“You won’t ever be good at anything, you’ll never be able to do the amazing things that Bobby can do. You’re just the runt of the family, nothing more.” I awoke with a start from the words that have haunted me all these years. I felt a stabbing in my chest as the words echoed over and over, piercing my already broken heart.
Years ago when I was in third grade, I had a teacher, Mrs. Greenfield, a silver-haired lady with spectacles perched on the edge of her nose. She ruined my life. Every day without fail she told me that I wasn’t good enough for anything. Every day! She was right. I was that awkward child, short, a little chubby, with hair that seemed to grow whichever way it pleased. She wasn't the only one. My parents were no better. I was also the unwanted child. It was always about my older brother Bobby, who basked constantly in glory and admiration. All I ever heard was Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. No one ever paid any attention to me, and my accomplishments. When I was the only one to finish my whole snack in preschool, I raced home that day, tripping over my own little feet, ecstatic to share my joy with my family. I dashed in the door ready to show off the shiny gold medal that I had won. But I burst in on an all-too-familiar scene: everyone crowded around Bobby, as he boasted about his latest grand accomplishment (he had gotten the lead role in the school play). I have never been good at anything, and I never will be, I thought to myself. Like Mrs. Greenfield constantly drilled in my head: I am just the runt, and nothing more.
Episodes like these had been replaying over and over in my mind, like a movie reel stuck in rewind. My mind became increasingly obsessed with the idea of how useless I was. I couldn't get good enough grades. I never made sports teams that I had tried out for. The list went on and on. Eventually I began to wonder why I was even here. The little voice in my head became louder and louder and angrier and angrier. “Revenge, it whispered. You must seek revenge. That inner voice taunted me, over and over, and day after day. One day as I sat in math class, the algebraic expressions began to tease me, the letters dancing on the page until falling in place to spell out the word useless, and then rearranged themselves gleefully to spell revenge. They acted as if they were glaring up at me and began spiraling up and into my feverish brain, until finally I grabbed my head with both hands and began shouting to myself: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! But the voice cackled back, “You are useless...not needed...you can’t even solve this simple equation.” The bell suddenly rang,and stampeding feet and contagious laughter signaled the end of the school day. I took my time packing up, and then trudged down the dingy, gloomy halls, which had suffered from years of neglect and being vandalized. Suddenly, that voice in my head spoke up again: The walls of Fern High School are just like you, dull, sad, and unwanted.” My head felt like it was going to split. "Enough!" I yelled aloud. I finally knewwhat I had to do.
The next morning after everyone had left, the house fell eerily silent and the voice inside me guided me down the hall, as though I was possessed. “You know where to go…what to get. Just follow me, and listen to what I say.” Sneaking into my parent’s room, I took a paper clip out of my father'sheavy wooden desk, and delicately used it to open their locked closet. The doors creaked as they opened, and my eyes were immediately drawn to what I was looking for: A rustic wooden chest lay in a dark corner behind the shadows and cobwebs. I picked it up gingerly, enclosing my hands tightly around it, careful not to break it. Somehow I made it downstairs, oblivious to the talk show blaring from the T.V., tothe phone ringing, and even tothe dog barking. I left the house in a daze, the boxclutched in my clammy hands.
The cold Chicago wind rustled my hair, and chilled my skin, and I barely noticed the crunching of the vibrant falling leaves as I walked through the neighborhood. I felt myself being pulled in the direction of West Briar Elementary School. As I walked to the back of the school the memories of the horrendous years I spent there already were flooding my mind. I found an unlocked door, and slipped in quietly, sneaking through the third grade hallway. Fortunately, It was easy to movethrough the hall unnoticed as the third grade students were all at lunch in the cafeteria. Room 130...131...132... And there it was. I found myself in front of the looming door, and squinted up at the nameplate above it. Room 133: Mrs. Greenfield. I slowly turned the handle, opened the door, and walked in.
The room wassilent,except for the clicking and clacking coming from Mrs. Greenfield's hands as they flew across the keyboard. As I entered, Mrs. Greenfield immediately looked up, startled to see me standing there in front of her.
“Jimmie! Good heavens, what in the world are you doing here?” Mrs. Greenfield anxiously exclaimed. She looked me up and down slowly, nervously, and then noticed the box I was holding. Her face grew pale and her lips quivered. “I really must report this immediately, you shouldn't be here!” Mrs. Greenfield hurriedlystarted to pick up the phone; her brow twitched and beads of sweat dripped down her face.As I closed the distance between us, the aroma of her perfume burned my nostrils and only heightened my anger.
“You know what I came here for, what I want. I’ve been waiting for something my whole life and I won’t leave until I get it.”
“I can assure you I really don’t know what you are talking about.” Mrs. Greenfield’s eyes darted around the room, looking for an exit. She fidgeted with her cold, wrinkly hands. She was scared of me. I could sense it.
“Oh, I think you really do know what I want.”
“Honestly Jimmie, I don't have the faintest idea what you are talking about. “Don’t lie to me,” I breathed. “You know exactly what you did to me all those years ago.” I opened the box that I had been clenching in my hands, revealing a purple,velvet cloth bag inside. I reached into it and pulled out my father's pistol. The voice in my head urged me: “Do it Jimmie. Do it.” I aimed the pistol at Mrs. Greenfield and tightened my finger around the trigger. All of the taunting and torture that I had faced over the years would finally be avenged. I was sweating like a pig; my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I can’t do this, I thought. “Wimp! Do it!” The voice in my head cackled furiously.
And then a memory began to cloud my mind. As tears streamed down Mrs. Greenfield's cheeks, I saw not Mrs. Greenfield's large gray eyes, but my grandmother, sitting on her rocking chair, stroking my hair. I was three years old and she was singing me a sweet lullaby, and I was falling asleep in her arms like I did every afternoon. My grandmother was the only person who I ever knew who had cared about me, noticed me, lovedme. But all that had changed the day she passed away. I remember though, on her deathbed, she had whispered to me, "Love is the greatest gift you can give and receive." With those words ringing in my head, I wondered, is life worth living without love? “Idiot, kill her already!”
The fog in my mind cleared. As I regained focus, I knew what I had to do. Slowly, I turned the pistol toward myself and pulled the trigger.