Ominous brick walls keep me locked in. Running and hiding will not help. They will find me from the scent of my bleeding heart. They are sharks, bloodhounds devouring the weak and insecure.
“Hey freak!”
I restrain my head from peering up and take steps in the direction of my class. Before I manage another step, a looming shadow cuts off the light. A shudder races up my spine at the sight of this apparition. My eyes dart around, frantically searching for a means of my escape.
“Kid! I’m talking to you. Don’t you know it’s rude to avoid someone?”
I say a prayer, hoping this time it will be heard.
“P-Please Colton; just let me go to class.”
He laughs loudly. “I ain’t done talking to you yet. I want to know why you’re wearin’ long sleeves to school when its 30 degrees out. Is it just a characteristic of freaks of nature such as yourself or somethin’?”
Today I was going to show them that I was stronger than their battering words.
“This is a free country, isn’t it?” I step away from the group but a vice grip rips on my arm. Pain shoots up and down like the blood in my vessels.
“Never walk away from me when I am talking to you,” he growls in my face. His saliva sprays all over my face. He shakes me and I strain against his calloused hands.
“Teacher!” came a hoarse whisper from my left, and just as quickly as he had come, he tosses me like rubbish and leaves.
Before I can make it into English the buzzer blares.
“Nathan Hughes, this is the third time this week you were late for class,” Mr. Lambert sighs in frustration. “Is there a reason for this behaviour, because I will not tolerate any more of this from you?”
My face explodes with heat. Slouching in my desk, I push my large wire rimmed glasses back into place.
“No sir,” I whisper.
He begins his lesson, and I take the time to catch my breath, trying with my utmost ability to push out the feelings of complete hurt and abandonment.
A spitball aimed for my neck hits target. Even these episodes grade me smaller and smaller like a block of cheese. There was no safety at school, not even with a teacher in the room. With no love reaching my heart, it was shrivelling up.
“Loser! Pssst loser! What’s wrong with your eyes? Can’t keep them looking at the same thing?”
Snickers rise up around me. Once again my face flames; tears threaten to jump from my eyes. I’m no baby, but my classmates are relentless. Surviving today only means entering the battle again tomorrow.
Lunch comes, and I grab my food and flee outside, not ceasing in my hurry until I was far enough away from everyone else that I will not have to peer around constantly.
Colton and his gang are on the prowl and I want to eat some of my meagre food before they take it and smear it in my face, or worse.
“There’s the loner!”
They circle me, coming in for the kill.
“Don’t have any friends, do ya Nathan?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised; he’s a walkin’ zombie with eyes like a chameleon.”
I bite my lip and desperately try to keep a hold on my feelings. I am like a shaken pop bottle ready to explode. But I remember my mom’s voice telling me that a man was stronger when he didn’t fight. By not giving in to anger I showed that I was more mature than them. A sob sticks in my throat, I missed my mother, yet she left. One time my dad told me that she left because she couldn’t stand the sight of me anymore. Isn’t a mother supposed to love her son? My face cracks. I will not break down in front of them, I can’t. If I ever did that, fuel would only be added to the already unquenchable fire inside of them.
“Want a drink retard?”
A cool, sticky liquid gushes out over my head from one of their bottles. Their laughs are those of hyenas slashing their prey.
“Leave me alone! Just stop! You are all the biggest jerks I know. I hate you, all of you!” Streams pour from my eyes and I ran, leaving my food and books behind with the group of senior persecutors. Each of their vindictive comments and actions was like a sewing needle piercing my heart.
Once in the sanctuary of the forest, I pull a familiar object out from the protection of my pocket. The only way of dealing with the abuse I receive is by this small, sharp tool. Pulling up my cotton sleeves, I rub my thumb and finger along the pink disfigured skin. While cradling the wooden handle in my hand, I slide my finger along the spring loaded button and a blade of stainless steel flashes out. The sun catches sight of metal and makes it glow and sparkle. Relief, peace, strength. I am in control. I have the power to inflict pain.
With a quick slice, the warm copper smelling liquid bubbles and spills over. Dripping it quenches the dry ground, and stains the pure daisies, standing tall beside my huddled body. A strange sense of ease relaxes my body. Over and over, cut by cut, blood encases the knife in its entirety, my hands drenched, my arms bathed in my very own lifeblood. I watch fascinated, my mind dizzy with exhilaration.
Once I am completely calm and starting to feel a little weak, I walk to the nearby creek and cleanse myself before starting on the pathway home. I will get in trouble for skipping gym class, but my father is probably slouched across the couch already, bottle clutched in his hand and face lying in his own stomach contents. Too drunk to answer the ringing phone and reply to the insistent principal.
I was right. In a way this is good because I don’t have to deal with abusive hands or yelling voice. Sleep. That is all I wanted; my mind will stop replaying the cruel comments which constantly tell me of my inadequacy, my weakness.
“Freak of nature!”
“Devil child!”
“Ugly piece of shit!”
“You’re no man!”
“You are an embarrassment to everyone here.”
“Nathan,” beckoned a sing-song voice, “you don’t have to listen to that anymore.”
It is my mother.
“Mom, what do I do then?”
“Come my son, come to me. I won’t ever hurt you or call you names like the students at school or like your father. I will protect you forever. You are my young man, my child; I will always care for my son.”
“But you left me! You abandoned me. Why? Why did you leave? Tell me!”
Her face and voice fade away, whispering as they leave. “I love you! Come to me.” Vanishing, it is replaced by morning light.
Before I head out to school, I grab a large coil of sturdy rope, and pocket my relief giving knife. I act with purpose, yet I still feel a pit of uncertainty.
Climbing the steps to my daytime prison, I stumble, causing Colton of all people to run into me.
“You piece of shit!” He shoves me to the ground scattering my books. “Why don’t ya go to the mental community you belong in?”
His blazing eyes pierce me. I feel I am in a whirlpool. Spinning, spinning, down in, going under, and silently crying. Someone help me!
A soothing voice whispers. I love you, come to me.
No one is kind enough to help me in fear of not being accepted by Colton and his gang. School is all about fitting in. You are either in Colton’s group or considered a nobody.
I stay in a trance most of the day. The maternal voice always reminds me to come to her, conveying that she truly loves me.
For most of the day I play ignorant, but in gym I find my shoes in the toilet, my shirt relays a big bold message in permanent marker: “You suck!” Depression descends again, but the voice prompts me to come. I change and make my way across the lush turf towards the baseball diamond. The breeze has a fresh smell, if only everything and everyone was as beautiful as this.
The tough teacher, built thick as a football quarterback, bellows, “Late! Four laps around the soccer field, then get your but back here for drills.”
“Yes sir!” I almost feel that I should salute him but instead, I run off to complete my punishment.
Panting I come back for the drills. We are practising our throwing and catching. With my wandering eye, catching is impossible. Again and again I am either hit by the baseball or it thumps on the ground around me.
“Keep your eyes on the ball Nathan! Catch it.”
Thud. I take another blow.
“Run another lap!” He barks. “Maybe that will teach you to catch.”
I ran alright, stumbling as I cross the uneven ground, all the way back to the school facilities. Beads of sweat cause my shirt to cling to my body. My arms burn and turn the sleeves of my white shirt pink.
Come to me.
Usually this is the time to write a letter, but in my case, no one will notice my absence besides, perhaps, my teachers when they take attendance.
Stuffing my belongings into my bag, I leave my locker open so the principal can retrieve the school’s books, and then stroll to my sanctuary.
Come to me…Come to me…Come to me!
I tie the rope around my neck and the other end to a high large limb. Before I leave my story in my bag, I have one last thing to say.
“I’m coming mother.”