I only tried to get even with Josh once. Just once. And he punished me so severely, that I never tried it again.
I would have rather ended my own life than defy him again.
They seemed like innocent tools – a pencil, two pens, and tennis shoes – but they combined to make one of the worst days of my life.
It all started in science class. Our teacher, Mr. S. was a free thinking kind of teacher who shunned the idea of assigned seats. Now, most kids would welcome that kind of freedom. Not me. I knew it would give Josh even more leeway to persecute me.
I knew I was probably in for it when I caught Josh whispering to B and D before class, periodically looking over at me. I sat down. Josh sat right behind me. I’d move, and each time he’d follow me. I think I probably sat in every seat in that class trying to get away from him, but by the time the bell rang, I was trapped. Josh behind me, with D and B on either side.
As Mr. S. began teaching, writing on the blackboard, his back to the class, it began.
Poke. Push. Grind. Josh thrust his newly sharpened pencil through my sweater into my back. I shifted to one side. It didn’t help. Poke. Push. Grind. He was on his tenth poke, when I’d finally had it.
I raised my hand and told Mr. S. what was going on. He shot Josh a look and told him to knock it off. Josh raised his eyebrows and proclaimed his innocence. Mr. S. didn’t care, however, and turned back to the blackboard.
It wasn’t enough to deter Josh. Now that I’d embarrassed him, he began to poke harder and grind the lead deeper into my back. I knew it would be useless to raise my hand again, so I tried to grit my teeth and ignore it.
Josh must have sensed me giving up, since he snickered softly as he continued the poking. I think it was the snicker that made me mad. I looked down and saw that Josh had propped his feet on either side of my desk.
The brand new black and white BK tennis shoes he’d been bragging about stared up at me. I knew he’d paid $100 of his own money to buy those shoes.
My anger just seemed to come to a head. I don’t know what I was thinking. And I would profoundly regret it later, but my patience was exhausted. I uncapped two of my blue pens and, with pre-meditation, drew a line up the front of each shoe.
He was surprised. I’ll give him that. He dropped his feet down so fast they thumped on the ground. Tempting fate, I twisted around and smiled triumphantly.
He lifted the pencil and was about to stab me in the back- literally - when we both looked up and realized the room had gone silent. Mr. S. stood there, in front of us, privy to the whole incident.
He looked down at Josh’s now streaked shoes and said, “Serves you right.” He took Josh’s pencil away and wrote him a detention.
My glow of triumph faded almost instantly. I’d just meant to get a “little” even with Josh. Now, I’d ruined his new shoes, embarrassed him in front of the class, and gotten him a detention.
Oh, yeah, I was in trouble.
I could practically feel the waves of anger rolling off Josh during the rest of the class. I was on my feet, out the door, and on the way to my next class on the first peal of the dismissal bell. Running for my life.
I managed to stay out of his way the rest of the day, even though he shot me murderous looks in every class. For the next couple of days, I walked with friends everywhere and tried to always keep a teacher in sight.
Of course, I was going to be punished. I knew that. I just wanted to postpone it for as long as possible. So, when it did eventually happen, I marked it up to really (really) bad timing. And of course, the fate that had doomed me to be Josh’s whipping girl.
“It” happened on a Tuesday afternoon. For our recreation hour, the girls had Home Economics Class and the boys had Gym Class. I finished my Home Ec class assignment early and got a hall pass to go to the bathroom.
The bathrooms were right off the side of the gym. As I headed down the stairs and made a left turn toward the bathroom, I saw the boys running around in their gym shorts, playing basketball. I didn’t think anything about it. I assumed their coach was keeping an eye on them.
Later, I would learn that their coach was busy in the locker room catching up on paperwork. He’d left them unsupervised and unknowingly made that horrible day possible.
Just as I was realizing I had no friends with me, and there were no teachers in sight, Josh was making his way towards me. He motioned to B, D, and D2 to block my path. I found myself propelled away from the bathrooms into the narrow closet that housed the basketball racks.
D2, a moody boy and good friend of Josh’s, pinned me behind one of the racks, as B and D double checked for any adults. They gave the all clear to Josh.
One by one, he emptied the racks and distributed the balls to the three boys. As he handed them out, he grinned maliciously at me. I think he could see I was almost vibrating with dread.
My bladder, which had been full to begin with, now threatened to give out on me. It took everything I had not to wet my pants in fear.
D2 threw the first ball. It hit me in the stomach. I tried to leave the closet, but the four boys pummeled me with basketballs. My head, my stomach, my thighs, my legs, and even my arms were throbbing in agony by the time the basketballs lay silent on the floor.
I was doubled up on the floor, trying to catch my breath enough to stand up. Josh came in and stood over me. I looked up at him just in time to see the basketball coming at my face. I clutched my sore face and half ran, half stumbled to the bathroom.
I sat in the stall and took inventory of where it hurt. Everywhere. I don’t know how much time passed. It felt like an eternity. But eventually, I washed my face and limped back to class.
I hurt for the next couple of days. I saw Josh watch with satisfaction as I had to sit gingerly and move with caution.
The next time we had science class, Josh sat behind me again. He proceeded to poke me with pencils and propped his ruined tennis shoes on either side of my desk. My two pens sat there in front of me, their caps still on. My motivation was gone. He’d finally broken my spirit.
That night, after I was in my room for the night, I took a pair of scissors and slowly cut up the pencil marked sweater. I just couldn’t take looking at it anymore.
In fact, I couldn’t take looking at that face in the mirror anymore, either.