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Damnation of the Innocent
Their piercing laughter rang an everlasting melody through my ears. Their beady eyes bore a gaping hole through the confidence I had finally begun to build. And their spiteful words stabbed a dagger through my heart. I was back in that fourth grade classroom, surrounded by a body of people who had chosen to believe the lies of one in exchange for the destruction of another. She was their hero, I was their victim.
Transitioning from a close-knit, private school to an over-crowded, public school is never easy for anyone. For some, fitting in comes naturally. This was the case with my best friend, Heather. Blonde hair, brown eyes, the second she hit the classroom, she was an expert. It was like she had taken a class on it. Public school -101. I followed slowly behind. Coming from a school where Heather and I were the only 3rd graders and entering into a class of almost 30, you can imagine the social skills I lacked- pretty much all of them. So it wasn’t my wits or charm that landed me a friendship with the most popular girl in the class. No, that was just plain luck.
I saw the world around me begin to change. It was like I had been elevated to a new, esteemed, social status, one that initiated awe and respect from my fellow classmates. I never had to worry about who would be my partner in class, who I would sit with at lunch, or who I would play with at recess.*Kailey.
But things aren’t always as they appear.
You see, every classroom has a hierarchy. Every society a ruler. For the 4th grade class of *Mrs. Jones, our ruler was *Kailey Matthews. And just as it was in many great nations such as France and England, when a ruler comes into power, they have the right to damn any subject to a public humiliation and death on the charge of treason, even if the subject is innocent in all regards. As the days passed, I began to see my classroom transform into one of these great nations. It is the tragic flaw of many rulers that, in the presence of power, they become overwhelmed by its strength and authority. Such is the case with *Kailey Matthews.
Although I didn’t know it at first, I became her subject.
Once again, I saw the world around me begin to change. This time, in ways I had never even begun to imagine. As the lies began to spread, I thought they would be too ridiculous for anyone to believe. Boy was I wrong. And the worst part was that I couldn’t even defend myself. Without the popularity and best friend, it was like I was a tree with no leaves. I couldn’t even utter a word.
I had been forced to become the scapegoat of society. Dictated by the laws and ways of the class, I sacrificed my confidence. I sacrificed my smile.
I watched my world fall to pieces at my feet, and nothing I did could have changed that. I watched friends disappear. I heard their laughter resurface. I saw tears fall down my cheeks. I felt emptiness.
It seems that no matter where I go, I’m always haunted by the day that *Kailey Matthews stole what was not hers to take. But what hurts the most is that I let her win. I let what she did matter. I let it hurt.
There is a moment in each of our lives where we rise up and say, “No more!” A moment where a warrior rises up from within us, and we choose to fight. If my moment had come sooner, there wouldn’t be a shadow looming over my head, reminding me of the humiliation she brought upon me. If I had stood up and said, “No more,” then the events that followed, in fifth and sixth grade, would not have lingered in my memory for years and years to come.
Don’t get me wrong, my social skills began to improve. I grew out of my long dresses, reminiscent of my private school days. I got taller and learned how to laugh again. I found two best friends who loved me for who I was. They let me be myself, and I started to believe that everything was going to be okay again.
Although I found friends who taught me what friendship and acceptance really is, the outgoing, smiley girl who used to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” though the aisles of the grocery store was still MIA. And when I started to have medical issues that caused me to have severe bladder infections, it seemed that I was never meant to be normal. I felt all alone in a sea of people. I went to see my doctor, and even an urologist, but no one could figure out what was wrong with me.
I remember I went to see one doctor, and three med students were interning him. He made me lay down on a cold, metal table as he pulled off my pants and underwear. All three students as well as my mom watched as he probed around inside of me, poking around and asking questions. I was shaking so hard I could hardly breathe.
It didn’t get better after that. I never told my mom, but there were times when all I can remember is having a bladder infection. I didn’t want to go to another doctor about it again. Not after he let three medical students examine my lady parts. Besides, they would just say the same things I already knew. So I kept it a secret.
I don’t know if anyone will ever understand the pain that I went through those two years. When it was bad, it would burn like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I wouldn’t be able to control it; sometimes it would just come out. I was wetting my pants in the sixth grade. That does a kind of damage that takes a long time to heal. I would have to press my body again the desk, dig my heels into the floor, and pray that I didn’t wet my pants in math class. But more times than not, I wasn’t successful.
I remember one day, we were switching classes. Waiting in the hall, I had a spot on my pants that, if seen by a classmate, would take less than 30 seconds to see that I had wet my pants. I slinked against the wall, hiding my back. The worst part? I was standing next to*Keegan Meyers. Do you remember being 13, and the whole butterflies, giddy laugh, red cheeks, crush? He was mine.
There were countless incidences like this. I would develop plans in my head, like bringing in a sweater to tie around my waist in case something happened. I would call it my emergency pack, and plan out things that I could bring in, anything that would hide the stain. One day my mom picked me up from school for a doctor’s appointment, and I had to convince her that we needed to go home so I could change my pants because I was hot, even though I really didn’t want the doctor to smell the urine that soaked the back of them. Another time, I actually left a puddle on my seat in math class. A visible puddle. I cried for hours after that- I knew that *Mr. Connors had seen it.
Although I had friends this time around, the time I spent concentrating on keeping my pants dry was time that I lost connecting with other people. Because I kept this little secret to myself, I sunk even deeper into the shell of a shy, introverted girl. A girl that I wasn’t supposed to be.
All this time, I was held captive by the demons inside of me. Voices telling me to give up instead of stand up and fight. I had let them reign for so long, I began to believe them, believe that I wasn’t good enough.
We all have an opportune to rise up and fight, to reclaim a pride in ourselves that have been lost, or stolen from us.
This was not my time. I would have to wait several more years before I would be able to see a beauty in myself again. Finding the courage to rebuild confidence in myself was long and winding, and it took me to places that I never envisioned seeing. But looking out at the people I’ve met, the things I’ve gone through, and the places I’ve been, I can say that if I had to climb this mountain to get the view, it was definitely worth it.
*-indicates that the name has been changed