It was never one on one and I could no longer just try to defend myself…I had to think of something to get out of the fights. Being outnumbered the way I was…I knew that I had to find another way. The fights …and hiding continued through 4th grade and that is when I finally figured that if I could not beat them, I’d have to find a way to join them. I spent that summer trying to figure out a way to make everyone like me …or at least put up with me.
Mid summer, it came to me. Now, I had 5 brothers and sisters and at home, I was a pretty funny guy and I also found that I had the ability to “change.” I could adjust my attitude and personality to fit well with the person that I was with. I spent the rest of the summer honing my chameleon-like skills…as well as my humor. It was going to be all or nothing this year. I could not continue hiding bruises, bloody nooses and fat lips on top of lying about the cuts and scrapes that I had gotten used to over the past few years.
At the arrival of the first day of 5th grade, I was waiting for the bus with my brothers and sisters. I was overrun with anxiety about the day ahead of me. With the recent years of practice I had become a pretty tough kid, but there was only so much I could do while outnumbered. I got frustrated, thinking of how I might be able to avoid the impending beatings that day. Just then, the bus pulled up. After watching my siblings hurry onto the bus and find seats with their friends, I realized that once again I would have to sit alone in the back seat.
Staring out the window, seeing a miserable little boy in the reflection in the glass, I knew that I had to change things…NOW. Hearing the laughter and fooling around in the seats in front of me made the silence and solitude of the back seat that much more intense. The 20 minute ride to school usually seemed like an eternity, but that day …it was different. By the time the bus pulled up in front of the school the reflection that I saw in the window had changed …to one resembling that of a scientist discovering the cure for a deadly disease. I had an idea and with all of the courage that I could muster…would try it today.
Making my way down the long corridor to class, I noticed the usual dirty looks, snickering and racist comments following me as I walked. I quickly took refuge in my classroom, which was empty for the moment. I sat at a desk and put more thought into the details of my plan. Smiling to myself, I was startled when the door opened again. It was Mrs. Brooks, my new teacher. As she walked in and closed the door, she looked over at me and greeted me with a smile and “good morning.” After putting her things down at her desk, she turned and asked me if everything was OK. Now I knew Mrs. Brooks from last year…she was one teacher that had always treated me fairly…and now I was going to ruin that. I, trying to hide the unfamiliar mischievous smile on my face, told her that everything was fine.
Just then, letting my eyes move back down to their normal position…staring at the front of my desk, as to not attract any unwanted attention. I watched as the other kids in the class started to file into the small classroom. All of the chatter and moving around ceased as Mrs. Brooks rose from her desk. My anxiety was high and I know that I was sweating profusely. I was lost in my own head, trying to decide when I should put my new plan into action.
I knew that my attitude change could not be too drastic – I needed this to work. After about 15 minutes, I found my first opportunity for my plan to start. After the class was done reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the class was silent, waiting for our teacher to sit down and prepare for class. All of the sudden a fart erupted and echoed throughout the entire room. The whole class began to burst out into laughter…all except Mrs. Brooks. As the other kids in the class saw the extremely irritated look in her eyes, there were suddenly about a dozen fingers pointed directly at me.
Mrs. Brooks marched through the classroom and stood over me, with her hands on her hips. The look on her face was one of complete disgust and anger. This was a new side of her…one that I had never seen before. Her daunting presence gave off a very unfamiliar air of unemotional superiority from her…which was far different than the empathy and safety that I had felt …until now. Mrs. Brooks instructed me to stand up. As I did, she barked, “Why did you do that? It disrupted the entire class.” My planned response, an attempt to make my classmates laugh again – “I only burped…it just came out of my ass.”
Mrs. Brooks grabbed me by the back of my neck, obviously not worried about the fingernails that were working their way beneath my skin. She stormed me down the hall to the principal’s office. Upon entering the outer office, Mrs. Brooks informed the secretary that I had disrupted the class and was being vulgar and rude. On her way out the door, she glanced over her shoulder and added, I don’t want to see him in my classroom until after lunch.”
The secretary pointed to a row of hard wooden chairs across from her desk and instructed me to “sit.” She then quickly picked up her phone and whispered something …while glaring at me. Perched atop one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs, my eyes surveyed the room. There was a mixture of pictures, certificates and school rules pined to the textured walls. Until now…I had never noticed anything about this office…I had been here before, but generally stared at the floor. Time seemed to stand still, but it was really only a matter of minutes before the phone buzzed. The secretary looked at me and said, “He’ll see you now.”
The Boy and the Pine Forest - One day, his parents drove him several hours outside of the city and the place that he knew as home. They passed by meadows, farms and forests on the way t...