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I was scared. The threat was real, but this wasn't the first time I'd been in danger. Juan Pablo was coming for me, it was actually happening. Any moment now he would walk through the doors that stood 20 feet in front of me. Then, I would see him; slowly approaching me I could feel the adrenaline building. I was going to do this, Juan had bullied me too long, and I just can’t take this anymore. As Juan walked by BAM! I socked him in the jaw. It caught him off guard, and he went straight to the pavement.
I can see him even now, Juan, the big fat aggressive jerk, the school bully. He preyed on weaker students, building his ego on the shattered remains of his victims. For months he had picked on me, smashed my glasses, and daily comments about my short stature. I’d watched him and his friends pick on younger boys, separating them from their friends and beating them up. Last week he yanked little John Will off of the monkey bars and pushed him to the ground. Juan said it was his turn on the monkey bars. No one at school stood up to their violent tactics, so as they beat up kids who were smaller than them, with no one to stop them.
We were all equally guilty, guilty as Juan and his followers. We should have stood up to them as a group, nipped away at their aggression, put them in their place. The longer we stood back and accepted their behavior and the longer they were able to torture students at the school.
Juan and his “crew” came for me one winter morning. I was just getting to school and there they were to greet me. Big Juan and his four raggedy followers loomed out past the fence, swaggering as they formed a circle around me. That’s what everyone called him, Big Juan. He wasn’t physically that big but he uses force and his attitude was.
"Nick, you four-eyed toad," Juan said. "It's your turn."
He lurched toward me, I didn't need any further explanations; I'd seen others after they had had their “turn,” and it hadn't been a pretty sight. His tactics were usually foul: a knee to the groin; two holding while Juan hammered the victim with his massive meaty fists. No blow too harmful, no technique too cruel.
Juan wasn’t always the most feared man in the school, before him it was his older brother, Robert Pablo. Robert was twice his size, and obviously had taught Juan everything that he knew. Especially when Juan was little, Robert used to beat him like he was anybody else. So Juan would take out all of his anger on the kids that were smaller than him, just like his brother had done to him.
To say I was scared of the approaching attack would have been an understatement; I was petrified. Overshadowed by bullies, I knew that even in a fair fight I couldn't possibly win. This underweight David was facing three Goliaths.
The early morning fog swirled around us, as if we were the only ones there. It was sure that there was not going to be anyone else to interrupt that circle. No one was around, which brought me to the conclusion that some people knew of what was going to happen, but feared the consequences of speaking up.
I was sweating in the still cold air, knowing what was waiting for me, wondering why he didn't just go ahead and ended this teasing. I hadn't realized then that Juan had to work himself into a rage so he could just hit, and hit, and hit. He liked hitting, but needed the frenzy, the adrenaline.
“What's up, Little Nicky? Don't ya want your pretty face all smashed up? Don’t ya?” Juan mocked. It was bitterly cold that winter morning, I did not want a fight or anything, and I couldn’t even feel my numbed hands.
“Why don't you leave me alone? Go annoy someone else,” as I looked past them all to the school.
“What are you looking at Nicky?” he snorted, searching for any excuse to start hitting. I didn't want to give him that excuse. He stood there strong; hands on hips, wearing his tight fitting rock shirt, stomach fat hanging out of the bottom.
“Quit being silly, I ain’t looking at nothing.” I replied.
“You call me silly, huh? Little pansy. You can run to the teachers all ya like. I ain't afraid of ‘em.”
I'd never even wondered why school authorities put up with him, maybe they found this kid a little too much to handle. School fights happened; sometimes students went home more scared then when they came.
“I didn't call you silly, just on my way to school.”
I was answered by a heavy push in the chest, the first sign of a beat down. Staggering back, it was followed by another from Big Juan Pablo. He stepped back up to me, face-to-face, with both of his friends crowding.
“Won’t ya stay and fight?” He stared me up and down. “What are ya, chicken?”
He was right, I was a coward, so scared I was fighting to hold back tears of terror. Panic controlled me, with nothing else to do I ran. I ran away, only building on my cowardly reputation.
I stopped running only a few yards away! I realized, there came a time in my life when I had to stand up for myself.
There I was, I just hit the school bully and knocked him to the ground. At first all I could think about was pride, bragging to everyone I stood up to the Juan Pablo face-to-face. Then reality set in, what to do now; I had never been in that situation before, sooner or later Juan had to get up. Do I hit him while he’s down or do I wait for him to get on his feet? Turns out I never had to make a decision. He stood up staggering and unsure what to do. Then a voice was heard above everyone else.
“Boys quit! Quit it right now!” it was the recess supervisor, Mrs. Rebecca. She came to break us up.
With one of us in each hand, Mrs. Rebecca carried us into the principles office, or she tried. A huge crowd followed us all the way to the office, voices screaming my name, and everyone patting me on the back. Finally someone stoop up to Juan Pablo and fought back. I was overjoyed, I couldn’t even believe what had happened. This had never happened before; it was like Juan didn’t know what to do. Once we were in the office, I saw his eyes tearing up. For once Juan Pablo was the one hanging his head trying to hide his emotions.