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I stand there, watching, leaning on the schoolyard fence. Michelle’s cowering, but stands firm all the same. I can see Watson shouting, shouting at her. He pushes her. She yelps and falls backwards.
The bell rings. All the kids outside start to head back into the school. Not Watson. He whispers something into Michelle’s ear first. Michelle clutches the cross that she wears around her neck. “Please God,” I can see her mouth silently,” Please help me.” Then she too, runs to catch up with everyone else. I follow her.
All during the last class of the day – math- I can see kids laughing and poking fun at her. “Michelle, you gonna get help on that math test with God’s help ain’t ya?” That’s Watson. I’ve seen him picking on her since I’ve transferred here a month or two ago. There were some other kids too. From all I’ve learned from the multiple schools that I’ve been to is that the bystander would prefer to be the bully than the bullied. Not me though. I’ve been both and neither is fun.
My dad’s an army officer, so I’ve been to enough schools in my lifetime. An “army brat” as some might say, I guess. At my last school I bullied another boy. I got suspended, so I transferred here. I’m not a mean person. I had my reasons, and yes, I know that might be hard to believe but I did. I did it because I didn’t want to be the one that was being bullied. It was my shield. The other boy’s parents that I was bullying had just split up and I was giving him a rough time. I was calling him names, and telling him that he was the reason that they split up. You see, if I bully him about what’s bothering him it advertises his problems and helps hide mine.
I’m not going to do that anymore. When I was sitting in the principal’s office the day of that suspension my dad was reminding me of my old school before we moved here-in Trenton. He told me that he was so proud of me then, that he doubted that anyone could have done what I did, and lived through what I did. Now though, he said, now he was downright ashamed. How could I have done this? I was as bad as Jason.
Jason. Why did he have to bring up Jason? He was at my school in Trenton. He’s the reason why my dad was so proud of me there, because I survived through Jason. He bullied me endlessly after he found out my secret. My secret was a secret because I didn’t want anybody finding out. That was why I called it a secret. But I guess “secret” doesn’t ring a bell with some people. Jason was some people.
Our class had a motivational speaker come in and encourage us to live our lives as they were meant to be. He told us to write down our biggest worry at the time on a piece of paper, and then walk to the front of the class and shred it in the paper shredder which he placed at the front of the classroom. He told us that we didn’t have to show anyone what it said, and that once we saw it being shredded we would instantly feel better about it.
Of course, the klutz I am I dropped my note conveniently right next to Jason’s desk. He picked it up and read out to the entire class, “I don’t want to be gay. I don’t want to be gay. Please, I wish that I weren’t gay.” That’s all it took to ruin the rest of my life at that school. I was the gay kid from then on. Physical and verbal abuse became my life for the next seven months until my dad got a much grateful transfer. And that’s why I became a bully so that no one would ever guess that I was gay and so everyone could just focus on another kid’s problems.
That’s my story, and the reason I want to stay out of Michelle’s and Watson’s. I know each of them have their own stories too. I know Watson probably has something going on for him that he doesn’t want the rest of the world to know right now and that is why he is pointing to Michelle as the “weird” kid who believes in God; and I know exactly how Michelle is feeling: alone and afraid because she knows that no one is going to stand up for her because no one wants to be put in the same category with her.
After school we all hear sirens, police cars are screeching down the road. They don’t seem to bother anyone, except Watson who excuses himself from his group of friends and heads off down the street, where the police cars are headed. His friends don’t seem to really notice-but I do. I follow him.
The police cars stop in front of a small brown shaggy house and a man is being pinned against a police car while being handcuffed by a cop. Watson goes up to the man but stops a few paces away. “Dad?” he asks. “Whatyado?” Now I know what’s happening in his story. I step backwards to get a better view of the scene and step on a twig. Watson whirls around. “What the hell are you doin’ here gay-boy?” Everyone takes their attention off of his father and turns to me. I bolt.
I keep running. I don’t know where I’m headed but I want to get away. How did he find out? How does he know? The questions keep circling in my head. I want to die. I sit down on a park bench and bury my face in my hands. “Why me?” I think. “Why am I always the jerk? Why do I always have to be the loser, the weird one, the gay kid?” I’m shouting now and people are looking at me. I start to cry. The tears won’t stop. I’m out of control. I curl up in a ball on the ground beside the bench.
The next thing I know it’s morning. I must have fallen asleep. I know my dad must be wondering where I am so I head home. I don’t really care if I’m late for school or not after the incident with Watson last night. Actually I don’t really want to go at all.
I’m trying to convince myself that last night wasn’t real when I hear someone shouting from across the street. “Hey gay-face!” it’s Watson. “Get over here!” I start to walk away but he yells at me not to. So I don’t, instead I go over to him, just as he asked.
“What?” I say.
“I’m movin in with my aunt. She lives in Toronto. You know, because of the whole incident yesterday. I suppose you’re goin to tell everybody at school bout it?”
“No, no I won’t”, I say, surprising myself. “um, you’re leavin now?” He nods. Then I can ask him without him telling anyone. “ H-how did you find out?”
“What? About you being gay? I’m not stupid you know. I didn’t have to look far to find out. I’ve known for I while.”
“Oh, well I’d better be goin now. See ya ‘round.” Watson waves and hurries off. I go home and tell my dad that I was at a friend’s house for a sleepover and that I’m sorry for not phoning him. He says that’s okay and that he’s happy that I’m making friends.
A few months later my dad gets another transfer; a new school for me. I can’t say that I’m disappointed to be leaving but my school here has definitely taught me a few things. After Watson left, the other kids, for the most part, stopped picking on Michelle. As for Watson, nobody’s heard from him, but all the same I have kept my promise to not tell anybody about that night. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, if he had really known for a while that I was gay, he obviously didn’t tell anyone my secret. Why should I tell other people his?
At my new school, I decided to take some steps to help myself and to be with some other kids in my situation, so I decided to join an LGBTQA group in my community. Things are working out pretty well here for me here, but I never will forget Watson, Michelle, Jason, or the boy I bullied.