I must have been about 13 when I first encountered her. The other girls used to laugh at her for what she did not have: nice hair, new shoes, and stylish clothes. Today, I would admit if I actually remembered jeering with the other girls. After all, that would have taken audacity. An odd duck knows when it sees another. I wore hand-me-down clothes and raggedy shoes. I’d always been pretty proud of my hair, though. I still am, though it’s never actually done me a favor. Indeed, it’s done nothing my whole life except had its way with me. Well, I suppose it’s gotten me a few winks here and there–but nothing to write home about. Well, this girl didn’t even have hair on her side. At least, that’s what my early adolescent mind told me. And, in my girlish thoughts, she’d never be pretty in a world that only cared about a girl’s beauty. What an awful fate!
Now that I look back, I was just as guilty as the bullies for my negative thoughts about the girl and for not using my influence to encourage them to stop. I can remember while they were taunting her, she just had this blank look on her face. In hindsight, her mother had probably told her to just ignore those bullies. And, that she did–never a word. She looked at them and me on the sideline as if she were staring into the cages of monkeys at a zoo.
But, I haven’t begun to tell the truth of the story, which is far briefer than I have caused you to read. I’ve just always been long-winded that way, circling the block when I could walk straight down the road. Here’s the true story.
One day, the bus pulled up to my school. I got off, as one might expect. But, this time, there was a patch of ice on a small incline. In order to get to school, you guessed it, I had to make that climb up the cold, hard, and slippery ice. What was the bus driver thinking! There should have been a law. There probably was.
I started my dreadfully slow journey, hoping to reach the entrance of the school before experiencing severe trauma from a fall. I’ve never been much into falling. I gingerly stepped, knowing full well this would not prohibit me from falling. I’d lived with sleet and snow long enough to know that the only thing ice pays much attention to is traction. There was none. Still, I continued my climb because getting back on the bus was not an option.
Finally, it happened. There I was with arms stretched out like airplane wings–about to bust my ass. I moved my from side to side as I tried to catch my balance, but there was no stopping my destiny. Or so I thought.
Suddenly, you guessed it, a hand touched mine and pulled me to safety. I looked up. I couldn’t believe it. I guess I don’t have to tell you whose hand it was, how it changed my life, and why I’ll never forget her.
Photo: Anti-Bullying Campaign on SCAD Portfolios