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If Only I Had...
You may not believe me, but I really do remember everything.
You may think I’m about to tell my story of being a victim of bullying, but I’m not. Today, I’m going to share the message of a special person named Sam.
Sam and I were on and off friends during seventh grade. She was one of those girls who plucked their eyebrows way too much and wore shorts in the winter. You’d either love her or hate her.
I decided that I didn’t want to be friends with her after there were rumors that she had sex with this jock in the locker room before lunch. I don’t really know why it bothered me; it turned out that it was just another chain of gossip, but I was so sucked into rumors that I didn’t want anything to do with her.
Nobody could tell you if she was popular or not. She hung around the “right” people, and she even called herself one of them, but I would hear the things they’d say about her when she wasn’t around.
“Sam’s a slut.”
“Sam looks like she doesn’t have eyebrows.”
“Did you hear? Her boyfriend’s going to dump her. I don’t blame him.”
“I sure wouldn’t want trash like that hanging around me, either.”
It was hard to hear these things because we used to be friends. It even harder knew that we weren’t friends anymore, and now, she was on her own.
Sam acted like it didn’t bother her. She’d keep her head high, and walk straight past her tormentors. Every day, I would stand and watch when they would call her nasty names.
I never did anything. I was too cowardly.
I’d check my Twitter feed. During that time, the only things I’d see were arguments going back and forth between Sam and her bullies.
“At least I keep my legs closed.”
“I didn’t do anything with him!”
“You’re so fake that even Barbie wouldn’t be your friend.”
“Leave me alone or I’ll block you, alright?”
Soon, her popular friends had turned completely against her. She stopped coming to school, and when she did, Sam kept her head low.
Meg DaVita shoved Sam into a locker. David Orphidice stole her gym clothes. Clara Blazer kicked the books out of her arms. Brian Michaels made inappropriate gestures at Sam in the hallway. Soon, she stopped talking to people.
This is how math class would go.
“Sam, do you have your homework?” She wouldn’t even look at Mr. Boundy. She just shook her head. “This is becoming a pattern. If you fail to turn in your homework, you’ll have to repeat the course.” Then everybody would just start snickering.
My mother and I carpooled Sam to cheerleading practice. We used to have so much fun together. We would look at her phone and watch funny videos, or gossip about who-likes-who. Now, she just got in our car and looked out the window.
One night, I was out with my friend Lauren at the town center with a bunch of other kids from my school. They were all the kind of kids you’d get in trouble with, but since I was with Lauren, I thought it would be ok.
We were having frozen yogurt when we saw her come around the corner.
Sam was with her mom, and they were stopping by the yogurt place to get a to-go pack. Lauren and her other friends started snickering and saying stuff like,
“Damn, we better book it. Look who’s here.” I couldn’t believe the nerve. Lauren told me to take my yogurt and we were going to get out of the shop. I felt horrible, running away from Sam like that. There was a time when I would have greeted Sam with a hug and had yogurt with her, and everybody would have sat together and had fun. It was really disturbing how quickly we all ran out of there.
Anyways, we were too late. I was delayed just enough to see Sam’s face fall as she saw us leave.
It only got worse.
“Skank!” Julia Jackson shouted after Sam while she was leaving the bathroom. All I could think was how stupid I was for not saying anything.
I can’t even tell you how many times Sam and her mother would show up in the administrative office, carrying pages and pages of endlessly nasty comments that showed up on Sam’s Twitter and Facebook. And I also can’t even tell you how many times our principal blew it off.
Eventually, I left my middle school to attend a school in Utah. I forgot about Sam and my disgusting bystanding, until I received a letter in the mail one winter afternoon of the eighth grade.
Hi! This is Sam P. How are you? Your mom told me where you were so I wanted to say hi.
I moved to another part of town, over in Ashburn. I’m going to a school there, so I left our last school. It’s so much better here. I haven’t made any friends, but it’s better than what I went through a few months ago. Maybe these kids will leave me alone. Wouldn’t that be nice? Anyways, I wanted to say hello and I hope you’re doing alright as well. Love, Sam.
I felt sick when I read the note. Although I was happy she was at a different school, Sam deserved so much more than just people “leaving her alone”. She deserved friends. How could I have stood there and watched people stampede all over her? I could have done something. But instead, I chose cowardice and became a bystander. Yes, it would have been hard. But I could have stood up for her.
So if you only get one thing out of this, just know that you can make a huge difference. You can be the difference between someone falling apart and someone being strong.