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Never stop fighting
Author's note: I was inspired by the fact that I get bullied quite often and I wanted inspire other people going though the same thing.
I walked the halls but no one saw me. I screamed but no one heard. I was insignificant to those around me. I wondered if others hidden behind the same veil as me could hear the echoes of my cries. High school was a trial that tested the strengths and weakness of its students as it prepared them for the "real world". Though, to those in high school nothing could be more real than the torment they faced everyday. Personally, high school was like a perpetual waiting place, eventually you'd be given the opportunity to leave, to move wherever life takes you next. Or you'd stay forever waiting for high school to just be over.
On the news you hear stories of teenagers ending their lives because they got tired of waiting. High school drained their souls and before anything good ever happened to them, they ended it all. High school was full of people who used these teenagers to fuel their happiness. People who are cruel because that's all they know how to be. Most never think about the effect of words on a person. How you can build someone up or push them down with a single word. Then there are those who watch from a distance and tell themselves they would help but no actions are carried out. There are people who see the pain but choose to ignore it. Or see it and choose to throw wood into the fire and watch it burn.
I am Angel Bruce and I am hidden. I am hidden behind the names and insults slung at me in the halls. I am hidden behind a wall society built for people like me. I didn't wear name brand clothes or shoes. I wasn't particularly beautiful and I'd never had a boyfriend. My family and I lived in a trailer and shopped at Salvation Army.
In high school everything matters and if you weren't like everyone else, you were bullied. My first day of my sophomore year I met Jamie Taser. She was a beautiful junior dating the senior quarterback. She was both idolized and hated by every girl in the school. When she moved it seemed everything repositioned around her. On my first day I walked in and kept to the edges trying to not be noticed. Then in walked Jamie who ran straight into me. I moved away quickly as I apologized for standing in her way, but it made no difference, the damage was done.
"God, you stupid whore! Don't you know how to stay out of people's way?" She yelled as she straightened her skirt.
Without a word from me, she stomped away in anger. I knew that wasn't the end, in high school that was just the beginning.
Jamie made it her goal to follow me everywhere and torment me. She made fun of my weight even though I was on the verge of anorexia. She told me how I would never amount to anything. She'd write ugly, slut, and loser across my locker. I'd find notes in my bag from her telling me how horrible I am. She'd send me Facebook messages and tell me how I'd always be alone and that no one would ever love me. She told everyone that I slept with her boyfriend, earning me my very first label in high school: the school slut. It didn't matter that I was still a virgin because no one called Jamie a liar.
The farther the rumor spread the more hated I was. Random guys would shove into me or ask for sexual favors. One day a few guys decided to push me around and pull at my clothes as joke. I had never felt more degraded and humiliated as they called me names and told me I deserved it. They never touched me but I was afraid to be alone after that. I cowered in the halls and stuck the walls so no one would see me.
Most people ignored me, but not Jamie. She wasn't done with me yet. One day after school I decided to walk home. A block from my house, her and her friends came out of no where. I could tell by the way that they looked at me; they had been waiting. They began to circle me as they sang out insults. One girl began to push me around and it began a game of human pinball. It ended as I crashed against the ground with a crack. Blood oozed down my forehead as I groaned from the impact. It was a minute before the first bout of pain exploded in my side. A girl had kicked me with her cleats. The others waited for her to pull out her foot from my side before they all joined in. I lost track of time as they assaulted my body. All the pain began to mesh and I couldn't tell one thing from the other. Until my rib broke under the pressure of all the kicking. I screamed in agony as Jamie leaned down to whisper, "Why don't you just die."
I laid there forever before I had the strength to crawl back home. My mother was sitting on the couch when I fell into the house. Her eyes widened in shock as she took in all the blood and dirt. She helped me to the kitchen and began to clean my wounds. She was gentle but I still cried in pain as she began to scrub. She started with my forehead and wiped away the blood until all that was left was a small gash above my brow. She pressed her lips into a thin line as she applied a white winged bandage to the gash. She slowly worked her way down until she reached my side. She gagged at the sight of the small holes from the girls cleats. Tears filled her eyes as she began to clean me up. She took a huge white bandage and wrapped my side several times and then wrapped my rib cage. When she was done she looked me in the eye and I could see the worry.
"Will you tell me?" She asked as she held my hand.
I wanted to tell her everything but I knew it would only get worse. So instead of answering I looked away and slowly began walking to my room. I could hear her sigh and slump into her chair but she didn't bother stopping me. I wanted to pretend it never happened, to pretend someone loved me. So instead of telling her I laid in bed alone with only pain for company as I dreamed of a better life.
The next morning I woke up in more pain then I had ever been in and I was almost tempted to just stay in bed. It wasn't long before I forced myself out of bed and slowly began to get ready. As I limped around my room I began to think about what Jamie had said. I began to wonder what it would be like to just die, to escape the torment, and be free. This was the first time I had ever considered death. I even began to wonder why I was still alive.
My mom decided to drive me to school that day and we rode there in silence. I could tell she wanted to ask but she refrained from pushing me. When she dropped me off I could hear the sadness in her voice as she said I love you.
On the way to my locker I decided to skip first hour and waited until the bell rang to slip into the nearest bathroom. I stood before a mirror and looked at my reflection. I stared at my black eye, then my busted lip, then the gash above my eyebrow. I looked horrible and felt just as bad. I winced as I raised my hand and ran it through my hair. I used to beautiful before I entered high school. My mom used to sing me songs about how beautiful I was and spin me in circles until we both fell over from dizziness. That was before my father passed away and I started high school. The force with which we pushed each other away seemed to build a permanent wall between us. I looked in the mirror and watched as tears fell from the corners of my eyes.
I was so caught up I hadn't heard anyone enter the bathroom. A hand rested on my shoulder jerked me out of my pain. It was my teacher, the one teaching the class I was supposed to be in. She offered me a small smile.
"I figured I'd find you here."
I didn't know what to say or do so I just stared at the floor. She was my english teacher, slightly eccentric but one of the strongest women I'd have ever met. She had scars lining her arms, most would have hid them or had them removed. She didn't. She said they were her battle wounds, her proof that she had made it through hell and was still alive. No one knew her exact story but you could tell by the way she carried herself that it must have been some story.
"I'm sorry I skipped your class," I coughed trying to ease the how awkward I felt.
"How's your heart?" She asked.
"What do you mean?" I asked wondering what kind of turn is conversation would take.
"Is it still beating?"
"Well um, yeah of course," I laughed trying to understand.
"Ah, and your lungs? Are they working properly?"
"Well yeah," I answered slowly.
"So you're still alive?"
"That's a ridiculous question!" I yelled getting impatient.
"Is it really? Your eyes hold no light, you carry yourself as if inside you've died. So is it really a ridiculous question? Have you died already?"
"You wouldn't understand..." I started.
"Wouldn't I? I've been here. I know how slowly pain can kill a person. But you're not even fighting."
"How can you say that? I fight everyday just to keep going!"
"No you drag yourself around, and let others trample you. You don't fight the pain you let it win. You have stopped living."
"I get up every morning and fight just to get myself out of bed. I fight to walk these halls. How has the pain won?"
"The pain wins when you stop smiling, when you stop laughing, when you forget how it feels to be happy. No one can can help you. You have to want it and fight for it. You can't just wade through life!" She cried, "You can't let them win because then they will never stop."
If I had to pinpoint an event that altered my life completely it would be the encounter with my english teacher. At first I dismissed what she had said and tried to forget it. I told myself that it wasn't true and that she had no idea what she was talking about. Things were different from when she was my age. How could she be right? I've been fighting my hardest. I'd fooled myself into thinking that even if I tried harder nothing would change.
I continued to hide behind my pain and skulk my way around the school. People continued to ignore me and Jamie kept up her torment. Every night for weeks I went to bed with only pain to comfort me. Until one day at the park I witnessed a group of girls beating on a single girl cowering no the ground. It reminded me of that awful day after school and suddenly I was angry. Without thinking I barreled towards them, my anger grew with each step and eventually it took control. I pushed into the group and began to kick and hit until the girls had run away. When my anger left I slid to the ground and cried.
It wasn't until I heard the girl whimpering that I stopped crying and slide over to her. I held her as I called the ambulance and waited for them to arrive, I wiped her hair out of her face and told her everything would be ok. It wasn't long before the ambulance showed up and began to take her away. Just before she left my arms I whispered, "Don't ever stop fighting. You are worth it."
After she was gone I went home and collapsed into bed and cried myself to sleep. When I awoke I knew my teacher had been right. I began to realize what she was saying and I promised myself I would fight until the end. I knew it was over the world would never be the same.
The next morning I slid out of bed and looked at myself in the mirror. On impulse I took my lipstick and wrote myself a note: Stay strong and never stop fighting. I stared at it for a minute before continuing to get ready for school. I wanted everyone to know I was changing so I tried a little harder with my hair, took a little longer on my makeup, and wore a dress. On the bus I sat a little taller despite the stares. I could hear them whispering my name but I kept fighting and never looked down.
During lunch that day a girl bumped into me and called me a whole list of obscene names. When she was done I took a deep breath and said, "I'm sorry." It took a minute for the shock to register. In huff she just stomped away and slowly began to breath again. Fighting was hard, I wasn't sure if I could do it but I would keep trying. In every class I raised my hand and participated in the class discussions. People began to notice me. I was no longer the quiet pushover. These were small victories but soon I'd win the war, I just knew it.
These small things were slowly rebuilding who I was. Some people came and talked to me others just stared from a distance. I had compliments on my appearance and some asked why they hadn't seen me around before. It was funny how I'd always been around, on the edges scraping by and no one knew I existed.
The real test came after school. The halls were empty and cold. There was an unusual silence that settled when all the students left. I slowly walked down the halls admiring how far I had come. My sophomore year had come to an end and I was glad to say goodbye. Down the halls always away stood Jamie Taser. She was cleaning out her locker and had yet to notice me. I walked up behind her and stood. It took her a minute to recognize my presence. I could see the shame in her eyes as she looked at me. I could see the regret and fear. It was weird to think my tormentor might be afraid of me, the I knew she was afraid of what she had done. I looked up and mustered all my strength and smiled.
"Jamie, I forgive you," I said and walked away, I could hear her slide to the ground and paused as her sobs echoed against the walls.
In that moment I let everything go, all my anger towards her, all the pain inside of me, and I finally let myself forgive her. I hoped that I had helped change her life.
From then on when I saw her in the halls she ignored me, but I could see her smile and know she had changed. I knew I couldn't change the dynamics inside my high school but it no longer felt like a prison holding my heart.
That summer sped by and soon so did my junior year. I continued to fight my war and I could see little things changing around me. I knew I couldn't change the dynamics of my high school but I knew it no longer felt life a prison holding my heart. I could walk the halls with confidence and there were times I ran into Jamie; she never spoke to me or acknowledged my existence but I could see in the way she smiled, she had changed. Overall there was less bullying because more people decided to take a stand.
As my school life began to change so did my home life. My mother's and I's relationship started to mend and we became close again. I never talked about what happened my sophomore year but that never seemed to matter since it was all over. We began to laugh and smile and dance again. Things were falling into place.
I became involved in many anti bullying events and started to speak with other people about what I went through during my senior year. Before I knew it my senior year was over and I looked back without regrets. I had learned so much and I knew that my fight wasn't over just because the school year was. When I walked onto the stage and accepted my diploma and smiled out into the audience I knew I had made it. My english teacher sat front row and clapped harder and louder than anyone else. She knew I not only survived high school but I had won the war. Afterwards she hugged me and when she let go she looked into my eyes.
"How's your heart?"
"Its beating," I smiled, " and I am still alive."
She cried and she pulled me back into her arms and whispered, "I am so proud of you."
Even after high school I still followed her advice and I built myself up into someone other people could look up to. Sometimes I wondered what had become of the girl I'd saved in the park. One day I got my answer. I had come home from speaking at a high school to find my phone ringing. When I answered I heard the voice of the girl from so long ago.
"I don't know if you remember me, but I haven't forgotten you. That day in the park you saved my life and I have thought of you as my guardian angel ever since. You turned my life around and I just wanted to thank you. You are such an inspiration to me."
At that point I knew why it was so important to keep going. I knew why life was worth living, knew my purpose.