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His face smiled down at me, becoming more and more of a caricature as the seconds ticked by. I guess he was trying to reassure me, but all he did was creep me out. Thankfully the silence was broken with a slight buzz from my cell phone. At that moment, I would have given anything to rush outside, be free from that room and that cartoon of a man. But running was not an option at the moment. I excused myself as politely as I knew how and walked to the corner furthest away from him.
When I checked the text, unfortunately, there was no relief to be found. It was Neil again. I screamed in frustration, I couldn’t avoid him, just as I couldn’t avoid the smiling man, who was walking over to see what was wrong. The smiling man, or as I was instructed to call him, Bill, was my very own school appointed tutor, and apparently self-appointed therapist. He seemed to believe that there must be something going wrong with me. Why Bill couldn’t just accept that I was bad at science I don’t know. But honestly the only thing I couldn’t understand was Newton’s Law. And Neil. But Neil was none of Bill’s business.
Neil shouldn’t have had to be my business either. If I had it my way, Neil would be wiped from the face of the earth. But so would a lot of people, including Bill, who was now staring intently at my face as if it would reveal the meaning of life. If it did, he didn’t tell me, and we settled back down the relearn how friction affects the force on an object for what had to be the fifth time today.
When my phoned buzzed again I didn’t even check it. I know it was just Neil again, apologizing for what happened. Like I cared anymore. My head ached, my palms were coated in graphite from rubbing across the paper, and I could see that even Bill was on his last nerve. I wanted to go home, leave this smelly cafeteria with its sticky tables and peeling murals. I sighed, (inwardly of course, lest Bill notice something was wrong), and tried to finish the problem as quickly as I could.
After the last problem, I picked up my things and headed for the door of the cafeteria. Maybe if I hurried, I would miss the interrogation. I was so close to leaving; I could almost feel the freedom on my face when a sweaty hand pulled me back. It was time for therapy, or as Bill so loving called it, traumatic event de-briefing. He didn’t actually know if I had under gone any traumatic experiences. All Bill knew was that I was a teenager, and therefore, I must need help.
Usually I stonewalled Bill while he tried to get me to open up, but it still took forever before he would let me leave. Today I decided to feed him bull, fake horrible experiences that never actually happened to me. Maybe it would let me leave earlier. With any luck, Bill would feel so bad he would let skip our next lesson.
And so I began my sad tale. I told him all about my fake drug abusing friends, and my fake depression. Bill became well aware of the state of my fake sick grandma and my fake dead goldfish. And somewhere along the line, I began telling him the truth. About how my real cat was run over by my neighbor when I was seven, and my read grandpa was in jail for cheating his company out of millions.
But when I told him about Neil was when I finally broke down.
The memories of that night were agony to live through again, and yet sharing then with Bill was surprisingly cathartic. Not that it that kept the tears from pouring down my face when I tried to explain that it was just a dare, that nobody was supposed to be hurt. And how much I hated Neil, but felt so bad for him at the same time. Because even though it had all been his idea, it wasn’t completely his fault that it all went so wrong. He didn’t mean for me to be hurt, but I could never forgive him for the hurt he caused. And all the while Bill just patted my back, and handed me tissues.
When my hysterics were over, Bill smiled down at me, but his face was less of a caricature now. I smiled back as I got up to leave, not minding what I’m sure were dozens of mascara tracks down my face. Buzzing again broke the silence, but this time it was my mom, coming to pick me up. She is impatient, so I waved to Bill and ran outside to meet her car.
Driving away, my mom asked, “So how was it today?”
“Eh… It was alright.” I replied, and smiled to myself.