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Everyday, I wear a headband. It fits just behind my ears and consists of light pink material with a continuous pattern of imprinted white bows. There is no such thing as a conflicting color scheme with my outfit. The female stylistic traits I guess I’m supposed to possess have flown out the window long ago.
Everyday, I go to school. I take advanced classes because I have “a high potential for academic success” - but really, I just work hard. I’m one of those kids who has nothing going for them, so good grades is the only option if I want to get out of high school. Or go to college. Which ever way you choose to look at it. It’s just a continuous stream of education anyways.
And everyday I’m called names. Some are unoriginal and would actually be quite humorous in a way if I weren’t the victim of their assault. Others are pure attacks. And others are actual attacks, the ones that leaves scars and bruises. Whoever defied that old saying and said that words hurt more than sticks and stones should go through said experience, and see if they still agree with that statement.
Today is, of course, no different, although there’s still that small flicker of light inside me that longs for some unique individual to draw their eyes from the floor and give me a look. That’s it - just a look. One without antagonization and negative judgement. A smile, if I’m lucky. A wave, if I’m in a parallel universe where people aren’t in denial of their cruelty and you’re allowed to have pizza for breakfast.
Like usual, I saunter through the big glass double doors that the person one foot in front of me slammed shut (“courtesy” is not a thing in the twenty-first century). The hallways are quiet and wide, something clearly contradicted in every 80’s movie (cough-cough John Hughes).
I glance at my watch - phones always end up breaking, don’t deny it - and find I’ve walked through the door at exactly seven-thirty. And so it begins.
There are destination points that I set up for myself, creating a continuous cycle of point A’s and point B’s in my life. For example, the door to the classroom at the corner of hallway E; that’s one that I’ve made it through. My next point is my locker.
I’ve gone through four and a half destination points before the first attack happens, which is a new record for me. Woo hoo. Usually I only make it through two or three.
“Watch it, --------” H.R. sneers at me.
I know every person’s name in this school and yet I know nobody. So, because I don’t actually know anybody well enough - or they don’t like me well enough - to call them by their actual first names, I’ve taken to calling people by their initials. H.R. stands for Helen Rox, who isn’t actually popular but attracts everybody’s attention because of her overly large chest and massive amount of barren skin. If only people realized that tight shorts and v-necks only attracted the attention of boys who think with another body part other than their eyes.
The dashes symbolize words that could be repeated like they are every second of every day, but I have too much self-respect to type.
She shoves me and I stumble a little, but keep on my feet. While she stalks off, I stand there, trying to regain my composure. I do this thing, where I close my eyes and imagine the past experience. And then I enfold it in this white box and picture it shooting off into another dimension that holds a million more. I do this over fifty times a day.
It all started from this headband. Not that I’m angered at all; I will wear it to my death. One girl - I don’t even remember her name now - made some crack about how I was a high school junior wearing a four-year-old accessory. Ever since then, the teasing grew more serious and more painful. Now, a “compliment” is no longer a part of my vocabulary.
It’s all so ridiculous. The word ridiculous is just ridiculous. Everything is just ridiculous.
I’m at my locker. J.M. and S.T. laugh and walk away after slamming my locker shut on my hand. A teacher is standing at his door as he watches. We make eye contact for three seconds. He turns away back into his classroom. My hand throbbing, I finish packing my materials inside my backpack and close the door gently. My hand is already turning faintly purple.
I walk to my first class, which is Advanced Placement Chemistry. We’re on our eleventh lab and it’s only four weeks into the school year.
I don’t have a lab partner. Yes, people dislike me that much.
“Settle down, class,” Mr. Devins says (I know my teachers pretty well, as depressing as that sounds - we’re on a first name basis). The class is already dead quiet, so we stare at him from our lab tables; me, all alone, and everybody else, with partners.
“We have a new student,” he says loudly, gesturing elaborately to a tall, skinny kid behind him. The kid wear’s plain blue jeans, a plain black shirt, a plain backpack, and plain glasses. He’s not particularly what I would label “hot”, nor is he unattractive. If average were a person, then viola! There he is.
“This is Adrian,” introduces Mr. Devins. “We’re doing a lab today. Why don’t you go sit with...” his eyes scan the classroom until they land on my horrified ones. “Ah, Miss Smith. She’s at the far corner.” He points to me, and Adrian slowly shuffles over. “Okay, class, continue the lab from yesterday. Get to work.” He resumes texting on his phone. That pretty much embodies the life of all my teachers.
As Adrian walks over, people snicker. To my horror, as he sits across from me, he glances up at my headband and raises his eyebrows at them.
“Nice headband,” he says quietly.
I swallow. “Um.”
“Where’d you get it?”
“What, is she five or something?”
“No, she’s dead.” I say flatly. Then, because I can’t resist to make him feel guilty, I add, “Or something.”
He stares at me, eyes wide but void of emotion. Of course, I immediately feel guilty.
“Oh.” He says, then looks down.
It slowly dawns on me that I’ve never told anyone about her, my sister. It also occurs to me that nobody else asked about me, or her, or my headband. And it finally occurs to me that he meant no malice in asking; he was just trying to make conversation.
This is the problem with me. And the world. We’re a continuous circle; the world makes me view it negatively, and so I do, which makes the world view me negatively. It never ceases.
“I’m sorry,” he says quietly, glancing back up at me.
Wait a second.
This kid is looking at me like... like he’s actually sorry.
Like he’s confident in his answer.
Like he - like he wants to help me.
“Don’t be,” I say, choking a little. I swallow again, and this time, I’m the one who looks down.
“Aw, look, guys! A BOY is talking to it!” M.W. suddenly gasps behind me. The people surround her start guffawing loudly, mock gagging. I’m grateful my back is to this pointless torture.
“Hey!” Adrian snaps sharply, so much so that my head jerks up, startled. He’s staring behind me with a look that might as well be disintegrating the people behind me on the spot. “What’d she ever do to you?”
“Just... look at her! She’s a ----!” M.W. continuous, drawing more laughs.
“Why?” Adrian presses. “How?”
“She’s - she’s so ------! I mean, just look at her -------headband!”
“How does that make her entire physique unattractive? And if you ask me, that headband completely compliments her - don’t bag on her just because you look like a ----.”
The class goes dead silent. Literally. I seriously cannot hear a thing.
I stare at Adrian. It takes me a moment to realize my mouth is open, and I snap it shut. The sound is so loud that I wince, waiting for a snark comment.
It never arrives.
And slowly, the class goes back to working, like nothing ever happened.
It’s funny, how quick something can happen. One moment, I’m miserable; and the next, I’m simply, well, not. It’s like life is made up of all these little chain links, and endless amount that only comes together at the very end when we’ve come in a full circle, when we can look back and say that it’s complete.
This one link, this moment right here and right now, is the piece that I needed.
I can finally break free of my chain.
I am unbroken.