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Paladin

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“Keep your head down, keep quiet, and most importantly, keep moving.” These words could not have been stressed enough to me as a child, and now I live them almost daily. Over the course of nearly 17 years, I’ve have come to understand the meaning of these words to their nearly fullest potential.

In elementary school, I learned that keep quiet in the literal sense kept me on “green” almost every day by the teachers’ standards. Even into middle school keeping quiet kept me in my safest of places. Silence brought a bitter sense of peace, but it kept the other students’ scorn off of me…well…most of the time at least. The fact that I was heavy, awkward, and of course doomed to have a “strange” laugh didn’t help either. Things never got better.

“Keep your head down” became more important than “the golden rule” in middle school. When it came down to it, those words were all I needed to know, do, think. I just had to make it through the day unnoticed and undetected; Fat chance. I only wished it were so easy, my school was full of skinny, athletic, rich, confident, smart students, needless to say, I didn’t belong, and they made that very apparent. Like a unit of navy seals, they struck, never moving alone. They bombarded me daily with insults.

“Fat ass”,”f****t”,”wimp”,”idiot”, the list kept going in a 6 part harmony of ridicule and hate daily.

The song didn’t end when the bell rang. My biggest monster dwelled in the back of the bus; A siren with a short, self-lit fuse. It often squawked and barked insults and taunts from its dark crevice on the bus. One day I didn’t keep my head low enough, drew too much attention to myself, and it traversed into my realm at the front of the bus like a thunderous hurricane of aggression. I cringed and faced forward and stared passed the oblivious bus driver as a stone-like fist exploded into my back, then another, and another. I gritted my teeth and clung to the seat in front of me the entire ride. The bus driver ignored the siren and my anguish as it delivered blow after blow into my back. The fists plunged into my back the whole way to my destination.

So I kept moving. I stumbled down the bus stairs as quickly as my chubby little legs would carry me. I ran as fast as I could through my neighborhood, down my street, and into my house, my safe haven. The rest of middle school flowed on similarly. I just had to make it to high school.

I looked forward to freshman year, though as it grew closer, I began to fear it. High school, I shuddered at the thought. I entered the building timidly and moved toward the front desk where several unfamiliar faces sat and handed out lifelines. I clung to my schedule as if it really were my only chance for survival. The intercom screeched, “All freshman, please report to the cafeteria once you have received your class schedule, thank you!” and I made my way to the cafeteria as swiftly as I could.

I sat down in the cafeteria at the friendliest table I could find, an empty one. The table quickly filled up with people which would soon become some of my closest friends, Seth, Aquib, and Shane. This year had potential to be one of the greatest that I have had in a long time.

Freshman year turned out to be a breeze in comparison to middle school…until the end of the year, the last month of school to be exact. Tensions began to build; you could almost feel it like a thick, humid musk in the air. Something was going to happen, the pressure built and built until the last two weeks of school.

Monday everything went smooth. On Tuesday it was the same, until science class, Robert and Nathan blew a fuse. They locked up like a train wreck; my first instinct was to clean up the wreck. I jumped in the middle of it and pealed Nathan, the football player, off of Robert, the twig, Shane moved in swiftly behind me to grab Robert. All I had to do was keep moving, so I did, I kept moving Nathan back, further and further away from Robert until the anger and adrenaline washed away from his eyes.

The next day I had gym class and some upper-classmen had been trying to get into the gym, clearly cutting class. Our instructor ordered that we move away from the doors and not let them in. Gym class resumed as it usually did until the bell rang. Everyone moved excitedly toward the door to go home except for me, something didn’t feel right, there was someone standing outside of every exit.

It was the upper-classmen from before, and they came back with twisted intentions. The doors opened and one moved toward me and was quickly upon me. He rambled out something angrily at me before he cocked his arm back and punched me in the jaw. I rocked back slightly, then turned back, and grinned with a slight chuckle. The upper-classmen’s triumphant smirk froze, and then melted into a look of fear as he turned and ran. Within a few seconds, he and his squad had vanished into the sea of people. I had won without even raising a fist. Freshman year was over.

Sophomore year was an eventful year. Extraordinary things were happening in the band program. We were finally getting out onto the field as a marching band, which hadn’t transpired at my school for over ten years! Although with this amazing feat came the retiring of “Mama Cassidy”, our beloved old band and choir director. Things were moving along gracefully.

So far so good, junior year started off strong until March; middle school revisited me with a new face. Gary, a rather portly boy in my English class noticed my red hoodie. Also noting that, not only am I wearing a red sweater, but also that I am still quite plump as well at this point. “Hey Clifford!” he called to me. I turned slowly and furiously and with a stern voice I uttered “You of all people are making a weight joke?” He attempted to cover his tracks with a joke as I thwarted back at him thunderously “Clifford the what Red Dog, Gary?” Gary shrank in his seat and muttered “big”. The bell rang and the next class was no better.

Band class used to be my favorite class until junior year; the students are loud, boisterous, and ignorant this year. This day of course, was especially bad; a boy named Darian had detected me just as Gary did the class before. Darian reached for my snare drum and gave it a loud whack, I ask him to stop. Darian stopped and retorted with “Wasn’t me.” Naturally I shrugged it off and kept quiet but the problem persisted. Darian reached back again and started loudly on the snare drum again in the middle of class, which our band instructor, Mr. Jacobs was oblivious to. I grabbed Darian’s hand and sternly said “Don’t touch my snare drum” which of course started an argument with the ignorant buffoon which turned into a shouting match between the band instructor, Darian, and I.

Darian glared back at me “You better shut up before I put you in your place!”

Mr. Jacobs ignored this remark entirely, as he usually does. Although I could not ignore this threat, it cut into me to the bone. I immediately went back to middle school. “Keep your head down, keep quiet, and keep moving” I thought. I silently moved the entire percussion section back five feet and kept myself under the radar for the rest of class, just like in middle school; this boy didn’t even hit me, but with that single threat, he did more damage to me than any physical blow could’ve ever done to me, but that’s my fault.

I had never really known the true meaning of these words until now. The fact that one word, without the others, makes them all completely useless, sparked into my brain. If you keep your head down (stay off the radar) but don’t stay quiet and don’t keep moving, someone will find you. If you keep quiet, but stand out in the open, you will be found even sooner.

Unfortunately, the most important thing, keep moving, only gets you as far as you can run and as you can tell, I’m no track star. Which has brought me to the conclusion that the most important and significant advice that you could ever know, is to: “keep your head down, keep quiet, and keep moving”.

Here I am in the middle of middle school in the middle of my junior year in high school, back to the abuse and ignorance of my peers and the disregard for the safety of students by teachers. Back to the depression and anguish I leave with you here on this page. In with this final page I move on, I keep moving and leave the past where it lay, behind me so that I may move on to fight more meaningful, valiant battles.



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