.” Ha! I prepared myself.

“Okay. Then maybe you want to like start something with me?” Another scholarly statement.

“Hmm … ” I was almost ready.

“All right. Now this is fun. Come on, Markie.” I looked right at him. I honestly think the intent of my stare shocked him. I was concentrating all my strength in my right fist and thinking of nothing but slamming it into Todd’s left ear.

I was standing there, silently getting a good look at my target. That’s when I did it. I started laughing hysterically. I had never realized how large Todd’s ears were. I’m talking large potato chips, open car doors. Enormous. I can’t believe that it had never occurred to me how foolish he looked. It was great! I was dying and he was befuddled, to say the least.

“Yeah, real funny, Freak. What are you laughing at? Whatever.” He motioned to his buddies that it was time to exit. I was close to tears and still laughing; partly in amusement and mostly in relief. And then it hit me. These many months that I’d withstood such merciless treatment from Todd and what was he? If he fell so easily, as I had just witnessed, there couldn’t be such a difference in our characters and confidence. And I understood there must be some other, perhaps surprising, cause behind the whole concept of Todd. Maybe he just wanted to fit in. Like me. I considered this idea and almost started to feel bad for him. As far as I know he never actually fought anyone in our school. I guess he never looked too happy either. I decided that it wasn’t worth it to carry out this contest any further, as I had initially wanted to, seeing that I had a chance at winning.

Wow. All that work staring at ear diagrams and all that practice making a fist. All for nothing. A simple laugh was all it took to hush the beast forever. I was afraid of someone who was just as weak. I guess we both want the same things, we just go about getting them different ways. I feel I know him and his aim so well that I don’t have to care about his threatening glance any more.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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