I stand outside the school building and look in, a metaphor of my life, never quite belonging. This has to stop or I’ll go crazy, that’s assuming I haven’t already. Chess club, drama club, the school newspaper, even going to football games, have lost their appeal. Sometimes I don’t want to live. At other times I want to kill him.
We’ve each been labeled by the school, by our parents, by the other students. He has a power label. Mine is made of milk toast. He’s big strong, athletic, good looking and arrogant. All the literature calls him a bully. The principal, teachers and my parents agree that he’s a bully with a capital B. Look at me. I’m weak, skinny, nerdy, shy, clumsy, a victim with a capital V.
Most can’t do anything about it, and those who can, won’t. The bystanders who laugh at how he treats me are as bad as he is. They’re the pump behind the water, the fuel on the fire, the salt in the wound when he trips me in the hall or calls me sissy and gay.
I’ve talked until I’m weary of talking. Nobody listens. Nobody does anything. So I will. It’s taken planning and guts, and today I’ve brought my weapon with me to school. I intend to use it. It’s in my book bag, the bag he teases me for carrying. He says it looks like a girl’s purse.
There he is, as usual, surrounded by a throng of worshippers who try to impress him, to make him notice them. He eats the attention up.
I walk straight toward him, and the Red Sea parts. Moses approaches Pharaoh to let him know that today, everything is different. Some laugh, but most are silenced by my boldness. The smirk on his face tells me he’s amused.
“Well, if it isn’t the school’s number one sissy.” He laughs and the others join in.
“Your right,” I say. “I’m skinny and weak. I couldn’t win an arm wrestling match against a wet noodle. I admire you because you’re strong. I was at the football game Friday night and saw you catch that pass in the end zone. You won the game with that reception, and you also won the conference title for the school.”
“Yeah? So? Lots of people saw me make that catch.”
“You know, I really like football,” I say. “I follow all the college teams in the paper and on TV. You’ll probably be playing for one of my favorite schools next year when you go to college.”
“You like football?” His eyebrows raise in genuine amazement.
My hand slips into the book bag and grasps the weapon. I pull it out and extend my arm directly at him. No one is laughing now.
“What’s that?” His amazement becomes the furrowed brow of concern and confusion.
“It’s the program from the conference game. You won it for us, and when you make it big in college football, I want to have your autograph on this piece of paper.”
He licks his lips as if it’s his mouth that has gone dry this time. He takes the program and the pen I offer and scribbles on the cover.
I’m sitting alone at a lunch table. From the hush that swept over the room and from the faces staring in my direction, I know he’s behind me. Something slides onto the table beside my tray.
“What’s this?” I say.
“It’s a copy of the school newspaper. I actually read your article this month. It’s good. When you make it big as a writer, I want to have your signature on that page.”
I accept the pen he offers and scribble beside the article’s title. The paper slides away, and it’s my turn to utilize the raised eyebrow of amazement.
“Peace,” he says and walks away.