I was taught that being different is great, and I was told that 7th grade was going to be a really great year -- boy, were they wrong! Having a disability challenged me both socially and emotionally. Kids at my middle school thought that being different meant you were a freak. So the second I stepped onto the campus of my middle school, my life became hell. I was branded with labels that matched the freaks of Glee: loser, freak, nerd, dork, retard, crip, and outcast. My friends, also people who were excluded, were my saviors: Ross, who was teased for being “fat”; Jane and Alexandria, the two girls with ADD and ADHD; and then there was Jackson, who was picked on just because he hung around with us. They were my friends; it didn’t really matter what others thought. We proudly called ourselves “The Geeks.”
7th grade was when everything took a horrible turn. I was friends with the other kids in Special Ed. All but one: Bruno Larson, or as I loved to call him back then, Son of Satan. He was seen as cool to the other kids, and I thought the authorities at school pitied him for his mental illness. Then I realized, they were scared of him. He was described as insane, demonic, sly, and manipulative. He was, in short, a bully and a predator, and for some reason, that year I was his prey. We spent our lunchtime with the 5 of us at our town table. Then, when we went outside, we’d head either for the bleachers or our tree, a big oak tree we loved to climb on. My friends would talk to Bruno, but I wouldn’t; I got a bad vibe from him. He would tease us around, “playfully” punching us and making “jokes” at us. I always shrugged it off until it got serious. The punching and insults became less playful and more realistic. One day, I was talking with Jane and Alexandria when I heard a ruckus behind us. I turned only to see Bruno on Ross’ back, screaming “How do you like that, fatty?!” and choking him while Jackson tried with effort to pull Bruno off of Ross. We ran over and helped to break them up. I turned to Bruno and screamed, “Get out of here, you jerk!” He gave me a look of revenge and went off. Later that day, I ran into the vice principal, and told him what happened. He replied with, “I’ll take care of it”, and I never heard back again.
It was less than a week before Bruno struck again. When I walked into class, everyone started giggling and whispering. A few minutes into the hour, a piece of folded paper landed onto my desk. I opened it and I saw in big letters “Is it true that you and Bruno made out behind the alley?” With mass confusion, I turned and saw an abundance of faces staring at me. I shook my head, crumpled the note up, and threw it away. That afternoon at recess, I was with my friends at the bleachers and Bruno walked up to us, saying, “Did you enjoy that little note today?” I looked at him and BAM. I knew! He was the reason I was being given so many looks. “So it was you! You little a-” I cut myself off. I had more dignity than that than to explode at him. When he walked away laughing, I finished my sentence under my breath.
Weeks went by and things only became worse. With Bruno, it grew to verbal threats, physical violence, and more rumors. I grew depressed, and I didn’t want to go to school because I knew it would be nothing but a painful day. With desolation, I brought a knife onto my arms and hid the cuts with long sleeves. No one knew how I was handling things on the inside. I would come home with scrapes and bruises as use my clumsiness as an excuse to cover it up. My friends insisted they help me, but I’d refuse. I refused to show weakness and let Bruno win. I did go to the office many times. Everytime, they said “It’ll all be taken care of”. It never was taken care of. Everyone else just witness this lion hunt its prey and stood back. I was disappointed in everyone else and I became disappointed in myself.
Finally, I had enough. It had become too overwhelming. I was desperate and I felt so alone, so estranged from the world. It seemed the world wanted the worst and only the worst for me. Everyday grew longer and more painful. My parents grew more concerned as I came home with more marks. One day….I lost it. I was in my parents’ room with my mom while she was folding clothes. “How’s school going?” she asked. I just shrugged and replied “Fine”. There was a sudden sharp pain in my shoulder. My mom went over and began to rub my shoulder, only to result in me howling in pain. My mom lifted my shirt and saw a bruise on my back. “What happened!?” And after that, well, I don’t really remember. My mom and dad listened to me while I was crying and shuddering, letting one thing off my chest after another. My dad said “Next time this kid messes with you, stand up for yourself.” I did just that
One afternoon at recess, Bruno came up to me at the tree and greeted me with “Hello, retard.” I ignored him and kept my back to him, even though the insult stung. He repeated again and followed the comment with “I’m talking to you!” I continued to ignore him. He grew angrier and yelled, “Answer me, you little f****r!” and pushed me to the ground. That was definitely the last straw. I stood and pushed him to the ground. He tripped and tackled me. We rolled around on the dirt as I hit him whenever I could, screaming “I hate you!” over and over. I heard a chorus of different voices around me, yelling “Fight!” while my friends yelled my name. He hit me on the jaw, the nose, anywhere he could reach. It felt like forever before I managed to get up and lay my foot on his chest so he couldn’t get up. My chest was heaving; it was so hard to breathe. My vision was blurred with tears and I looked straight at him while wiping some blood off of my nose. “I’m tired of you bothering me, Bruno Larson. Now leave me alone and never bother me again.” I took my foot off of him and he stood, spat at me, and ran off. As the crowd dispersed, my friends helped me to the nurse. I told the story to the nurse, the vice principal, and the principal. Nothing was ever done.
I think about that day often. But that day was a lesson for me. It taught me it’s okay to be different and to not take sh- from anyone else. I held a grudge against Bruno Larson for a long time until I realized that he did me a favor. If it weren’t for that horrible experience, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I am so different from that 13 year old who didn’t do a thing to save herself. After my graduation from 8th grade, I looked at the campus one last time and said “See you later, suckers.” I was going to start high school and I was starting brand new. Let others think what they wanted to think. Everything was coming up Audra!