There’s been a lot of talk about what’s considered bullying, and I’ve even been recently accused of promoting bullying through my actions on YouTube, so I felt compelled to share this story I wrote in 11th grade for AP Lang about a bullying experience I went through. I’ve kept it personal for a while since it was very traumatizing for me, but maybe it’ll lend some perspective. I was 8 years old.
I’m walking down a sandy sidewalk, other children rushing past me as I stare down at my tattered, black sneakers. They make a satisfying crunch against the concrete with each step as they carry me forward. My jeans are tucked inside each shoe and one of the Velcro straps is undone, but I’m too preoccupied to care. Maybe today will be different. I have to hope that today will be different.
I look up and they loom before me. Long, metallic, and yellow, lined up row after row. Some display colorful cartoon drawings of different animals next to the large numbers by the doors. I immediately begin to sweat and the grip on my science textbook in my right hand tightens as I brace myself. My backpack, pulled high on my back, thumps me reassuringly with each crunch on the sidewalk. Either everything will be okay or everything will be over quickly. I look back down at my shoes as I walk the familiar path to my bus.
I start to climb the tall stairs and I hear a distant chanting mixed with squeals of laughter.
“F-A-G-E-T! F-A-G-E-T!” Oh no.
I glance at the bus driver as I climb, but she’s too absorbed in a romance novel to care. Her sanguine lips smack on chewing gum and her flyaway gray hair remains motionless as she neglects my pleading glances, imploring her to protect me since I refuse to protect myself. But nothing. My only ally, gone. I turn and the cover of the textbook pinches my palm as I squeeze tighter and make my way down the aisle.
The chanting continues and I feel them staring. Chubby cheeks and braces glare as they laugh at my expense. I walk down the aisle and choose a seat halfway back on the left. I slouch down as far as possible, trying to disappear within the seat, hoping to magically become invisible like the heroes in my books. But I remain. The chanting continues and a wet blob lands on the top of my head. I reach up and try to wipe the spit on my jeans, trying to remain as unnoticeable as possible. A few paper balls pelt me and I manage to mutter, “stop” but only loud enough for me to hear. Finally, after hours of waiting, the bus engine fires up and we begin the long trek home.
I’ve managed to stay hidden for the majority of the ride, for which I am thankful. I tempt fate and sit up to allow air to flow through my still damp hair and cool my overheated face. Bad move. As soon as I’m seen, the chanting begins again.
I glance over the seats towards the front and see my stop through the window, dragging ever closer. While the bus is in motion I start walking towards the front, to escape the jibes and jeers of the children behind me. However, the minute I stand I find myself landing on my stomach with a tremendous crash, sliding down the aisle. The bus driver has never approved of children standing when the bus is in motion, and she’s chosen to make an example of me by slamming on the brakes. Dirt and sand cover my outfit and coat my eyes and throat. My shoulder slams into a chair leg and my face slides over a shoe that has been stuck out in the aisle. A boot with metal clasps. One of the metal clasps tears through my cheek like scissors through paper. My face stings as tears well in my eyes and blood flows freely down my chin. Suddenly, sounds flood my ears and I’m overcome with an eruption of laughter surrounding me. I glance up to see fingers pointing and children sneering as I lay helplessly on the ground looking at the boot. “Kiss it!” the boy shouts, shoving the boot back in my face, but I’m momentarily distracted.
My textbook has fallen from my hands and lies on the spine, propped up by the same chair leg that broke my slide. It’s a new textbook, still glossy and vibrant green from little use. On its cover is a tree frog, the large eyes red and protruding and boring into mine. In that brief moment, I feel a rush of gratitude for the frog. He understands what I’m enduring and I can read it in his eyes: pity. Apologies cover his face and his sympathy gives me the strength to get up.
I can no longer hold my emotions back. Sobs heave from my chest as my green eyes swim in tears. Clenching my book to my chest, I run from the bus and sprint through my yard to the front door.
Fresh air rushes into my chest. I slow my pace and let liberation take its hold, carefully holding my textbook close to my heart. I glance down at the frog, his face now emotionless and stoic, but still I mutter, “thank you.”
Bullying is a serious issue, maybe more serious than you think. If you’re going through similar situations, know that you’ve never been alone.