Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Personal · #1588142
Not all abuse is obvious and not all is committed by adults. A non-fiction Short Story
Tiny droplets of condensation glistened in the morning light. Entranced, I watched them skitter across the glass, painting the outdoor scenes in watercolor shades.
Not unlike me, crossed my mind. I was a "military-brat" and, like the beads of water, I felt pushed by forces I had no control over. Now I was in a new school, in a new town, starting over again. I had learned over the course of time that the best way to fit in was to lay low and observe. Each school has its own rules about what was "cool" and what wasn't. There wasn't a published guide; it was all trial and error.
"Ka-bump!" The old bus hit a pothole, bouncing me out of my seat and startling me out of my reverie.
"Damn," I swore, as the moisture scattered in random patterns.
Must be passing Oak Hill, I thought wryly. Another school day, another 48-minute tedious ride. I wonder if the driver aims for the bumps just to break up the monotony.
The chatter of the other kids crept back into my consciousness as did the faint smell of exhaust fumes and school lunches previously abandoned under the thinly padded seats. Don't they ever clean these busses, I wondered? I'll bet the seats aren't really green-colored at all! That thought brought a smile to my lips.
The noise increased as the driver downshifted and the engine revved higher. We began to slow for the next stop. I was suddenly aware of where we were and I could feel the tension starting to build in my stomach.
"I hope he's not here today," I muttered.
With a protesting squeal, the bus pulled up to the corner and shuddered to a stop. The flashing lights were absorbed by the water-daubed windows, making them match the pattern ... on - off, on - off ... adding a sinister pall to the interior.
John Wesley slowly climbed the three steps onto the bus.
I had seen John around the school. For the most part, he went unnoticed but there were two things about him I'll never forget. The first was his smile. I thought of how, whenever anyone would pay attention to him, his first response was always a smile. The second was a look of sadness behind his eyes. I'd seen that look on puppies in the pound. It was part hope and part fear. It didn't take long to learn that John was "special," although the few times I had talked with him, he just seemed a bit slow. He certainly wasn't any worse than some of the dorks I had to deal with and – well, the truth was he was a nice kid. Quiet, but nice.
The daily ritual was beginning. As John made his way down the aisle, one of the kids gave him a little bump and he staggered a bit. A foot shot out, and he tripped, grabbing a seatback to catch his balance.
"Hey, retard. Get your hand off my seat!" I wasn't sure who said it but the meanness in the voice couldn't be covered by the laughter that followed.
Oh shit, here we go. I felt my cheeks flush and dropped my gaze.
This wasn't the first time. I'd seen it happen before on the bus and even in the hallways. I had even told the school counselor about it. "Kids will be kids," was all she said, dismissing my concerns. "But, if you bring me names, I'll talk to them."
Yeah, right. I'm going to do that Mrs. Jackson. I'm going to get labeled a rat and have a bunch of jerks pound my ass, I thought at the time.
"Leave him alone," I said, but it came out as a low whisper that only I could hear.
John continued down the aisle while the bus driver pretended he didn't see or hear anything. "Hurry up, take a seat." was all he said.
Looking up, I watched John break free from the gauntlet.
What happened next has never left me. As he approached, I felt myself slide toward the aisle, not offering him a seat. I looked up and I could see a tear in the corner of his eye but he never said a thing; he just continued to the back where the rejected and lost sat.
I sat there, rationalizing my actions and knowing that I'd never find an excuse for the way I acted. I couldn't claim ignorance – I witnessed the mockery and cruel laughter. I couldn't claim disinterest – the shame I felt was too real - shame for the other kid's actions, shame for my own inaction. I sat in silence for the rest of the ride.
My dad was in the Army and we moved again, not long after this occurred. I don't know whatever became of John or what scars a childhood filled with ridicule and rejection left on him.
I know what scars were left on me.
Word Count: 842
An entry for Quotation Inspiration - August
Quotation: "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." ~Winston Churchill
The first thing that occurred to me from the quotation was how many times I've been my own enemy. This story is from my youth and, as accurate as memory can be at my age, is a true story. Names have been substituted, however.
Many thanks to WDC "angels" who took time to read and comment on this - your help and encouragement has made this a better story ...
and my thanks to you for taking time to read my words. I would appreciate it if you took a moment and left a comment. Your reaction, impressions, criticisms, - yes, even praise are all equally welcome.