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What I never did to Jessica Bumgardner
Everyday I watched her walk down the narrow halls of our high school. Her shoes clomped with each step and her pants drug behind her, following like a sad puppy wanting nothing but the moment to escape. Her breath smelled of sleep and rotten food and her teeth were as yellow as the lemon I was pushing through my iced tea. She smiled and waved at every person who passed by and they waved back, but I could see right through them.
No one liked Jessica Bumgardner, especially me. Even with her sitting in the very back of the classroom out of everyone’s sight, the aroma of her pungent, unwashed body filled the room like a broken rotten egg. And every time Mrs. Jackson would ask a question whether hypothetical or not, Jessica Bumgardner would be the one to shoot her hand into the air and yell the answer. Her raspy high pitched voice pierced my eardrums and on one occasion, I believe I began to feel them bleed. Some days it would get so unbearable that the boys in the front row would throw things at her while our teachers were not looking. Students would ridicule her in the halls and call her names, but I never did anything. I felt as if all the torture she endured out of class made of for the pain she caused me. Jessica Bumgardner was the most putrid girl in the entire school, until Monday morning of the last week before graduation.
The bell had not quite rung when several friends and I made our way to first period English, I was always early to this class. It wasn’t a nervous habit or anything, everyone knows I just really enjoy being the first one to everything. But of all classes first period was the least I tried to be early for, it was by far the worst class of the day. There was nothing worse than attempting to read silently with the foul humming of Jessica Bumgardner’s breathing radiated through the room. We reached the door about two minutes before the rest of the class and found a note on the door. “Go to the library.” , the note stated. Leaving the note on the door we turned around and headed to the library, not noticing at the time that every single door in the school had the same note.
I went first, being the leader of my little clique, and pushed through the swinging double doors. I stumbled to find the light switch, as no one had been in the library yet to open. Flicking on the light was the biggest mistake of my life.
Our library’s ceiling is about 15 feet high. And in the very center of the room on the ceiling is a projector. Hanging by a cord from the projector was Jessica Bumgardner. Her cold blue eyes were wide open staring directly into mine. Her skin was blue on her face slowly fading to black as it reached her feet. Her lips were a horrible shade of dark lavender with her disgusting yellow teeth peeking through. She looked so pitiful. Her arms and legs dangled from her body like limp green beans and her clothing was covered in what I would have to believe is blood. Most of the blood appeared to have ruptured from her neck and wrists and had collected in tight piles on the library tile.
When I realized what I had been staring at quickly flicked the lights off again and turned to my friends who stood in awe. Holding each other close we began to cry.
The bell rang.
Panic struck me as I realized someone was bound to come and find what we had saw. Anxiety and confusion flooded me and I could feel my head becoming light. Within about four minutes, the entire school was standing in from of the library doors demanding to be let inside. My friends and I held the door as long as possible before several teachers demanded we step away from the door. Unable to speak we were shoved aside.
The double doors flew open as three teachers walked in and one hit the lights. Everyone standing around the door saw. From behind me I could hear cries and screams and people falling to the floor.
One of the teachers grabbed my forearm and drug me inside slamming the door behind me, leaving my friends and everyone outside.
I was pulled behind a bookshelf out of the view of Jessica Bumgardner.
“ How long have you known about this?” “When were you going to tell someone?” The questions began to flood in. Still in panic and tears running down my face the other thing I could say was, I don’t know.
The police showed up several minutes later and began they’re questioning of every student who ever came in contact with Jessica Bumgardner, starting with me.
“What do you know about Jessica Bumgardner?” “Do you have any idea why she would have done this?” “Do you know what point she is trying to make by doing this here?” “How do you know the victim?”
The last question was the one that got me. For once in my life, I was not the victim of Jessica Bumgardner, she was. Sadness engulfed me. I sat quietly hands in my lap pondering the thought that this is probably the first time in Jessica Bumgardner’s life when anyone will ever care. This is the first time someone will actually feel bad for her. And when I continued to think about the question the only way I could answer it was I went to school with her and had some classes with her. I never knew Jessica Bumgardner. I had never hung out with her or listened to her. I have never been to her home or met her family. I have never once sat down with her and let her speak to me. I just ridiculed her. I laughed at her and made her feel like a horrible person.
The police never found out why Jessica Bumgardner killed herself. Honestly, it didn’t really matter. We all knew why. And it wasn’t so much about what I did it was what we didn’t do. If I had listened to what she had to say or had been her friend maybe she wouldn’t have died. Maybe I could have had one more day with the one person who made my life interesting. I guess no one will ever know.