We are walking slowly down the uneven sidewalk, leaving junior high for the last time. Toilet paper and silly string hang from the chain linked fence, litters the ground like discarded candy wrappers the day after Halloween. I look back and see the building disappearing behind the ornamental orange trees. I hear outcries of pleasure coming to me from throughout the normally quiet neighborhood. I feel free and relieved that these two years are finally over. Summer is here. I have escaped my worst fears, or so I thought.
Beside me, Sara lets out a wail and blubbers something about never seeing us again. The June heat becomes suddenly unbearable. Her tears embarrass me and I look around at the other faces for some help. I haven't been friends with this group for long, but I put my arm around her anyway and tried to reassure her that everything will work out fine, not to worry and that I envy her the chance to go somewhere new. Only three more blocks, then the day is over.
"Look at the Lesbians," assaults the air like the shriek of an alarm during a drill. Our group is instantly silent. I didn't think I could get any hotter. My body feel as if it's going to melt. I ignore them. What else can I do? They are Big Susie and her gang. I mean, huge. She towers over all, at least three heads. She is a giant in the hallway. If I don't see her coming, I can definitely hear her. "Get outta my way, beetch!" And the surprised ungh! And crash of a kid thrown against the lockers. Rumor is, they ditch classes, smoke in the bathroom and may even do "it" in the bell tower. These are very bad girls. I have been thrown, tormented and extremely afraid of Susie and her gang for two years. Please, let me get through this day with nothing worse. Only two blocks to Broadway and my bus stop.
"Well, Ya gonna kiss, Lezzies?" Snorts and snickering ricochet in my head like the constant clicking of cicadas.
"Good one, Suz. They's soo cute," (shmooch, shmack, kissy-kissy).
"Hey...HEY...is you Lezzie?...Well, is you?...HEY!"
"Shut up." I toss over my shoulder.
"What?...Whatchoo say?...Whatchoo say, Lezzie?"
"I SAID, SHUT up." I spin around facing the whole gang. I almost swallow my tongue before I finish speaking. I feel trapped in front of their glaring eyes like a jack rabbit frozen by oncoming headlights. What did I just do? I am dead. I am sure my friends will back me up.
Big Susie takes a step forward, stares down at me and asks, "Whatchoo say?"
My world is going blurry. Everything closes in, surrounding me. Suddenly, I have to go to the bathroom, really bad.
"Shut up," I barely squeak out. I see fire in those deep walnut eyes. Now, I did it. I think she gave me a chance to change my mind and I had to blow it. She's going to kill me for sure. I close my eyes and anticipate the blow I am about to receive. Good-bye.
"Well, don't say it again."
I snap open my eyes. The gang is already across the street, walking away. I am in a daze. I turn around to see if my friendssaw what just happened. They are gone, up the street and almost to Broadway, by now. I can't believe it. I stood up to those girls. Alone. And nothing happened. I'm still alive! Why?
Maybe, she didn't feel like killing me today, or maybe, she never had anyone stand up to her before. I could say, I found courage that day, but I believe it was only dumb luck. For the first time, I realize that some people are all talk and they only have power over me because I believe them. If this situation happened now, would one of us have a gun and would we be learning a different lesson today?
Courage comes and goes.
When it comes, beware, take care
use it or its gone.