finding my voice

Vocal point

I’m working through past drama. I’m excavating.

The episode I’m focusing on is from junior high school, alternatively know as “middle school” and a giant petri dish for Lord of the Flies. Does anyone come through this rite of passage unscathed?

My school is exactly 1.5 miles away from my house. District policy allows a bus ride for kids who live more than 1.5 miles away from school, which excludes me. Barely.

finding my voice

Mom, being a concerned and well-meaning mom, has made arrangements with the school district to have a bus transport me for medical reasons. I have exercise-induced (and everything else-induced) asthma.

The plan, as I begin 7th grade, is for the bus to pick me up at the elementary school that just graduated me, two blocks away. And it will drop me off there at the end of the school day.

The only kink in this plan is that the bus will pick me up AFTER it engorges itself with all the other savages students that live just outside my neighborhood. And it will drop me off BEFORE it disgorges the other beasts boys and girls.

This means I have to run the gauntlet down the bus aisle. Twice a day.

Boarding the bus after everyone is settled, I rarely find a seat. Girls are already paired up. Boys are looking for amusement, which they often twin with weakness. They find both in me. I don’t like being the center of attention. I avert my eyes. I will myself invisible, but they see me anyway.

They hone in on my vulnerability like sharks to a scab. The name-calling starts on Day 1. “Asthma! Asthma!” Sick Girl!” “What a little wussy girl!” “Hey Wheezy! Can’t you even get yourself to school?”

How do they know? Who told them why I was riding?

It becomes a game to put out a foot and trip me. To block any available seats. To see if I will crack.

My pride and joy at this time is a denim bag. I ordered it myself out of a Lillian Vernon catalog. I love it because it has slots for my pens. Don’t ask me today why I thought this was cool back then. I just did.

Some of those pens even had my name engraved on them (also thanks to Lillian Vernon). A particular 9th grade boy delights in plucking my pens out of my bag. They have my name on them.

I endure the trips up and down the aisle for what seemed like the entire year. Odd how one’s sense of time at that age has no anchor and no tether. It may have been for only a week or two. Torment messes with the space-time continuum.

I consult with my Dad, who gives me some advice. I put our plan into effect one afternoon as I get off the full bus.

I walk up the aisle as the taunting and taking happen, as usual. This time, though, I pause just for a moment at the front of the bus to address the hostile and surprised audience.

“Stick it up your asthma.” I say it clearly, loudly, confidently. Now that I write it, it makes very little sense, but it seemed clever at the time.

I walked off the bus. Alone, relieved, proud of myself.

And from then on, I got to school on my own power.

Image: MeuserLaw

13 thoughts on “Vocal point”

  1. It feels good to stick up for yourself. I had a tough bus ride in early middle school. One boy sat behind me and tormented me. One day I finally reached behind me and grabbed his arm and twisted it around. On Monday he came in a cast. I’ll never really know if I broke it, as he was a liar. But sometimes I wonder.

  2. lori, you are very VERY brave. middle school is not something i like to contemplate or excavate at all, even these many years later.

  3. This is seriously, one of the coolest posts ever. Kids are SOOOO mean in school and I can’t believe you had the guts to do that! But I gotta say, it totally reminds me of this bitch who used to threaten to beat me up all throughout grade 7 and grade 8, and finally in grade 9, I just got pissed off and called her on it, told her to do it, cuz I was tired of worrying about it. She made some bitchy remark about how she would and I wouldn’t know when, but she walked away – and that was sooooo freeing, cuz then it was me pushing her and she DIDN’T do it.

  4. Wow. Way to take charge and reframe a situation. You put it on a whole different footing. I think that’s amazing that you could do that so young. Really. Any one could have said something like you said, but not everyone could pull it off.Way to close out your bus-riding career in a blaze of glory!

  5. What a story. Kids can be so cruel. I has bullied as a kid to, because we had a farm. They said I stink. I never even went into the barn.

  6. Tracy, Amy and PJ — it’s actually very empowering to revisit my 12-year-old self with they eyes of my 40+-year-old-self. The threat is gone, and I can better see it for what it was — a lot of wispy smoke!Amy — great story! I kind of hope the cast was thanks to you.

  7. You’re much braver than I in your excavating. Like Lea Bea, I do everything possible not to recall junior high — there was not one aspect of it that didn’t seem to torture me on some level. Yikes.

  8. I hate how cruel kids – and adults for that matter – can be to each other. Good for you. That is a very brave middle school student.

  9. Oh holy crap, Lori. Did we go to the same school? I am adopted. I need to ask my first mom if she had twins. LOL! I even had the denim purse that looked like it was made from the ass of a pair of jeans (I also thought this look was very cool) AND the pencils with my name on them. Wow. Our moms should have just made us sweatshirts with “GEEK” beadazzled on the chest. The kids on my bus treated me same as you. The girls went to some extra effort…in art class they made me a prize ribbon that said “fag of the year” and presented the award on the bus. I had the lovely nickname of “Rejecta” instead of Rebecca. Nice. I had eyeglasses. Nuff said. I also had asthma…but it was allergy induced. Dust, grass, pollen…exercise made me breath hard which made me take in more allergens and voila…asthma attack. I was chubby too. And I wore cords almost all year round (mom refused to buy the “right” kind of jeans). I could go on and on. Thank God I left public school after 8th grade and got to start over in a private high school. I also think I have the denim purse still…around here somewhere.

  10. That’s funny … I remember when I was in first grade I had a sister who liked to be by herself. She couldn’t wait to get home so she could do her homework and read. She was really good at math and always created the coolest science projects.

    Then one day she came home with her head held high with a look of pride on her face. She had always been smart, and even beautiful. But it was on that day, I think she had just entered middle school, when she realized it for herself.

    And she gets smarter and more beautiful every day!

  11. I was the fat girl and had to endure a group pf boys who followed me to gym class most days singing “she’ll be rolling down the mountain when she comes.” One day I walked *with* them instead of in front. “Hey guys, that song is getting old. Got anything else?” To my surprise they didn’t and after that we occasionally walked to class together. The next year when I was the slowest girl on the track team, the same group would sometimes run with me and encourage me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *