I duck my head and hold my books close to my chest hoping to go unnoticed.
“Hey fellows look who it is, city shitty,” the older boy chants. His words are mimicked by the group of boys with him. All of them are several years older than me.
He reaches out and knocks the books from my hands. I blink back tears. Like blood in the water, my weakness attracts more abuse. Like sharks they circle, chanting and touching, pushing and crowding, I gasp for breath, my heart racing, fear threatens to loosen my bladder.
“Hey, you boys, leave her alone and get on the bus,” the teacher orders.
I gather my books and smile in relief and appreciation at the teacher.
“You need to toughen up, fight back,” he tells me.
I look up at him, six-foot tall and wide as a door. Tears blur my vision as I rush to the bus. I don’t know how to fight.
I squeeze past the boys standing in the aisles. They turn to face me, blocking the seats up front where I like to sit. The move their hips suggestively and laugh at my discomfort.
“Whew, what is that I smell?”
“I bet she pissed her pants.”
I hadn’t, at least not yet.
“Nah, I bet she’s just creamed her jeans.” He stroked my arm moving close to my undeveloped breast.
Chill bumps pebble my arms. There’s a tingling in my chest and a fluttering in my tummy. I shift sideways and push past the bullies.
“Leave her alone guys or I’ll kick you off the bus,” the bus driver, a high school boy, shuts the door and eases into the lineup. “Take your seats before we get wrote up.”
Perching on their seats, they look back to where I sit just in front of the black kids who huddle at the back of the bus. “Do you know what a carpenter’s dream is?”
“A girl flat as a board.” The boys laugh.
One of the black girls, I don’t know her name, whispers, “Don’t let them know they hurt you.”
Her sister tells her to stay out of it. “If they’re picking on her they’re leaving us alone.”
“Just keep your head down and ignore them,” the girl continues to whisper.
I nod and open my book, loosing myself in reading.
The boys continued their jokes. “I think she might be a Pirate’s girl.”
The boys laughed in reply, “A sunken treasure.”
I didn’t understand half of what they were talking about and that makes it easier to ignore them.
The bus makes several stops, the girls behind me rise. We’re on the road to my house. I glance up as they pass and the girl who looks close to my age smiles at me. I return the smile. I’ll ask my daddy who they are when he gets home.
Just a few more stops and I’m almost home. I rise and gather my things.
The older boys stand up and lean out of their seats. One of them grabs my hands and puts it on the fly of his jeans. I snatch my hand away and stumble from the bus. I hear the bus driver threatening the boy but know nothing will happen. Nothing ever does.
I wish him dead.
He is killed in a car accident a few years later, I cannot mourn him. In truth, I am thankful he is gone. Over forty years later and I still feel the fear and shame, bullying has lasting effects.
When my grandson complained of being bullied, my first reaction was to tell him to toughen up, fight back, don’t let them see your pain. What is the answer to dealing with a bully? I still have trouble standing up for myself, being brave, finding my voice. I believe, that is why I write.