I’ve never been a normal person. Born and raised mostly in the capital city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, by loving parents who are German and Mongolian. I can speak all three languages, including English of course, perfectly, but my distinctive Asian-European features and slight cultural differences always make me stand out. Always make me the “different” girl.
Usually, everyone likes me. I’m a nice person, generally. But unfortunately, this isn’t a nice story that I am about to tell you. I’ve, of course, changed the names of the people involved, and this was quite a while ago…but everything else…is as real and sharp as a knife. This is my experience with bullying. This is what bullying did to me.
Anne pushes me back, and I stumble, trying not to fall. "Who do you think you are?!" She screams at me, grabs my t-shirt. I hear it rip, but I can barely move, I can barely breathe, I'm so terrified of her.
Anne lets go and looks scornfully at me. The other dozen or so girls surrounding me are all looking away, clearly uncomfortable. But I can see them beginning to make up their minds. Choosing sides. And it's not in my favor. It never is.
"Dirty little foreigner. Why don't you just go back to the disgusting place you came from?" Anne says, gesturing to the gate behind me. Her friend Rose snickers, flicking her finger over her cell screen.
I blink tears away from my eyes. I don't really belong here. I know that. I know I'm pathetic and stupid. But why is she being like this? Why does she have to constantly shove it up in my face like this?! What did I ever do to her? Where else could I go anyway? This is the only place I can call home.
Anne tries to grab me again. I’m not letting her this time though. I’m so sick of this whole game. It’s been played over and over and over again…and I just want it to stop.
I step away and raise my head a fraction, looking her in the eye. What have I got to lose?
“What?!” She says, “Scared?”
“No.” I say, and then do the unimaginable. I spit at her. It’s something that’s seen a lot around here, everyone does it. But I’ve never done it before. Wait…what did I just do?!
It doesn’t go far. The spit lands on her shirt. I stare at it in disbelief, hardly daring to think. Did I just do that? Yes, I did. And now everyone is staring right at me, except Anne. She’s staring at the spit globule on her shirt.
“You little…” Rose begins, but I don’t hear the rest. I’m running. Running for dear life. Out the gate, over the little metal fence, down the dirt street. Running from the horrible crime I have just committed. I can hear them coming after me. Anne is screaming horrible, horrible names at me.
I run, my heart beating fast, but suddenly I find myself trapped between two old buildings. Ghost buildings, they’re called. Supposedly they’re haunted. Which is just a lot of nonsense, but I’m hoping it will at least slow down the other girls who are coming to kill me. Aren’t I optimistic?
There’s a high metal fence in the corner and I make a run for it, hoping I won’t injure myself on the sharp iron spikes on top. I’ve grabbed the top bars, but suddenly I find myself grabbed from behind by someone or something. A cold, dark fear rushes over my entire body, making me slow and weak. The dust in the air irritates my eyes. I don’t want to, but I turn to see who it is, thinking I might be able to fight off the unknown person, fearing the worst, maybe it’s Anne or one of the faster girls… and what I see makes my heart stop completely.
It’s Belle. My idol. She’s the older, cool girl everyone admires and wants to be. Her hair is always perfect, her makeup is never overdone and she’s the tallest, skinniest girl I know. She’s always so nice to everyone. I’ve always thought of Belle as my older sister…she takes care of me, always asks how I am and what I’m doing. I hope she’s here to save me. I hope. I really do.
Usually her expression is beautiful. But not now. Now its beginning to look like a mass of thunder clouds.
My heart starts again, but this time it seems to be determined to hammer its way into my skull. This is not good. I’ve never seen beautiful Belle look like this before.
“What, exactly, is going on here?” Belle asks me in a cold, perfect voice. I can’t answer. My tongue doesn’t seem to be working. Plus, the girls are here already. So I simply stare over her shoulder in fear, hoping to communicate how much I need her to save me.
She turns, and puts her hands on her hips. “Well?” She asks. “What is going on here?!”
Everyone is silent, looking at Belle. And me. Hiding behind her.
Please help me, please help me, please help me, please help me…the endless mantra in my head seems completely uncontrollable. Sweat is pouring down my back and forehead as I look back and forth between the other girls and Belle.
Rose speaks up then. “That girl,” she points at me, “Argued with us, then spit on Anne’s new shirt. Then she ran away.”
I want to protest. I never argued with them. I simply stood there and absorbed their insulting and demeaning words. I never said a single bad word to them in return. What did I do?! Oh. Right. I spat on Anne’s new shirt.
Belle turns to me. “Is this true?” She asks me, frowning.
Before I have a chance to reply, Anne steps quickly forward and whispers something into Belle’s ear. Even though she’s so close, I can’t hear what she’s saying. But as she steps back, I see her malicious smile and I know it was everything but complementary. In fact, it was probably evil.
Belle faces me once more, and I know she has made some sort of decision. I feel strangely detached, as if I’m in shock from too much fear. But I know nothing good is coming.
She grabs me by the arm and swings me around so that my back is to the girls, and I am facing her. She says two words. Just two. “You b.itch.” And slaps me right across the face.
I’m running again. Tears fill my eyes, and I know I have to find somewhere safe. I run, run, right past the girls who were trying so hard to hunt me down just now. They don’t chase me. They just laugh.
I’ve lost all track of time and space. All I do is run now.
Finally, I find a staircase. Sit down. And cry my heart out.
I’m covered in sweat and tears, my trousers are torn, I think there’s blood on my knee where I fell. My arm hurts, the skin is red. My cheek hurts worst, burning and throbbing and reminds me why I’m crying every time I stop crying. Belle. Why has she done this to me?
I thought she was my friend. Or at least my older sister. Someone who could protect me, or at least not let them hurt me. Was that all an illusion in my mind?
She never even listened to me. She’s just like everyone else. She doesn’t care about me at all.
I hear voices coming closer, but I don’t care. What more could they possibly do to me? I wipe my eyes on my sleeves and stand up to face them, whoever they are.
“Well, well, well…come here to cry, Emma? How pathetic. What are you? A little girly?” Anne and Rose laugh. I can see them, standing victorious, smug smiles on their lips.
Yes, I am little girl, I want to scream. What is an 9 year old, if not a little girl?
“You will never belong here, you know. We don’t need people like you. You’re ugly and stupid and you want to be friends with everyone. You don’t do that kind of thing here. Try to remember that, if it’s at all possible for you.”Anne laughs one more time-a high pitched laugh that sends shivers down my already soaked back. Then, tossing her hair, she leaves with Rose.
I am alone again. A little, fragile, vulnerable girl. No. I don’t want her. I don’t want this little girl who puts her trust in others. I hate her. She gets hurt so easily. And all for what? In the end she is simply alone, in her misery and tears. No one loves her.
I open a pit in my mind. I take the little girl, throw her inside, and put a big metal lid on the top. I smile. Now, she will no longer be my weakness. Now, even I will no longer love her.
Now I am a big girl. Big girls don’t cry.