by H. E. Dunkle
A boy tries to find someone who cares enough about him to simply say his name.
I turned around. It was Jason, the captain of the football team. He had a small posse of jocks close behind him.
I pulled my U.S. history book out of my locker as the group continued to approach me. I have a name, I reminded myself, a good name.
Jason sneered at me as he grabbed me by my collar. "Heya, loser. Me and my buddies would like to have a word with you."
"I have a name, Jason," I said, glaring at him. "What do you want from me?"
His response was to slam me against my locker. The kids next to me suddenly backed away from the lockers; one reason was to make sure they were not pummeled as I was about to be, the other reason was to watch what they thought would be a show.
Jason's grin contorted into a scowl. "Look, punk. I can call you whatever I want, and there isn't anything you can do about it. You got that?"
"I'm afraid not, Jason. For you see, I do not speak Neanderthal," I muttered.
"Is that so?" he sneered as he grabbed my right hand. "Then maybe you'll understand this." His grip on my wrist tightened to the point where it felt like it was on fire. I gritted my teeth to keep from crying out in pain.
"Jason Thomson!" a voice thundered from down the hall. Mr. Anderson, the principal, came storming towards us. Jason let go of my wrist and stepped back; he knew he was done for.
"In my office. Now," was the only command Mr. Anderson gave Jason. As Jason walked towards his office, he turned to me. "You okay, sport?"
"I'm okay." I was lying; every time I tried to move my wrist, pain would shoot through it.
He frowned. "I think you should go to the nurse's office, son. Your wrist looks pretty swollen."
He wasn't wrong about that.
"Okay, Mr. Anderson," I said, not in any mood to argue with the principal.
"Here you go, sweetie," Mrs. Dillan, the school nurse, said as she finished bandaging my wrist. She gave me some ibuprofen and a glass of water, as well as an excuse note for my history teacher. "I recommend resting your wrist for about two days, and ice it when you get home. It should start healing within two or three days."
"Thank you, Mrs. Dillan," I said, trying to put a smile on my face.
"You're welcome, honey."
I have a name... I repeated to myself as I walked out of the nurse's office. A good name. With that thought, I headed off to the remainder of my U.S. history class.
After history, I headed back to my locker. When I got there, however, I found Jason and his crew waiting for me, each of them wearing an almost sadistic smirk on their face.
"Hey there, jerk. I just wanted to thank you for giving me two weeks of detention," he growled at me. His backup snickered; they clearly knew what was coming next.
"It's not my fault you have anger issues, Jason," I replied, reaching into my locker for my geometry textbook.
A pair of hands grabbed me from behind and whirled me around. The group of jocks chuckled once more as Jason pounded his right fist into the palm of his left hand; he wanted payback for something I didn't even do.
I put on my best game face as I held my textbook over my head. "Stay back, unless you want me to smash your skull in."
Jason held his hands up in mock surrender. "Relax, dude. I don't want to fight you."
I put my book down. "Really?"
He shrugged. "Well, not here, at least." He then lunged for me, grasping me by the front of my shirt as he had done only an hour ago. "You and me, punk. Alley behind the corner store. After school." With that, he and his entourage strutted off to their next class, leaving me to ponder... Do I even have a name anymore?
As I shambled towards my last class of the day, study hall, I was too busy thinking about the pummeling that I was to soon receive to watch where I was going. I slammed into someone, and we both collapsed on the ground in an awkward tangle of backpacks and limbs.
"Sorry," I muttered as I stood up. I reached my hand down to my unintentional victim. Upon further inspection, and to my complete embarrassment, it was Emily Broeman, one of the smartest sophomores in my class.
She giggled. "It's alright. I should have paid more attention to where I was going, too." She looked at me with concern. "Are you okay?"
She breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. I was worried that you had hurt yourself again."
She gestured to my bandaged wrist.
"Oh, right. Yeah, it's been a pretty lousy day," I chuckled halfheartedly.
She gave a sympathetic smile. "I can imagine. Jason had no right to do that." She then turned and started to head back down the hall. But before she left, she turned back to me.
"Well, I hope that the rest of your day goes better, Matthew." With that, she disappeared down the corridor.
And with that simple sentence, I forgot all about my sprained wrist and my eminent beating.
She said my name.
My real name.
The first person here at school to call me by my real name.
Not son, honey, sport, punk, kid, loser, jerk, idiot, or sweetie.
And so I headed into my study hall, confident that someone knew what I know: I have a name.