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“C***-eyed hoe,” a voice whispers. I am sitting in study hall, leaning over my work. I hear the whisper again and look up. I sigh audibly when I realize the words are directed not at, but behind me. I hear the sound of the camera shutter, and realize that three girls in front of me are taking pictures of this girl. The teacher does not notice. I pretend not to either. I am friends with two of the three bullies. I don't even know the girl they're making fun of. I stay silent. Silence is easier than taking a stand.

I inhale. I know that staying silent is not brave, or courageous. I am a class officer, a student-athlete, a high honors student. A member of student senate, a person who is supposed to be a leader. I don't feel like a leader right now. I know I am a coward.

Pictures flash through my head. I am sitting back in my seventh grade classroom, studying words with the prefix of bi-, listening to my classmates berate a boy for his bisexual orientation. He puts his head down and cries. I say nothing. I go further back, to sixth grade. I see myself kicking my friend at the bus stop, yelling at her for dating the boy I thought I loved. I give her a nasty look every time I pass her in the hallway. Fifth grade memories surface. A circle has formed around me. People who are supposed to be my friends are calling me names. Someone pushes me to the ground, and everyone starts kicking me. Tears threaten to spill, but I will not let them come. I have just come out to myself. I figure that this is what I get for being gay.

The ring of the study hall phone interrupts my memory flow. The victim has left to report the girls to her grade level principal. That is the person on the other end of the phone. I eavesdrop intently on the conversation. The supervisor is bewildered. “They were all completely silent,” she tells him. Her oblivion angers me. The three girls are separated from each other, and the study hall continues in silence. The girl returns, and I contemplate passing a note to her, to apologize for not speaking up. I never work up the courage, because I am afraid one of the other three will see me do so.

It has been three days since the incident. I have passed the girl a few times in the hallways. I haven't been able to bring myself to meet her eyes. I want desperately to say something. I wish that I could end by saying I finally stood up for the girl. I didn't. Most stories have a hero. This one doesn't. It only has a fifteen year-old girl who still needs to learn how to stand up and speak out against bullying. Her journey is to be continued.




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