After years of relentless frustration, I decided it was time that I confront him. And I mean really confront him.
For years, I’d suffered from the hair pulling, spitballs, name- calling, tripping, stomach acid inducing glares, and more. He wouldn’t leave me alone! Not when I yelled at him. Not when I firmly told him to stop. Not when I told my teachers. Not when my parents called his. If only I had a dollar for every time someone said, “Boys will be boys.” I was at the point of dreading going to school.
Well not today. Enough is enough.
Soon, I was walking up the stairs to my locker before first period. I’d been concentrating so hard on what to say to him that I didn’t remember the bus ride there. Opening my locker, I was suddenly attacked by hundreds of tiny pieces of packaging styrofoam. It not only filled my locker- it was in my hair, down my dress, and creating a pool at my feet.
“Are you kidding me!” I uncontrollably yelled at no one in particular.
A loud, raspy laugh made me almost jump out of my flip-flops.
In a crowd of many middle schoolers’ voices, I could distinguish that laugh in a nanosecond.
Turning to face the opposite wall of lockers, my eyes met his. Fire to fire. We glared at each other. The only difference between our expressions was the smug smile he wore.
Dragging my feet through the tiny foam pieces and ignoring the glances around, I walked across to him with more confidence I’ve ever had. I poked his chest with my finger repeatedly and hard with each word.
“What. Is. Your. Problem.”
He gulped. Yeah, that’s right. For a second, I think I saw fear in his eyes. The ball was in my court now.
But quickly, he blinked it away. There was no trace of fear. Back to his smug look, casually he said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
I was so past tired of this game. A game he controlled and won every time. It was my turn to win and put an end to this once and for all.
The bell rang, but his eyes stayed locked on mine. Looking around, I noticed we had a rather large audience.
Teachers came out to the halls. “Get to class!” They barked.
Our audience dissipated, but neither I nor him moved away from each other.
In fact, I took a step closer. His head turned sideways like he was thinking deeply about something.
My voice barely above a whisper, I told him, “Meet me at the tree before soccer practice.”
He took a step closer, and my pulse quickened. “Deal,” he said with a smile in his eyes.
I walked away feeling his eyes at my back.
“The tree” was the only tree on school property that was fenced in. And for some reason, it was where students went to talk, to fight, to kiss. Today, that’s where I’d finally confront the guy who had bullied me all these years. My mom and his soccer practice would have to wait.
The day flew by. My nerves made it impossible to focus in class. During the classes that I shared with him, I could feel him staring at me. When I looked at him, it wasn’t the usual glare I saw. In fact, he looked confused. I decided to ignore it and to not look at him the remainder of the day.
When the final bell sounded, I nervously hurried to the bathroom. With shakey hands, I combed my hair with my fingers. I looked like a nervous wreck, but dammit, if I’d let him know how he effected me. Getting out my strawberry chapstick, I applied it generously. The smell comforted me taking me back to the summer I spent working on a strawberry farm. Inhaling a deep breath, I told myself I could do this. I walked out exhaling and feeling determined.
Making my way to the tree, I felt relief. He was not here yet. I thought there was some advantage in being first.
As I got closer, my heart sank.
So much for having an advantage.
He stood behind the tree- facing the woods that lingered a few feet away. He was staring into the woods, our local reservoir, with an expression I hadn’t seen him wear before. He looked sad. And for the first time, I have no idea why….I pitied the boy who had caused me so much pain.
Things I had prepared to say left me.
Just say something, I told myself. “Hey.”
“Hey.” His eyes met mine, and his expression was back to the glaring one I’d become accustomed to.
Things I wanted to say started drifting back.
“You are, for once, going to listen to me and answer some questions for me, do you understand?” I told more than asked with a faked confidence.
He nodded silently, his expression serious but softening.
“And do not tell me you have no idea what I’m talking about… what is seriously your problem with me? Why are you bothering me?Why all these years? Why do you like causing me pain? I don’t understand why you don’t like me.”
His eyes twitched. His voice serious, he said, “It’s not that.”
“It’s not that I don’t like you.”
I laughed. Loudly and exasperated. And done with this. Done with him and his games.
“Don’t you lie to me! It’s obvious you don’t like me!”
Now, he started laughing.
And he continued to laugh in my face.
The longer he laughed, the more embarrassed and frustrated I felt. He had a way of making me feel like there was this big inside joke that everyone was in on except me. I was the inside joke. After years of his torture, it wasn’t just him. He had even gotten my closest friends to ridicule me.
At a level of frustration I could no longer cope with, my eyes betrayed me. I tried so hard to think of anything to get my mind off this, my friends, him. But the tears fell unwarrantedly.
Just as soon, the air became quiet.
Did he leave?
I looked up and met his eyes. No longer were they mocking or glaring.
His eyes looked at me with disgust. Disgust of what? I had no idea.
I turned away.
Instantly, a hand landed on my arm, and he pulled me to his chest. Flesh to flesh. His warmth and contact should have repelled me. Instead, I liked it.
His expression changed from disgust to confusion to… curiosity to …a look that I’d only seen in movies. The kind of look a man gave a woman he loved, but that could not be possible. Besides, we were only kids.
His gaze traveled from my eyes to my lips and back up to my eyes.
He took a step forward.
I took one back, hitting my back against the tree.
He ducked his head down closer to mine. I became hyperaware of him. A smell of pine, wintermint, and sweat caressed me. A vein in his neck twitched, and I immediately felt goosebumps. His eyes were staring deeply into mine. His lips lingered two inches from my own. I made the mistake of looking at his lips.
This was part two. Read part one here.
Part three is on the way. Stayed tuned! 🙂