Fragile Hope

September 30, 2008
By Emily Parker, South Salem, NY

I am sitting in my Mercedes Benz outside of Ridgeview High, the place I have spent countless years of agony and pain. It has been ten years since I have graduated. I am a successful editor and most likely earn more money a year than any of these bullies. Yet I am terrified to walk through those double doors into the gym for my high school reunion and greet all of the people who made my life miserable. My palms are clammy and I am so dizzy I am doubling over in pain. This is ridiculous. I am better than them. I am 28 years old and I am afraid of the people who hurt me so many years ago. We are all adults now. We have to be civil. Don’t we? They cannot possibly do anything to me now, especially when they realize that while they are stuck at home tending to their children, I am living the dream. A successful, wonder filled dream. I pick my head up and catch the eye of Mary-Anne Taylor, the head of the cheerleading squad so many years ago and the envy of every high school girl. She is still beautiful and mysterious, but now she just looks tired. She whispers something to the group she is walking with and they all look back at me and laugh, and then walk through the double doors. We are 28, I remind myself. They must be laughing about something behind me. I turn around but I see nothing. The memories of the first day of high school come flooding back to me when all I want to do is forget.

I had walked onto the school bus grateful for a new beginning. Sure all the same people from my middle school would be at the high school, but there would also be new people. People from the other middle schools in the area. I was so excited until I actually walked down the aisle of the school bus staring all the same people who taunted me in the face. It was then that I realized I would still have to take the bus with the same people. I looked around nervously as where to sit when I saw Elizabeth, who was never nice to me yet never cruel to me. I went over to her and asked to sit with her. She looked around at her friend’s faces towards me and said, “Sorry. This seat is occupied.” I looked in the seat and saw nothing there except her backpack. Elizabeth saw the direction of my gaze and knew what I was thinking. “Better it then a lowlife like you,” she said and everyone cracked up. I was mortified. I couldn’t see clearly because of the tears welling up in my eyes. I stumbled to the front of the bus and fell down into the seat directly behind the bus driver. The loser seat. My first day of high school and I am already labeled as the lowlife who sits in the loser seat.

Once the bus pulled up to the high school, my hopes rekindled. Too bad it was just false hope. As I walked off the bus towards the front entrance of the school, Elizabeth and all of her friends came up to me and pushed me down and threw my books into a puddle. As they ran into the school they yelled, “Hey loser, check the back of your head!” I reluctantly ran my hand through my hair, to find the entire back of my head dripping with spitballs. Wads of them were tangled in my hair and dripping down the nape of my neck. I quickly retrieved my things and ran into the nearest bathroom. I looked into the mirror and saw the hair I spent hours on this morning, flat and wet with spit. I looked hideous. I couldn’t even look at myself, so how could anyone else? The bell rang for first period and I ran to English class, the hallways nearly empty. I walked into English and saw Ellen, the girl who made me cry myself to sleep and cry myself awake, chatting with the girls from the other middle schools. The only empty seat was directly in front of Ellen. Just my luck. I walked attentively to my seat and sat down, conscious of every girl’s eyes boring into me. As soon as my butt touched the seat, all the girls burst out in cruel laughter. I ran over my desk, inspecting for anything that would make them laugh so hard. I didn’t find anything so I decided it must have been a funny joke they heard, and bent down to get my notebook from my backpack. Which is when I felt my pants slide very easily on the chair. I slowly turned around to see what was on my chair. There was a huge glob of red paint, which was now spread all over my favorite jeans. I looked up into the smiling faces of every girl in the class, Ellen’s smile the biggest.

Well, there went my chances of starting over with people from the other middle schools. Ellen and her friends got to them first. I figured I would just wait for everyone to walk out of the class at the end of the period and then dash to the nurse’s office for an extra pair of pants. But then the teacher announced that we would each take turns and go in front of the class to tell us a little about ourselves and that we would go in alphabetical order. My heart skipped a beat. I always went first. “Cassie Abler, why don’t you go first then”? I slowly got up and walked to the front of the class, hearing snickers all the way. When I was done speaking, I quickly walked back to my seat, and sat down to find a note waiting for me on my desk. Go die. No one here likes you. Once again, tears welled up in my eyes, and I had to endure the rest of the class listening to the whispers all around me, about me. Once the bell rang, I abandoned my plan to wait for everyone to leave, and ran to the nurse crying, begging to let me go home. She called my mom and I went to wait outside for her to come pick me up.

As I was waiting, a bunch of football players and Ellen and her crowd surrounded me. They all had rocks in their hands and they started to chuck them at me. I was whimpering and pleading for them to stop. To just stop hurting me and to leave me alone. Then the guys grabbed me and put their hands over my mouth restricting me from talking or moving while the girls pulled my hair and spit on me and called me names. I couldn’t breathe. My lungs felt like they were bursting and I couldn’t speak to tell them they were going too far. Then one of the guys saw my face turning purple and yelled that I couldn’t breathe. They all let go and ran away laughing. I curled up on the ground and wished to die. Twenty minutes later, my mother drove up to find me still curled up on the ground, scratched and bruised and crying. She picked me up and brought me to the car and asked me what happened. She wanted me to tell her immediately, and to tell her who did this to me. I just sat there, still not able to speak. We drove home in silence, her going back and forth between holding my hand and rubbing my arm.

I was a failure. This was now the fourth school my parents had sent me too. Each school, me being a misfit, and each school, getting worse and worse. I hated my parents seeing me like this. They must think I am some kind of abnormal child. After all, what kind of person goes to four different schools, being the social outcast in every single one of them? A failure at life, that’s who. I was so ashamed of who I was that I couldn’t bear to look my mom in the eye. At each school, I did nothing but be myself. I started out popular and well liked at every single one of them, but in order to stay part of the cool crowd, you had to make others feel down about themselves. And I couldn’t bear to do that especially because I knew how it felt to be picked on. So when I wouldn’t participate, the kids would learn to resent me for it and start hating and bullying me.

When I told my mom what happened she was appalled. She said I had to go to the principal and tell him what happened. When I did, the football players got kicked off the team and everyone who was involved got suspended. Because of this, the whole school hated me and the bullying just got worse. There was nothing for me to do about it and my parents offered to send me to another school, but I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of getting to me and I would not let them run me out to a fifth school. Whenever they would be nice to me, I finally thought that they liked me, but then they would pull down my pants or throw my clothes into the toilet during gym class. One time, they even held me down and spread gum all throughout my hair. My hair ended up having to get cut so short and I was laughed at even more than I normally was. Then, another time they tricked me into thinking I was being accepted by having Denny, the boy I had a crush on no matter how many countless times he was mean to me, ask me out. I said “Really?” and he answered, “No. Like I would ever go out with a dog like you.” And they all cracked up and walked away, leaving me standing there, with my heart broken.

I ended up going to college at Yale, and meeting a lot of great people there. I am now a great editor, and have hung out with many celebrities and have written 3 books so far. During my younger years, writing saved me from being swallowed by sorrow. The language of poetry gave me a way to transform my hurt and wrath into symbols and images I could control. I just couldn’t understand why those people were so malicious to me. It was the first day of high school and half those girls didn’t even know me. They had just taken the word of someone else they had just met in order to be deemed cool. Because of their joke, the rest of my high school career was ruined and consisted of being called “freak” and “ugly” and “deformed” and many other cruel words. My self-esteem had lowered so much that I actually picked up a knife a couple of times and wondered what it would be like to be dead. That it would be so much better than living in this place made up of evils. When I was a teenager, if someone had told me that one day, I would look back and be grateful for the hell I was going through; that it would make me a better person when I grew up, I would have thought they were crazy. But remarkable enough, that is exactly what happened. No one should have to endure being teased, bullied, or abused. Cruelty violates a person’s sense of self and others.

I watch as my old classmates and peers file into the gym. I watch them reacquaint with each other and I hear them laughing until the doors slam shut and block out all sound. Once everyone has come and gone inside, I just sit in my car in silence. I put the key in the ignition and drive away without stepping foot in the school. I was scared at first to go in, but I realized now, that I just have no interest in seeing the people who made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be alive. I didn’t want to know if they remembered me or any of the awful things they did to me. I just didn’t care about them anymore. Why care if the people who hurt me so many years ago like me now. I might have cared then, but not anymore. I will always know what they did to me was wrong and I can take pride in the fact that I never once joined them and that the only reason they hurt me was because they didn’t understand me. After all, the bullies never remember, but the outcasts never forget.

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This article has 1 comment.

Emily P said...
on Oct. 7 2008 at 12:00 am
i wrote this but i just wanted to tell everyone that i changed the title to "Merciless Healing" i decided to change the title after i already submitted this.

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