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Hollow, frigid, white walls surrounded me. Door after door stretched down the boundless hallways. The sound of an old English teacher bellowing at her students engulfed me. An unconventional chill crept down my spine and punctured my heart. Outside the window, I gazed at the remiss populous, wishing it could be me. The rain kissed the window pane—each peck more intense than the last. It was the first day of the rest of my life.
Ugh. Who will I talk to? Who will talk to me? Everyone? Anyone? No one. I hate this! They all look at me with their judgmental glances and their preconceived notions about who I am or why I am here, but they don’t know me! I take my seat and rest my head on the desk. I am a prisoner inside my mind—trapped behind the haunting thought that I have to be here. The teacher calls on me to answer his question. I raise my head completely oblivious to what is going on—saved by the bell.
The whole day went by and not one person seemed any different than the other. No one stood out, no one sparked my interest, each bared an astonishing resemblance to the next. They all walked around with their noses in the air frowning upon anyone who was “different.”
Today is no better than yesterday. I am a duck in a lake full of swans. Every teacher continuously rambles, every student is brainwashed; I just want to get out of this place. Two more periods of this crap! I’ve got this place all figured out…WAIT! Who is he?
I thought I had it all mapped out. I thought I knew everything about the place, all the while not realizing that I myself was judging a book by its cover…or in this case, a place by its campus. This guy, he was different, he wasn’t like the others. I found myself lost in his presence.
His eyes are a sea of green positioned perfectly under his angelic brows; his brown locks compliment his flawless caramel skin. His walk, like that of a stallion; he stands lofty and strong. I can see his burning desire to speak up. It’s like he’s saying “Look at me! Here I am! It’s me! Me!” but he says nothing. Why?
A bizarre thought now consumed me.
What if I’M proud to be different? What if I could be the voice of those who are different? It is okay to be different…right? But is this the place? Is there a place? A time? No outcasts, no one is better than anyone else. We are all free to be who we are and love who we are. What good is being unique if you have to be in disguise? If even through one of my actions I could inspire him, or anyone to be somebody, my experience here might not be so bad.
It was easier said than done. People always say what they should, could, or would do…but when all is said and done, all that matters is what you did do. I took a week to observe, dissect, and digest the students and teachers…now I was confident in myself. Or so I thought!
I raise my hand; I can feel my heart begin to race—there’s no turning back now; I have everyone’s attention. I clear my throat, “Um I have a question,” I say as I cower down. “Yes?” she answers back. I can tell this is coming as a surprise by the look on her face. “Um I…why? … I mean uhh, I was wondering…” “Spit it out,” she impatiently interrupts. “Why don’t we get to express ourselves freely?” “Why are we confined to a little box?” “Do our opinions matter, do we even matter?” “Who made your voice more powerful than ours?” Gasping, I cover my mouth to stop the words that continuously flow like a hot spring. Heads turn and the whispering begins. I’m beginning to feel like I’m suffocating… Breathe, just breathe I keep telling myself. The classroom falls dead silent until the ginger in the back begins to clap—everyone begins to clap, even him, as the teacher stands at the front of the room at a loss for words.
Class after class, teacher after teacher, I spoke up, each time with more conviction. I felt good about myself I had the support of peers. I did what I set out to do. Week upon week and more students began to voice their opinions. We had a voice! I had not only inspired him, but everyone else too. He and I built a relationship—a special bond. He was my best friend, I trusted him with everything. Life was good…life was perfect. I felt like my nightmare turned into a fairytale—but not every tale has a happy ending!
“Please come and demonstrate how to solve number five” he kindly asks the girl next to me. “No!” she shouted back, “I don’t feel like it.” She turns and winks at me as if to imply that she had somehow acted in my honor. I can’t believe my ears and apparently neither can he. I said we should voice our opinions, I never said let’s be defiant.
More and more students began to follow her lead not mine. The teachers no longer had control, now their opinions didn’t matter; their voices went unheard and somehow everyone decided that this was my fault. Only a month had passed and the place took a turn for the worse. My “perfect” ending became a dashing spiral downward, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I turned to the one person I thought would always be there…but now he too was against me.
“You too? Really!” I shouted. “After all we’ve been through? After everything I told you? YOU TOO?” he doesn’t even look at me he just turns and walks away. A fire burns inside of me so intense it can no longer be contained. I watch his every move, I study every aspect of his life, determined to make it hell. Nothing and no one else matters now! His room is 256, at lunch he sits in the back corner by the black wall, he never goes anywhere without his notebook…what the hell is in that notebook anyway? That’s it; there must be something he’s hiding!
I went to class each day discordant to the people around me, I did what I was told and went back to my room. I was back to square one, only this time I missed the way things used to be. I had hoped for a happy medium, all I ever wanted was to feel like what I had to say… what we had to say as a student body had some significance. I didn’t know how to turn this around, I didn’t really try…I focused all my time, all of my energy on him—getting back at him, hurting him like he did me. He was my life, my nightmare, and my happy ending. I had to get that notebook…but how?
Room 256…256. I have to catch him while he’s in the shower. Its 6:15AM he usually gets out at 6:45AM, which gives me thirty minutes to get in and out; class starts are 7:10AM. I can’t believe I’m doing this; NO, I can’t second guess myself—he deserves this. I get the spare key from under the rug and I enter as quietly as possible. The notebook is nowhere in sight. I look everywhere…Oh no five minutes left. This is pointless I think to myself, and just as I’m walking out the door, to my right, sitting directly under the mirror is the notebook. I quickly exchange the real notebook with the replacement notebook and head back to my room. I don’t have time to read this…I have to come back at lunch. I throw the book on the bed and head to class.
The whole time all I could think about was that notebook! What was in there? What could he possibly be hiding from me? How could he hide anything from me? I was his best friend? Did that mean anything? The thought made me so angry.
Finally, lunch—I sprint to my room and lock the door behind me. The first page reads:
July 2, 2001
“He sneaks into my room while mom is sleeping. He undresses me and tells me to keep quiet. It will only hurt a little he whispers as he strips me of my innocence. I want to scream but I’m too scared. I want to fight back but I can’t. I am a coward, a f*****. I let this man violate me.”
I slam the book close. My eyes fill with water. I can’t expose him. I shouldn’t have read this. I have to get it back but if I leave it where I found it he’ll know someone was there. The room around me starts to spin. I have to give it to him myself. I’m hyperventilating.
I had turned into the person I had always hoped I never would. I was lying and stealing from the guy I loved more than anyone, the person who gave me a reason to be happy. It was the longest, most arduous class of my life.
I approached him at his desk; I can’t even look at him. I place the notebook in front of him and as I turn to walk away, he grabs my arm. He rises from his seat and I can see the fire in his eyes. “Did you read this?” he asks. I don’t answer, still unable to look him in the eye. “DID YOU READ THIS?” he howls as he shakes me. “I…um” startled I can’t even form the proper response. The teacher enters. “Don’t give me that bulls***! How did you get this? You little b****! First you come in here and you turn our school into an unruly hell hole and then you go behind my back and steal my things? I HATE YOU!” “Excuse me? Get out of my classroom!” the teacher hollers. The classroom is silent again, this time no applause. I dart down the hallway after him but it’s too late.
I’ve never seen anyone so furious. My heart hardened and shattered into a million pieces. For months he ignored me. I didn’t exist in his world. I was nobody. As hard as it was to admit I knew he was right. They were all right. This was all my fault and I had to fix it.
I raise my hand; no one even wants to hear what I have to, but I have to speak up. “Yes?” the teacher answers.
I know she wanted to pretend like she didn’t see my hand raised but we made eye contact.
“Can I speak to the class for a second?” “I suppose” she says reluctantly. “I know most of you probably hate me,” my voice trembles “I never intended for things to happen the way they did. I’m so sorry. I just wanted to feel like I mattered. I wanted to feel like my voice mattered. I never wanted to hurt anyone. Well that’s not completely true.” I turned to him, tucked away in the corner. “I did try to hurt you and I’m sorry.” He gets up and leaves the class. I start crying; I turn to the teacher. “I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t fix the damage I’ve done but I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry for disrespecting you and belittling your authority. I’m extremely sorry everyone.”
I took my seat. The little ginger initiated the applause once again, but even though everyone else had forgiven me…he still couldn’t find it in his heart to forgive me. It was the longest day of my life, apologizing to every student and teacher. The next day I could hardly make it through the first half of the day. My life had went from miserable, to amazing, to unbearable all in the course of six months—but oddly this day was different. Instead of eating lunch in my room like I usually did, I stayed in the cafeteria.
“Gather around anyone who wants to know the truth about who I really am” a voice says in the distance. I’m not even going to look. The voice continues, “Nine years ago I was raped by my stepdad. I was always ashamed of who I was. I blamed myself for what happened to me, but what happened to me isn’t my fault and today I’m not afraid to be different, I’m not afraid to say look at me, here I am! This is me!” I start to walk away but someone stops me. I turn around to those beautiful green eyes and he kisses my forehead. “Thank you for teaching me how to be somebody.”
Some people think that first impressions are everything. They think they can take one look at you and know who you are. Some people go their whole lives prisoners inside their minds. They want to speak out but are standing in their own ways. Some people acquire the ability to greatly impact the lives around them but don’t always find their way back once they’ve lead the others astray. I’m glad that wasn’t me or him. We will never be what we once were, we will never be forgotten, and we will never know what the future holds, but together, we were willing to find out.