For Abigail | TeenInk

For Abigail MAG

November 26, 2013
By Benjals BRONZE, Glendale, Arizona
Benjals BRONZE, Glendale, Arizona
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I think it best to set the record straight from the start: in elementary school, I was a bully.

There are many types of bullies. For starters, there are the Big, Bored Bullies – the junkyard dogs of the bullying spectrum – kids who learned their formidable size can grant them sway early in life and utilize every inch and pound to their fullest destructive potential. On the opposite side are the Small, Sad Bullies – short-statured boys and girls who may have been bullied themselves and thus continue the cycle by dishing out what they have been dealt. There are the Situational Bullies – scavengers biding their time to spinelessly swoop into a confrontation. The Bender Bullies usually have bad home lives and inferiority complexes; their namesake derives from the snarky rebel who epitomized this subset in John Hughes' “The Breakfast Club.” And then there's the label that describes me: the Class Clown Bully.

As a Class Clown Bully, I cut my observational teeth on everything around me for the sake of a laugh. With each well-received joke, my bravado and self-confidence increased until eventually everything was fair game. I made a habit of building bridges by burning others, always advancing in my mind but actually running in place. Over time, little by little, the mature and good-natured Dr. Jekyll civility I usually displayed made more and more room for the sometimes-funny-but-mostly-tasteless antics of Mr. Hyde. Here, in the mixed-up depths of my miniature fourth-grade existential crisis, I met Abigail.

I first learned of the new student on the playground. One excellent quality of elementary school teachers is that they underestimate the snooping capacity of kids. At my school, the teachers produced and relayed the juiciest rumors. And no rumor spread quicker or created more anticipation than news of a newcomer.

By the time morning break had ended, the fourth-grade classroom vibrated with a palpable buzz. Finally, as I took my umpteenth break from journaling to check the clock, the new student walked in with her mother. The first red flag sprang up as I watched her mom hang up her bag, hand her her supplies, and kiss her loudly on the forehead. I am all for motherly love, but as a 10-year-old boy I was honor-bound to resent the entire display.

As the new girl found her seat, I noticed her strange gait. It was as if she bounced rather than walked, her legs springboards bending at strange, exaggerated angles. The shameful incident happened during P.E. two weeks later, when Coach Coates let us choose our own teams. This lapse in judgment spawned an extremely unbalanced matchup. Because the game was kickball, and I knew how to toe-poke rubber like no one's business, the first team chose me. It was downhill for the others from there. The more we succeeded, the grander my self-image became, just as it did when I made people laugh.

By the time Abigail's turn arrived at home plate, I was coasting on cloud nine. As she steadied herself for the incoming ball, I felt infallible. And when she missed the ball, lost her balance, and fell backwards onto the gravel, I nearly hacked up a lung with laughter, too elated to care how she felt. As her teammates helped her up and escorted her to the nurse, Mr. Awesome Kickball Champion seized the opportunity to imitate her blunder for everyone in the outfield, who all turned their faces but erupted in giggles. Even the reprimand to end all reprimands that followed did not kill my high.

Walking into art class a few hours later, I barely noticed Ms. Gustin's instructions for the day. Still feeling great, I cracked jokes and goofed around with Play-Doh. An hour later, my teacher shattered my thoughts by exclaiming, “Abigail, that is marvelous!” My head swiveled to a nearby table where most of my classmates had congregated. My curiosity won me over, and I stretched to peer over the crowd.

My stomach immediately sank.

The setting sun hung over a lake, casting hazy hues of pink and gold across the sky and over the glittering water. In the foreground rode Abigail atop a brown speckled horse. The sinewy curves in the horse's stride made her straight, slender figure elegantly simple in comparison. Although she rode toward the distant shoreline, her arms arms were held up and her head was tilted back, exposing her closed eyes and uncontainable smile.

It was not overdone. It was not tacky. It was art – genuine, poignant, stirring art – and it was beautiful, not “fourth grade” beautiful but “hanging framed in a gallery” beautiful. While I made vaguely recognizable clumps out of clay and basked in cruelty fueled self-importance, several seats away Abigail had humbly deconstructed my arrogance with her remarkable talent.

My bubble burst. All of the smiling faces in my mind soured one by one, reducing my ego to its rightful size. Back in the real world, someone scoffed. Mortified, I snapped my head toward the dissenter and met the eyes of friends, who, unaware of my inner turmoil, were smugly awaiting my snide comments.

I defied their expectations in the most fitting way possible: I cried, and I cried hard. I bawled out of immense shame and guilt. My sobs demanded to be heard – saving face was out of the question. The entire class watched my breakdown, and for once the almighty slander-slinger became the subject of ridicule.

Ms. Gustin hurriedly came to my aid and directed me outside, but not before I caught the smirks of my friends, who could not conceal their amusement. As for Abigail, I can't remember her expression. She had risen alone against me, and her ferocious meekness had slapped the bully from my bones.

In fifth grade, Abigail transferred to another school. I overheard the news of her departure as I had her arrival – in the teachers' gossip corner. Although she had been given a tuition break, her family just couldn't afford our school.

To most, Abigail was just the girl with the too-small shirts, the girl who never spoke, the girl with cerebral palsy. To a few, she was a beloved daughter, a trusted friend, a prodigious artist, an inspiration. But to me, Abigail was the embodiment of a hard-learned lesson in humility.

Abigail was my cure.

The author's comments:
For the past nine years this experience has served and continues to serve as my visceral lesson on the slippery slope of bullying in all its forms and magnitudes. I hope that it grants its readers the same self-awareness and respect for others it has given me.

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This article has 7 comments.

mplo said...
on Jan. 7 2016 at 9:28 am
This is a very good story, and it's a perfect example of how nastiness can and often enough will backfire on the perpetrator. As a woman in her mid 60's who still remembers all too well the almost constant ostracizing and being made fun of in school by other kids, I also remember friends and acquaintances telling me "They'll get theirs someday." Ironically, their predicament(s) came true: One of my tormentors (a boy in my grade) ended up a relentless alcoholic. Another one of my tormentors (also a boy in my grade) ended up a heroin addict who eventually served a jail sentence for stealing in order to obtain heroin. Still another tormentor, (a boy in my grade and math class) ended up with Alzheimer's disease and had to be put in a home by his two grown kids! This, of course, seems unrelated, but it's also a known fact that bullies, as well as their victims, are more likely to be involved with substance abuse later on in life. Alzheimer's--probably a coincidence. There's one thing I notice about the kid who ended up with Alzheimer's later in life, however: He was always loud, aggressive, and sometimes nasty, and he'd act rather weird, at times, earning him a reputation for being "soft" (which, when I was a kid growing up going to high school during the mid to late 1960's learned, was a term that was frequently used for somebody that was considered feeble-minded, or had a screw or two loose in the head, if one gets the drift.) even among the crowd that he hung out with. I still remember hearing a story about how the guy in my grade who ultimately ended up with a bad case of Alzheimer's disease ultimately beat the snot out of a smaller, younger boy who was a freshman just for rumpling his hair a little bit. Ever heard the expression "What goes around comes around"?. That's the lesson for this story. There's a Jewish proverb that says the following: "If one is kind to others, it will come back tenfold. If one is nasty to others, it will come back 100fold." That can and does have so much truth to it.

on Dec. 1 2015 at 10:52 pm
ColdplayForever BRONZE, San Jose, California
1 article 0 photos 62 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Coldplay fans are the best in the world. If you like Coldplay, then you're obviously very intelligent, good-looking, and all-around brilliant."
~Chris Martin

You are very brave to tell us all this. Beautifully written :~) SILVER said...
on Feb. 7 2014 at 8:22 pm SILVER, Los Angeles, California
5 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."- Eleanor Roosevelt

This was amazing! Very brave of you to express all of your feelings about this topic, and honest too. Great job.

on Jan. 18 2014 at 6:58 pm
_Tennessee_Love_ BRONZE, Easley, South Carolina
1 article 0 photos 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
¨the difference between promises and memories, is that we break promise and memories break us.¨

Wow! A good life lesson and a beautifully written story. Nice job! I love this peive. :)

on Dec. 9 2013 at 8:17 am
NDewayne BRONZE, Allegan, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 3 comments
I love the way that you had a moral at the end. It really captured my heart in showing how something so beautiful can change someone. Great job! :)

JRaye PLATINUM said...
on Dec. 5 2013 at 8:14 pm
JRaye PLATINUM, Dorr, Michigan
43 articles 10 photos 527 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you."

"Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, 'I just don't care.'?"

This is absolutely, completely amazing! I don't know what else to say - you're such a good writer! The moral here and the way to told this story was absolutely beautiful :) Keep writting!

Brisa PLATINUM said...
on Dec. 5 2013 at 4:45 am
Brisa PLATINUM, Wasilla, Alaska
20 articles 7 photos 38 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Si dan a tú papel alineado, escribas el otro camino."
"If they give you lined paper, write the other way"
-Juan Ramon Jiminez

Your style is vivid and entertaining, and I loved how you turned this small time span into something life-changing. Good work! :)