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A Bittersweet Tale
I remember those days when I used to laugh. Laugh without worries or cares or fear of reproach. Laugh like Santa Clause was the one who came to bring me presents Christmas Eve. Laugh like the tooth fairy really did give kids quarters for each pulled tooth they religiously put under their pillow. And laugh like he didn't one day simply forget my precious tooth because of his fictional schedule. I lived in a world of naïveté; unaware my childhood was sown with generic lies. I was a child living in ignorant bliss and—unbeknownst to me—headed toward the hated destination: maturity. Yet, like the first taste of winter after months of sweet fall, the change was inevitable. I guess I should thank the person who pushed me straight into the flames of adolescence.
I woke up with a start. Beads of sweat that dangled like jewelry adorned my forehead and neck. What was that? I thought to myself; quickly pushing the dream aside for fear that my traumatized mind would actually give me an answer. I got up to brush my teeth—mentally closing the doors of my memory as well as those to the bathroom.
That was at five in the morning.
By 6:10 I was on the darkened bus headed for every child’s dream: middle school. My whole body shivered from the thought and I sank further into a miserable state of mind. To keep from crying I brought out a book and, even in the dim light, forced myself to read.
After another somber stop, the melancholy ride resumed itself until we finally reached our destination. I looked up from reading my book as the bus suddenly jarred to a stop. Dread settled in my bones and my heart began to race. We were there—at the school. Even if I hadn't looked, I would've known. But—madly—I did, and the sight made me cringe; for it was a monstrously depressing structure. A cold wave of misery washed over me as I realized that this was where I would be getting off. Dejectedly, I slowly rose from my seat and steeled myself for the immediate change that would result from leaving my safe haven.
As I walked off the bus, I noticed a kid staring at me. It was a guy who didn't ride the bus often but always seemed to be there when it broke down, as if he personally reveled in the delayed arrival that resulted, which I can’t say that I would begrudge him for. Needless to say, I stopped walking and stared the kid back; possibly making the costliest mistake I could've made that day.
As an eighth grader, I had survived by one simple rule of conduct: to remain as transparent as possible—never looking trouble in the face in hopes of avoiding its deathly jaws of misfortune. Every semblance of my strict code was irrevocably shattered as I stared boldly on into the eyes of a kid I barely knew. Our strange contact was broken only by the dull realization that we were the only ones left on the bus. With a last glance of defiance I walked off the bus and through the doors of my Middle School.
I can’t say that I remember much of what occurred on October 6, 2009; but I do recall feeling the day pass in an excited rush of expectation until, finally, it was over. School had ended and I could go home—joyfully I might add. I walked through the hallways with belated happiness; only faintly aware that I was still within the walls of a tragic setting.
When I got to the cafeteria I saw a table full of kids from my bus and headed in that direction. As I got nearer I noticed one of the tables was occupied by a kid I’ll respectfully refer to as Lips. The moment I saw him, he looked up as if my glance had somehow attracted his attention. I nearly laughed at the sight of the bulbous balloons that floated immensely beneath his nose; but all that escaped was a tuneful cough. I dodged the mean look of recognition he gave in response and continued walking. That was about as far as my brave eyes would go; darting rapidly about, they avoided his stare like a bird would dodge bullets during hunting season. By now, I was anxious and scared and I knew that the longer I continued my solo journey to my seat, the longer his discerning stare would pierce my jubilant state.
I had almost reached sanctuary when it happened. A quick movement and I found a chair blocking my path, separating me from a secluded peace. My eyes could no longer avoid the two sets of black orbs that now faced me. As they met his, Lips let out a snicker.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He asked.
“Heading to my seat. Please move.” I hated the contrast that appeared between our voices. Lips sounded like a seasoned bully while I echoed the voice of a strangled cat.
In response, Lips casually leaned back, head bent, so it looked like his mouth was frantically struggling to unite itself with the irresistible entity that was the ceiling. This gesture gave me my answer. There was no other way around it: I would have to walk through the minute gap Lips had left between his chair and the adjacent table.
Lips noticed my quick glance at the space, smirked, and scooted his chair further back. It was just what he wanted—for me to be humiliated by squeezing my not-nonexistent legs through the nearly imperceptible opening he had left for me to go through. I knew it was suicide but I shamefully forged on ahead: It took a full ten seconds and the deed was done. I walked straight to my seat about ten feet away, leaving behind the caustic remarks about my weight that shattered my already fleeting joy. It wasn't until I was in the confines of my seat that I realized that everyone from my bus was laughing. Laughing at me—my degradation. Bitter anguish engulfed me as I had another realization that no one had helped. Everyone had thought it perfectly appropriate to turn my pain into a joke, but not a single person had had the sense to stick up for the prey, for me. No, they just sat by and joined in for the kill. I was dead meat for a hungry pack of lions.
Of all the lessons to be learned that day, this was the one that stood out to me the most. That humans are exactly what they seem: Hungry, vicious beasts. No frilly upsides, no Beauty and the Beast. No, just ugly monsters that devour. Finally I’d learned the truth. I had had a bout with reality and lost. Not just the fight, but my innocence as well. I was no longer the little girl enamored with princesses and Barbie dolls, but a girl—just a girl frightened by the truthful essence of life.