“Courage is fire, bullying is smoke”
If that weren’t true my lungs wouldn’t have been reduced to smoking piles of ash long ago. Everyday I would inhale this foggy cloud; breathe it in, almost choking on what was left of my life that hadn’t been diminished or ridiculed – yet. Taunts would follow me everywhere, as if invisible shackles held me to the life I so wanted to forget, and thwarted my futile attempts at doing so.
Nothing could make me forget. It was as if the mocking laughs, leers, taunts and glares had been branded into my memory, still prominent and conspicuous as if I wasn’t allowed to be unaware of my anguish. It was that night that I finally came to terms with what was happening to me; I finally called it what it was, but I still didn’t confront it.
Bullying…and I couldn’t stop it.
Late for class: again. Trying to sprint while appearing to stroll calmly through the corridors was a skill I had managed to perfect just for moments like these. Devising a route through school had been homework over the holidays for me, to avoid the bullies, to make the bullying assaults come down to a bare minimum. I knew they wouldn’t stop, I wasn’t that stupid. But I had forgotten to consider timings.
Before I had time to blink, a sickening crunch broke the silence, the appalling sound of my ribs cracking no doubt, as I was hurled against the lockers repeatedly. My locker – the one with stringy, chewed gum stuck upon it and my name along with vulgar words meant to cause mental pain; scrawled roughly across the dented metal from a constant weight being shoved against it – me.
“Oh, I’m sorry, does that hurt?”
My breathless gasp was more than enough to reveal the answer, but not sufficient.
“I asked you a question, does it hurt?” He took the trouble to pronounce each word separately, as if I could not understand plain English, while planting a sharp punch to my unprotected stomach. Instinctually I fell to my scabbed, bleeding knees, cradling his target, attempting to cushion the blow to no avail.
“Yes,” escaped my bruised lips in a tedious monotone. “Yes it hurts” It sounded as if I was a broken wound up toy, disappointing and just capable of echoing one syllable replies.
“Good,” was hissed maliciously in my swollen ear, followed by a fountain of spit. “Pain will teach you a lesson and don’t you ever forget who your superiors are, loser.”
An enthusiastic round of applause greeted his remark. Jake O’Malley was never seen without his crowd of supporters and what better place to demonstrate his power at the best spectacle of all?
“Show Jake some respect, stupid!”
“Does fatty need a lie down?”
Stupid, fatty and loser were their favourite and most common nicknames for me. They were not creative or original, but that did not stop me feeling as if a blade was being driven repetitively into my body when jeered at. I want to say that I was immune to the pain, the pain of never fitting in, as I had never done so from a young age. But I wasn’t, and to be frank, I don’t think you ever get over the fact that you are always on the outside looking in forever to be unwanted and despised by your peers.
Bullying was forbidden at my school, but students did it anyway. I think it’s because when kids are given boundaries they feel obliged to test them, in order to prove their superiority.
“I bet that if you shove her over, she would just bounce back up!”
Being fat wasn’t something I could control. Since my father left our family six years ago, my mother gave me things I wouldn’t have had otherwise, in return for not having a father figure in my life. It was comfort eating I suppose, and trust me, it was crucial for me to have some form of comfort.
Suddenly, I was aware of the fact that the suffocating pressure which had been forcing me to the foot trodden floor of the school corridor was gone. Confused, yet elated I scrambled to my unsteady feet, ignoring the pounding wave of dizziness that washed over me. No-one was in sight.
My eyes were instantly drawn to the battlefield and already I caught sight of this beating’s damage - as my bag had been torn apart, the contents scattered over the corridor. Books detached from their covers were submerged in the remains of a Coke can, their spines sagging in sweeteners. What remained of my lunch had been savagely consumed, their packaging discarded, but my phone lay suspiciously intact and looked out of place among the damaged remains.
With no time to speculate more on why they would leave a second hand technology brick unharmed, I gathered my belongings and raced off to class before anyone noticed my absence.