Note: This is a self insert because I'm not going to pretend it isn't, and this semi-autobiographical story is about surviving bullying. The incidents I describe did actually happen to me(sans the Doctor, of course!). Names, occasional times of day and places are changed to preserve privacy, and for clarity's sake I gave made-up names to people whose names I forgot.
I've long since forgiven the people who did these things, but it took me almost two decades to reach that point.
This fic is dedicated to anyone who has been or is being bullied right now. I'm thirty three years old, and I almost committed suicide because of severe bullying back in the 1990's. "Bullycide" is not a new thing, but it is worse because of the internet. And if people are going to use the internet to hurt, then I'm going to use it to heal!
I hope this story reaches out to anyone thinking of suicide or self harm. I've been there, and I want you to realize you're not alone. It gets better, so hold on. You're going to make it through this. I care about you because YOU MATTER!
It Gets Better
I used to think I didn't matter. I believed I was worthless, useless and a waste of space. Then something incredible happened, and I realized the chain of experiences making up my teenage life had a purpose.
I became strong. I learned to forgive. I gained new compassion towards people going through the same misery I did.
My eyes traveled to my calendar. October seventeenth of the year twenty-twelve. A girl named Amanda Todd took her life one week ago. She was one of many teenagers torn apart inside by bullying both online and offline.
One child too many, in my mind. The saddest thing is, I knew exactly how she felt.
It was time to change that. Someone had to help soften the self-loathing caused by bullying and give those troubled kids a reason to keep living.
I'm that someone
The memories flooded my mind when I began to type. I closed my eyes and let everything surface while I wrote.
Anxiety knotted my stomach as I passed the threshold of my fourth period science class. The long, black tables were covered in graffiti scratches. I gingerly climbed onto my stool in the front. It was the first stool on the left-hand edge of the classroom, and the closest to the teacher's desk.
I wiped ineffectively at the red stains on my pink sweatshirt sleeves. Someone in my first period choir class had squeezed ketchup into my jacket's sleeves without my knowledge, and I didn't know what happened until I found ketchup all over my sweatshirt later. The only way to hide the stains was to roll up my sleeves and deal with the cold air because I didn't have time to clean the ketchup out of my jacket.
I also still smelled vaguely like ranch dressing, courtesy of the girls who hurled a salad at me yesterday. I don't think I washed it all out of my hair. The worst part was nobody came forward, so the vice principal decided not to punish anyone "over a salad." She didn't seem to care that it happened in front of a quarter of the student body and they were all laughing at me. Nobody offered to help me clean up. Nothing.
That was when I knew no one gave a damn about me and reporting these incidents didn't end the bullying.
So I stopped reporting things. Why bother when nothing ever got done to make the bullies stop hounding me? Ignoring them didn't work, standing up didn't work. I guess I had to sit there and take it. Why? Because everybody hated me, and I deserved the hatred for existing.
People always said I shouldn't let it get to me. That I needed to hold my head up high. Ha! How could I feel good about myself when everyone only noticed what I did wrong?
"Look at the shrimp sitting by the teacher's desk again," said the tall, dark haired boy who walked in after I'd seated myself. He took the stool next to mine, much to my annoyance.
"Get a life, Sean," I said in disdain. Abrasive comebacks were the only defense I had anymore.
Sean grinned, revealing his braces. His friends, two intimidating boys named Keith and Richard, took the stools across from me.
People were allowed to sit wherever they wanted in class as long as they answered the roll call. I always hoped getting in first and taking the spot closest to the teacher's desk would minimize the crap I got from Sean and his annoying friends.
Nope. They did it anyway.
"Look at her stupid Tinkerbell lipstick," said the African American girl sitting next to Keith.
I glared. "Shut up, Wendy." I took out the tube of coral pink lipstick to show her the label. "It's Maybelline."
"'It's Maybelline.'" Wendy mocked my snotty tone of voice. "Do you wear lipstick because you don't know how to put on makeup?"
"Her mommy won't let her wear more than lipstick," Richard snickered. "Won't do shit for her anyway. Plastic surgery can't fix that kind of ugly."
My head sank into my shoulders at their jeering. Sometimes I hid an eyeliner pencil in my backpack and tried to put it on after getting to school, but it never looked right. It didn't silence the jerks who made fun of me anyway, so why bother?
Further conversation was cut off by the tardy bell ringing.
"Hello, hello, hello, sorry, excuse me, ah!"
The British accented voice making its way up the center of the room wasn't Mr. Maxwell. I rolled my eyes and sighed. Great, a sub.
The substitute looked hardly older than a senior. He was tall and thin with long brown bangs that fell to one side of his forehead. His purple attire looked like something out of a Charles Dickens story.
Wendy snorted, "Look at this retard and his bow tie."
The sub stopped, squinted at her and raised both eyebrows-- what little of them he had.
"I like to wear bow ties. Bow ties are cool. Your nose is a bit big, but do you see me commenting? Oh, I just did."
Wendy's jaw dropped. I suppressed a snicker. Finally, someone who didn't take her crap!
"Moving on..." He clapped his hands together and held them clasped in front of himself, "Mr. Maxwell is ill, so I'm the boss in his absence. My name is Mr. Smith. John Smith if you want to know. So where are we-- wait, hold on, he left his notes right here on the desk. Ahh!"
"Who the hell is this guy?" Sean muttered.
"He's gotta be high," Richard whispered back.
Keith laughed. "Betcha he's a fag."
"Oh, no, no, smoking is awful." Mr. Smith straightened. "Oh, wait, I'm in America." He grinned at Keith. "Did I hear you say you're interested? Sorry. I'm married."
That time, I couldn't stifle a giggle. "Mr. Smith? Aren't you going to call roll?"
"Why? It's boring." Mr. Smith looked at the roll sheet and, in three seconds, he'd marked it off without calling any names. "Now, Mr. Maxwell's notes say we need to cover chapter three. I find working out of books a bit tedious, so let's do something cool."
"Did this guy fall off the short bus?" asked Lisa, the blonde girl sitting next to Wendy.
Mr. Smith leaned over the overhead projector. He switched it on and almost blinded himself. Half the class laughed.
"Ah, it's been awhile since I've seen one of these babies." He acted completely unbothered by the laughter. "Here we go. Here's your chapter outline."
Someone in the back groaned. "I thought you were going to show us something cool!"
"So did I, but the peanut gallery spoiled that for you. I'm going to sit at my desk and read the newspaper. You
all get to copy these notes and read chapter three until the bell rings."
"Nice going." I muttered at no one in particular.
"You're not serious!" Wendy balked.
"Watch me." Mr. Smith sat down in the rolling chair, put his feet up on Mr. Maxwell's desk and unfolded a newspaper I didn't recognize. I could have sworn it had tomorrow's date and a picture of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers on it, but I wasn't close enough to study it without being too obvious.
I got my science book out and opened it to chapter three. Then I spread out my pink binder to copy the contents of the overhead projector onto a piece of notebook paper.
"This sucks," Lisa whispered.
"No talking," said Mr. Smith.
Everyone worked in tense silence. I was halfway through taking my notes when a paperclip hit me in the cheek. Gasping, I grabbed it and hurled it back at its source before going back to work.
Moments later, I felt a spit wad lodge itself in my hair.
"Stop it, Sean!" I snarled.
Mr. Smith hardly crinkled his newspaper. "Silence, please."
I dug the spit wad out of my hair and resumed my note taking. Being a fast writer meant I was finished first and could focus on reading the chapter. Better to do now or over lunch than have science on top of math homework.
A person far across the room let out a loud belch. Mr. Smith offered no reaction to the noise or the giggles. Someone else croaked like a frog. I heard the faint crackle of a candy wrapper somewhere in the middle of the room.
Mr. Smith set his newspaper aside and wrote on something, but the pile of papers and books on the desk made it impossible to see what. He noticed me looking at him, winked and smiled. I shyly shifted my gaze to my science book. This chapter was about heavy metal elements.
The bell rang twenty minutes later. Books slammed shut and backpacks whispered onto shoulders as people prepared to join the lunchtime rush.
Mr. Smith stood up. "May I see Garrett Bernstein, Keith Ramirez, Sean Wick, Lisa DeSoto and Cynthia Hunt at the front?"
I flinched at hearing my name. Especially upon seeing the pink slips in Mr. Smith's hands. Each had the names he'd called were written on the line at the bottom.
"You all have detention this afternoon. I want you to spend twenty minutes in here copying something boring off the board. I'll see you after the last bell. Skip it, and you'll have seven."
"Seven?" Garrett, the kid who belched, opened his eyes wide. "Mr. Maxwell makes it two."
"He isn't here. Do it my way or I'll make it fourteen."
Garrett stuffed the pink slip into his backpack and stomped out the door. Nobody else contested Mr. Smith. I watched them skulk out.
I looked down at my slip. It was blank.
Part of me knew I might have gotten away with skipping, but the substitute teacher already knew my face. Being dishonest meant getting in more trouble than I'd already be in for having detention in the first place. This sucked, all I did was tell Sean to stop bothering me!
"Mr. Smith? Y-you forgot to write my name on this," I said.
"I didn't forget." Mr. Smith took the slip from me, crumpled it up and tossed it over his shoulder. "You didn't start anything, Cynthia."
felt weird. I always got in trouble with everyone else...or I was the only one who got in trouble while everyone else got away free.
He sat down again and stuck his hand in his jacket pocket. "It's lunch time. Better run along."
"I go by Cyndi, and I usually eat in here."
"Oh? Why's that?" Mr. Smith pulled a banana out of his pocket. This was followed by some sort of granola bar, a grilled cheese sandwich and a juice box of something grape flavored. All that from a tiny coat pocket? It totally reminded me of Mary Poppins.
"Because," I took the cloth lunch bag out of my backpack and reached for my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, "Those buttholes, sorry, those guys who were annoying me like to hassle me when I'm trying to eat. Mr. Maxwell lets me stay in here to avoid them. He knows I won't vandalize or break anything." I offered him my apple, "Want this?"
"Apples are rubbish." Mr. Smith peeled his banana by biting the bottom, spitting out the piece he bit and slowly pulling the skin off.
And he proceeded to eat it along the side like an ear of corn.
He was so weird!
I stopped staring when he raised an eyebrow at me.
"That's a first." I glanced at my apple. "I thought teachers liked apples."
"Apples make nice computers." Mr. Smith said off-handedly. "Terrible as food. Same as bullies. Terrible as people. They always compensate for their smallness by making others feel smaller than themselves. It doesn't make 'em any bigger. Hm," he shrugged and tore into his sandwich. Instantly, he spat out the bite he'd taken and stared at it on his hand. "Ugh! Who put bacon in this? Horrible stuff! Bacon is evil, like beans!"
Mr. Smith shook the bacon into the trash can. He was acting just like I sometimes did, and didn't seem to care how goofy he looked.
Instead of answering, I finished my food-- even the apple-- and drank half my orange Hi-C before I tossed it in the garbage bin.
"They were calling you a retard," I said. "How come it doesn't tick you off?"
Mr. Smith grinned. "Because I'm smarter than them, cooler than them and they're silly to judge what they don't know."
I arched an eyebrow. "Okay, how old are you?"
He gazed back at me. "How old do you think I am?"
I'm bad at guessing age. I looked him up and down. "I don't know. I look young for my age, so I'm going to guess you're older than you look. Thirty one?"
"Yeah, let's say I'm thirty one, but mix it up with a few zeros."
"Um...wow. You don't act your age."
"Age is just a number. There's no point in being a grown-up if you can't be childish." Mr. Smith grinned and went back to his newspaper. I realized he was reading the comics section.
Wait, didn't the front page have Power Rangers on it before? I squinted it, but the pictures and text appeared blurry. I rubbed my eyes. When I looked again, I only saw smudges and squiggles.
"Is something in your eye?"
"Don't think so, but that front page didn't print right. I think somebody smeared it."
Mr. Smith curled the front page around to study it. His eyes flicked back to me. "Huh...guess it did. Interesting."
I zipped my backpack shut and wandered around the classroom. I fed Oscar, the hand-sized oscar fish in the tank at the front of the room. I gave Yoshi, the iguana in the nearby aquarium, a little back scratch. Then I picked up the baby orange corn snake who lived in the tank next door to the iguana. I was the only girl in the class not afraid to hold him. Letting him coil around my hand felt nice.
"Hey, OJ." I rubbed his orange head. He flicked his tongue out at me once, no doubt smelling the peanut butter on my breath. I let him slither up to my elbow and put him back in his tank.
"Lunch is over in five minutes. I better go." I gathered my belongings. "See you later, Mr. Smith."
"Mmhmm." Mr. Smith seemed absorbed in his newspaper.
Only two more periods until the end of the day. I looked both ways before I exited my science classroom, shouldered my backpack and hurried towards the staircase for my fifth period history class.
The boy's restroom door opened and out stepped a chubby blond boy wearing a red jacket. Mick Tanner, the person who scared me more than anyone else in the school. I kept walking without looking at him.
"Cyndi!" Mick fell into step with me, "What's the rush?"
"Go away," I snapped. I didn't want Mick's crap, but I got it every day ever since my freshmen year. I hated him.
Mick cooed at me, "Not until I tell you a secret."
I stopped on the bottom step. Experience taught me that trying to bolt meant he grabbed my hair or my backpack and jerked me backwards.
"Get your bullshit over with." I growled, "I have class."
"That's better." He smiled and caressed my cheek in total mockery of a doting lover. "I'm going to slit your throat and watch you bleed to death." His fingertips touched my pulse, and it was all I could to do not shiver in disgust. "Right after school's over." He grabbed my throat and squeezed. "I'll be waiting for you."
Then he shoved me against the rail and hopped up the steps. People were walking right past us. None stopped to see if I was okay. Nobody even looked twice.
"Rot in hell!" I screamed at his back. "Rot in hell, Mick, right next to your fat bitch of a mom!"
Mick looked down at me and laughed, unfazed.
Some guy upstairs imitated me in a fake girly voice. "'Rot in hell, Mick, right next to your fat bitch of a mom!'"
Mick's cackling faded into the distance.
I waited until the bell rang before I climbed the stairs myself. Fifth period was spent with me hardly paying attention to the materials on the Aztec culture. I might have done better if I didn't fear Mick rushing in and stabbing me to death the whole time.
Sixth period became my study hall class. I slipped into Mrs. Jenson's classroom without a word and took out my math book to finish off the equations I didn't complete earlier. Math...I sucked at it. I could do it, but I was extremely slow without a calculator.
The final bell rang. I slammed my book shut and shoved my stuff into my backpack. School buses rumbled to a stop outside. Car tires crackled across the rough parking lot tar. Multitudes of voices suddenly filled the previously quiet outside air.
I walked to and from school every day. My mom had only one rule-- I had to be home by four-thirty or she'd come searching for me. School ended at exactly two thirty-eight. I haggled for the four-thirty by saying I liked to practice in the choir room after school, but the real reason was I hid from my bullies until it was clear to walk home without them ganging up on me.
Mr. Smith happened to go right past me as I crossed the parking lot. He waved to me. I waited to see what car he got into, but he kept walking the same direction I usually went. I let him go ahead as far as I dared before I bolted across the street, climbed over a chain link fence next door to a supermarket and hopped down the hill leading into a ditch. It hadn't been in use for twenty or so years, evidenced by all the grass growing around the rocks. I heaved myself into the south end of a cold metal drainpipe that was just the right size for little five-foot-one-inch tall me to sit comfortably inside. Nobody could see me in there unless they watched me climb in.
So far, it proved to be my best hiding place yet. The freeway nearby masked any noises I made, so I didn't worry if I coughed or sneezed. Besides, I did
practice my choir music in the pipe. The reverb let me hear myself and helped me correct the notes I missed in class.
I took out my blue music folder. I wasn't supposed to take it home, but I did anyway.
I pulled out my copy of O Magnum Mysterium
by Tomas Luis de Victoria, laid down on my back and quietly sang the flowing soprano line on the first page.
"O magnum mysterium...et admirabile sacramentum...
Footsteps on the north side of the pipe made me gasp and silence myself. They were moving away. Still, suspicious, I crawled forward until I could see outside.
I saw Mr. Smith step into a strange blue phone box. It made a weird noise and I swear to God I'm not lying when I say it literally faded into nothing! A second later, the same whirring noise happened with a definite thump. The blue box reappeared, blowing gravel in my face. I retreated back into the pipe. Mr. Smith walked out. His long legs passed my hiding place and I heard him hop the fence.
Maybe I was seeing things.
I scooted towards the middle of the pipe and resumed my singing until I corrected all my wrong notes. By then, my watch read three twenty-five. I put my belongings away, wiggled to the south end of the pipe and watched the ground for shadows that would indicate people standing nearby. People who might see me slip out and force me to find somewhere else to hide after school.
All clear. Lucky me!
My jacket sleeves were finally dry enough inside to not smear more ketchup on myself. I put it on, shouldered my backpack and made the climb back into proper civilization.
Halfway to my house, Keith, Richard and Sean pulled up to me in a silver Oldsmobile car. Dammit, I thought they were long gone!
Sean shouted at me, "Hey, ugly bitch!"
"Why do they let dogs out without a leash?" Keith joined in. "Are you gonna cry now? Boohoo! Cyndi's gonna cry!"
"Shut up!" I screamed at them. "I hope you assholes crash and die!"
"Whoa!" Richard laughed. "She wants us to crash and die."
"Let's run her over."
I bolted past the back of the car and dashed across the street. A dangerous move that risked me getting hit by traffic, but they had to drive all the way up to the light behind me and wait for the oncoming cars to pass before they could turn around.
So I thought
The silver vehicle roared as it did an illegal U-turn across the central double yellow line and pulled up parallel to me once more. A white pickup truck honked its horn at them. Did they care? Not a bit!
Now picture this. Me, running on my two feet while weighed down by a thirty pound backpack. I was no match for something capable of accelerating to one hundred miles per hour.
I saw Richard roll his rear window down. I immediately stopped running. Just in time to hear something shatter in front of me. Glass and liquid splattered on my pant legs. I backed away from the puddle created by the projectile.
Sean's car kept going down the street. I stood there, quivering in horror. That glass bottle might have killed me if it hit me in the head!
I sighed, shaking the glass off my clothing. The smell hit then, and I bit my tongue to stop myself from dry heaving. Richard tried to peg me with a bottle full of piss. I'd been equated with a waste receptacle again.
Maybe my sole purpose in life was to be the world's most hated punching bag. I sure seemed to bring out the worst in people because I was short, flat chested and had behavior issues I didn't know how to control. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't act grown-up like my peers.
Like...I preferred to watch various incarnations of Star Trek, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Highlander, Babylon 5, Xena: Warrior Princess
instead of shows like Ally McBeal, Friends, Frasier, NYPD Blue
and the news.
I still enjoyed playing make-believe when nobody caught me at it. Real-world stuff just...bored me! Why watch TV shows about slice of life stuff when I could imagine beaming aboard Deep Space Nine as one of Odo's security officers? How about being the Pink Ranger and fighting off a bad guy? A mysterious assassin who helped Duncan McCleod avoid having his head chopped off? What about serving as an assistant to Vorlon Ambassador Kosh Naranek? Fighting a big monster alongside Xena and Gabrielle? Or just a random person who got Goliath and Elisa to finally kiss?
seemed more fun to me! Superhero adventure stuff with a dash of romance always captured my attention. I dreamed
of doing those things and saving the day. I wanted to be the reason people cheered.
The problem? My imagination made me very immature compared to my peers. It made me stand out, and not in a good way. I did my best to keep the Power Rangers a secret, but I used to talk about my favorite shows a lot. Big mistake. I learned to keep my stupid imagination to myself.
Being so weird put a target on me that said hate me, I suck at living!
The way things looked, I didn't deserve to exist at all. I was sure even my parents secretly despised me for being such a disappointing failure at everything.
The tears threatening to fall were forced back by my self-loathing. No, stupid losers like me didn't deserve to release their pain by crying.
No further incidents occurred during my walk home. I only said a quick hello to my mom and rushed into my bedroom. My shoes went into a plastic Kmart bag, which I sprayed with Lysol to cover up the pee smell. The jeans and socks were placed right into the dirty clothes hamper. I changed into the pink sweat pants that went with the sweatshirt and stayed in my room to watch Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
Getting to school was almost worse than going home. I had
to walk with the rest of the kids also going to school on foot. At first, I thought walking slow to let the others ahead of me keep going solved the problem. Then I noticed them walking slower and slower until I ended up being late to my first class. My new method was to power walk and try to pass everyone I hated before they had a chance to try anything on me. I've had my fair share of being forced into the street, pulled hair, being tripped and having gum stuck to me or my backpack.
I rushed past Lisa, who was strolling alongside her friend Becky.
"Hey flatty," Becky said as I passed.
Flatty was their favorite nickname because my body never developed right. I wore padded bras to give the impression of breasts, but they didn't fool anyone. I said nothing in response and kept walking.
"Look at those stupid little kid clothes. Nobody over nine wears Chic
jeans." Lisa remarked. "Haha! Watch her feet! She walks like the crippled retards in Mrs. Olson's class."
I always walked on the balls of my feet instead of heel-toe. I had to, or else my backpack would make me fall backwards.
Lisa giggled. "She wears baby Velcro shoes, too. So stupid! Guess mommy got tired of tying her shoes for her!"
Grr, I had no problem tying my own damn shoes, but somebody kept stealing my shoelaces in gym. My mom got tired of replacing them, so Velcro tennis shoes were my mainstay. The sneakers I wore in P.E. class already lacked shoelaces. I unlaced them myself and turned them into slip-ons. Shoelace problem solved.
"Loser!" Wendy whizzed by on her bike.
Not even at school yet, and I felt like crap. This was the daily routine since my freshman year. Graduation seemed like an eternity away. All I wanted was to graduate and escape from these horrible people.
My eyes focused on the red jacket ahead of me. Great, it was Mick. I held onto my backpack straps and broke into a run.
"Hi, Cyndi! Missed ya yesterday." Mick called after me. I heard him running behind me. He caught my long ponytail and I had no choice but to slow down or risk whiplash. Mick let my hair go and draped his arm around me like we were old friends. I could hear him breathing, and it made me feel nauseated.
"I have a knife in my pocket." Mick said simply. His jacket rustled. He moved the pocket knife he was talking about into the hand draped on my shoulder. The tiny, gleaming silver blade was pointed ominously at my right eye. "I can jam this knife into your brain through your eyeball. It's going to hurt. I want to watch you squirm until you bleed to death."
"Please, don't," I whispered. "Just go away."
Mick moved that hand closer to my face. He'd let go of my shoulder. I ducked, elbowed him in the stomach and bolted forward in blind terror.
"You're gonna die! Watch your back, bitch! I'm going to kill you!" Mick shouted at my back.
I didn't realize he wasn't chasing me until I stumbled into the school parking lot alone.
Mr. Smith passed through the same breezeway I took on the way to choir class. He was wearing exactly the same outfit from yesterday.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine!" I said, choking on my breath. I glanced at my watch. "Bell's about to ring. See you fourth period."
Then I left him there.
Choir class was uneventful except for a girl behind me poking my back once or twice. P.E. class just plain sucked. Someone broke into my locker AGAIN, and I found my gym clothes in one of the toilets. I took them to my teacher to show her what happened.
"Mrs. Garrison, they did it again."
"I don't know what to do with you, Cyndi." The brunette teacher sighed at me like I'd done something wrong.
I guess it was all my fault for existing.
I rinsed my gym clothes in the restroom sink and wore them wet in the freezing cold gym. We played indoor volleyball. I was picked last, the eternal curse of being small, and I missed every serve when it became my turn. I could do it great if they let me serve underhand, but the teacher made everybody serve overhand. It was hard to serve or bump the ball when I shivered like Wile E. Coyote after taking earthquake pills. The team I was on lost because of me.
Becky snapped her gum at me when class ended. Wearing the wet gym clothes meant my bra and underwear were soaked through and cold. Black jeans were a lifesaver. A few girls laughed at my fake padded bra as I jerked my purple turtleneck over my head and traded the blue gym sneakers for my comfy white tennis shoes.
I longed for breast implants to look like the girls in magazines. They all had nice, noticeable boobs. My diminutive height wasn't a problem, but my being so unusually thin meant clothes made for kids my age never fit! I had
to buy from the children's section of stores, or else the pants literally fell off my nonexistent hips. I always looked like a sixth grader because I had no boobs, no hips and stick-like limbs.
One of my teachers said I looked like Twiggy, a huge supermodel. Maybe I did...if she was born ugly and short like me. I hated my big, pointy chin. Scratch that, I despised everything about myself. I was the ugliest, stupidest, most worthless person in the world.
knew that. They reminded me daily.
Sometimes, I thought God hated me, too, and He gave me everything wrong for His own entertainment.
I bought myself a bag of potato chips to eat during the nutrition break. Two girls I didn't even know started laughing at me when I walked past them. I turned around and wiped the potato chip grease on one of their backpacks while they weren't looking.
Third period was my math class. Uneventful and almost not worth mention. The feelings I had since gym hung around me like a black cloud of self-loathing.
By fourth period, I was skulking across campus and didn't care where I sat in science class. I ended up in my usual seat anyway. I tried to look excited for Mr. Smith's demonstrating flame tests.
"Who's got a penny? A penny, anyone? Aha, thank you! Now watch this." Mr. Smith held the penny in the Bunsen burner flame with a pair of forceps. The flame flashed orange a few times. "Mm, not pure enough. Oh well, now we have a burnt penny."
"My God, this guy," Lisa whispered to Wendy. "He's crazy."
"Can anyone here tell me what color this flame should be? Cyndi?"
I flinched. "Copper burns...greenish?"
"Correct! Here you go," he held a small bag out to me, "have a Jammie Dodger."
Hm. This guy wasn't so bad. How many teachers gave out cookies for right answers? I took one of the jelly filled cookies and ate it, careful not to spill any crumbs. He gave one to everyone who answered right. He never seemed to run out.
Suddenly, class participation got a whole lot better.
Mr. Smith disappeared out the door at lunch time. He said to me, "Mind the room for a moment. I won't be long."
Literally five minutes later, he came back in. "Told you I wouldn't be long."
I wanted to ask him about the blue contraption I saw yesterday, but he seemed distracted by something on his desk and I didn't want to bother him. I waved when the bell rang and hurried to fifth period.
"I'm going to watch you bleed to death with my cock in your mouth. You're gonna die after school today." Mick hissed in my ear. I kept going, pretending I hadn't heard.
By the time my last class ended, I was desperate for the bathroom. I used the rush of people to hide from Mick and wove my way to the restroom. I'd just relieved myself and washed my hands when three large girls walked in. By large I mean one was overweight while the other two towered over me in height. They were horrible, nasty girls and I loathed them almost as much as Mick.
I rushed into the stall closest to the door and slammed the lock shut.
"Light me, Steff."
A lighter clicked. I tried not to cough on the cigarette smoke smell. I'm allergic to it and my eyes started to burn right away. I had no choice but to abandon my stall.
Unfortunately, the girls were hanging around the sink. They saw me.
"AIDS girl!" The one called Steff said.
They'd pulled the deadbolt on the bathroom door. I struggled until I got it unlatched. A few weeks ago, these same girls trapped me by the sinks and rubbed used tampons all over my skin and clothes. I was still afraid that I might have AIDS because of them. They also threw the salad on me. I wanted nothing to do with them. They almost scared me as much as Mick because they seemed completely heartless.
Now I was corned in a dimly lit restroom with no way to escape. I felt like the bait dog in a pit bull fighting ring.
"Leave me alone," I snapped. Better to show anger than fear. "Don't you know smoking is bad for you?"
Steff looked at the overweight girl. "Hey, Lupe, got any tampons?"
"Not today," Lupe said back, smiling. "Olivia?"
"Nah, not on mine."
"Look, I don't know what the hell your problem is, but you need to stop this." I tried to be civil while struggling with the heavy door. "I won't tell anybody you're smoking in here if you let me go."
"If?" Lupe pushed the door shut and rapped on it with her long red nails. She was not pretty. Her eyes looked too close together because of her heavy brown eyeshadow and black mascara, and she'd drawn her eyebrows on with a black pencil. Her brown lipstick made her lips look huge on her face. How come she never got crap for how stupid she looked, but I always did?
Steff took a drag off her cigarette, came closer and blew smoke in my face, making me cough.
"Hey!" I yelled. "I'm allergic to that!"
Steff slapped my face. Her teeth had red lipstick stains. "Did I say you can talk, freak?"
"You've got lipstick on your teeth."
Steff flicked her cigarette butt in my face. Luckily, only the side hit me, and it fell harmlessly onto the floor. I snuffed it with my foot.
And all civility went out the window. I got back in her face.
"Bitch, you can't control me!" I yelled.
"Really?" She shoved me against the door. "Olivia, get her other side."
Olivia's tan hands grabbed my arm. She sneered, her nearly black lipstick making her lips appear tiny on her oval face. If she let go of me for one second, I would have grabbed one of her huge hoop earrings and ripped them out of her head.
Instead, I struggled. "Hey! What the hell are you doing?"
"Putting shit like you where it belongs."
Steff and Olivia dragged me towards the stall I was hiding in earlier. I kicked my feet. My shoes found no purchase on the slippery tile floor.
"Stop it! Let go of me!"
Pressure on my shoulders forced me to fall on my knees in front of the toilet. Olivia grabbed my ponytail and stuck it in the water. She kicked the lever, flushing the toilet. I felt my hair being yanked towards the drain. Somehow, sheer will I guess, I resisted it pulling my head forward. I struggled harder against them, but their grip on my shoulders tightened until moving caused more pain than being still.
"Hold your breath!" jeered Steff.
They shoved my face into the water. I barely gasped enough air to last me thirty seconds. My hair was completely soaked in toilet water. They pulled me up just before my body forced me to suck in a breath. I was disgusted beyond measure. Toilets were germy things, and my mind raced through the diseases I could catch from it.
"I hate you," I spat at them.
"You're nothing. You're worthless. Don't you know everybody hates you? Wanna know why everybody hate you? You're a failed abortion. You're the school disease and nobody wants you around." Steff shoved my face into the bowl again. "Now drink it, you piece of shit!"
I didn't have time to shut my mouth. I got a mouthful of toilet water. It made me gag.
Lupe kicked my hip, making me collapse against the toilet. I grabbed the seat with my hands in a vain attempt to keep them from shoving my face in it again.
"Yeah! Put here where she belongs."
Oliva and Steff leaned on my backpack, submerging my head completely under the toilet water. Lupe burst out laughing and sat on the seat, preventing me from getting back up. Every cell in my body screamed for oxygen. Even if I wanted to breathe, my throat was smashed against the front of the cold porcelain bowl by Lupe's weight. I grabbed at her clothes and kicked my feet.
"I hope she drowns!" Steff cackled.
I started seeing stars and pink spots.
Olivia grabbed my feet. "Look at her! Haha, oh my God, look at her!"
I slapped the edges of the toilet bowl and the walls, hoping and praying the noise drew someone's attention outside. Blackness pricked at my vision. My chest burned with the desire to breathe. I didn't care what happened anymore. I wanted it to be over. What a way to die-- drowning facedown in a toilet. I guess I deserved it for being a useless piece of crap to the world.
Someone flushed it. The swirling water went right up my nose. I didn't have time to breathe when it rushed away during the flush. I couldn't even cough.
Just when I was ready to be still and wait for death, the pressure on my head suddenly disappeared. I jerked into a sitting position, gasped and vomited violently into the toilet bowl.
"What's going on in here?" It was Ms. Roberto, one of the Spanish teachers.
"Nothing," Lupe said in her most innocent voice. "She got sick to her stomach. We wanted to make sure she's okay."
"Go on out of here. I'll handle this." Ms. Roberto ushered the girls out.
I heaved until I had nothing left, flushed and staggered to the sink to wash my face. My hair was dripping wet and my ponytail had come halfway undone.
"Are you okay, sweetie?"
Somehow, I didn't burst into tears. "I'm fine. I got sick on my hair and cleaned it, but started getting sick again."
"Let's go to the office and call your mom to pick you up."
"No, uh, she's not home right now. Dentist appointment." I lied. "I can walk. It's not far. I think I ate something bad last night."
"If you're sure."
I nodded again.
She left me there alone.
I put what little order I could into my ruined hair and went right across the street from my school to the supermarket. I bought myself a bottle of Pepsi and a box of Benadryl. The cashier didn't inquire about my wet hair. I had to look miserable and pathetic. I didn't care. I didn't care about anything anymore. The whole world wanted me to die and I planned to do just that.
I made my way to the pipe where I liked to hide. The tears I held back found freedom as I wrote my name, address and home phone number on a piece of notebook paper. I wrote that nobody cared about me, so I was taking myself out of the world because I was tired of everybody hating me. I signed my signature, crumpled up the note and tossed it to my left, not caring where it landed. Not like anybody would find it anyway.
With that settled, I unsealed the Pepsi bottle and began systemically freeing the Benadryl capsules from two of their blister packs. I figured a dose that big would kill someone small like me pretty fast. The pile of pink and white capsules on my palm were accusing eyes staring into my soul.
Even my own death jeered me.
Cold wind blew through the pipe. My wet head started to ache.
"God," I whispered, "If you don't want me up there, make me spit these pills out."
Taking a deep breath, I palmed the capsules and unscrewed the lid off the Pepsi bottle.