I floated through the unfamiliar halls for the first time, as everything slowed down around me like one of those typical action films where the guy jumps off the building. I felt like I was in some sort of trance. Even though the noise level was the loudest I had ever heard in a building, I couldn’t really hear anything except my heart thumping against the cage of my chest, trying desperately to escape, although my heart and I both knew there would be no escape for either of us. I was trapped here, forced to be the newby once again by my pitiless mother whom I now cursed for having a job opportunity in this bleak wet nowhere they call Washington.
I scrambled to go along with the flow of people, and let myself drift through the current of the crowd. Shoot! I thought. No one wears purple beanies here! Especially if you’re a guy...whoops I really should have known that. I mean beanies are one thing. But purple? I ran into the putrid smelling boy’s room, and yanked off the beanie. Staring in the mirror, I wished that something else other than the pale face with freckles was staring apprehensively back at me. I pushed my annoying diagonally hanging absolutely cursed bangs out of my eyes. Ok now on your first day you’ll be late to class Martin, I thought. Totally smooth first impression. I hurried back out into the hallway, swinging the creaky door shut behind me. The trance took over my body again, and I watched other people’s perfect lives as they chattered with their friends.
I was yanked from my state of abstraction when out of the corner of my eye I saw a small crowd coming from behind me, trapping me. The halls of this school were so narrow that there was nowhere to run. I spun around, and even before I looked, I knew the guy coming up behind me was the bloody brutal bully that I had spotted on the bus on my way to school, beating the snot out of some other poor friendless loser. I could relate to that. I mean I’ve been the new kid six different times for crying out loud. I know what it’s like to be beat up on a bus, in a hallway, in a locker room even, with everyone’s eyes burning through you like they want to help. Kind of.
The bullies had been starting to leave me alone In California. Mom was doing well, and so was I. Then Mom got fired. So, we moved. Now everything was different. There was only minor bullying there. Somehow, I doubted that Steve was limited to just stealing lunch money. Darn! I had worn my boots that looked like they belonged to my mom on my first day. As if I was trying to get more people to pick on me! I looked around me and realized all the guys in the hallway were wearing some form of athletic sneakers, sneakers that I would never have willingly worn (unless they went with my outfit, and they helped me make a fashion statement). I should have worn sneakers. I should have known that guys don’t wear boots. period. Maybe that’s like a universal secret that I was left out on. Steve and his gang closed in on me. He looked at me like I was an annoying little spider he was about to crush. There was nothing I could do because I definitely couldn’t even dream of out running them.
“So. You’re the new kid,” he said, sneering. My palms got all sweaty, and to stop myself from making some sort of dying animal noise that was crawling up my throat, I clamped down hard on the inside of my cheek. Digging my teeth into the sensitive skin, I sensed metallic tasting blood on my tongue. Seriously. That was what it took to shut myself up. I gulped down the whimper that I knew would only earn me negative points with these bullies.
Instead I managed to let out,“Good observation.”
“Oh, so you wanna get snarky with me little punk?” The people passing by snickered like they knew I was dead meat. Oh no. People were starting to gather and watch the spectacle. Word would get out that I was pathetic, weak and not to be considered as an actual human. Just an idea that people thought was to hard to chew on, so needed to be spit out. In the dirt. A football jock (one of Steve’s “followers”) came up behind me and twisted my arm behind my back. I tried to squirm away, but I wasn’t strong, just skinny and tall, and that didn’t help me at all now. People were whispering.
“Leave me alone!” I yelled.
“Oh, of course your highness. Very alone we will leave you,” he reassured in an opposite of reassuring way. He dragged me by my collar into someone’s locker that had been left open a crack, oh how I hated that someone, forced the door shut, and spun the dial to lock me in my lightless tomb. Of course he probably didn’t even know the code to unlock me. Not like he would ever need it. If only that person had remembered to lock their locker that day.
I heard a smirk on Steve’s lips and in his voice as he said, “Have fun being alone geek.” Then pressing my ear against the cold metal, I heard him swagger off to first period classes with his gang. I recognized the sound his Air Jordans clopping against the ground, getting quieter as he walked away with no regret. The hall resumed its regular hustle and bustle, the noise of lockers being slammed, loud talking, and stampedes of footsteps. The hallway noise got progressively quieter as the hallways drained like water down a sink, the last people hurrying along to get to their first classes. I waited in that locker for what felt like centuries, maybe even eons, but what was in reality about twenty minutes. Waiting for someone to realize they left their coat in their locker, and hear me hysterically ramming at the door. I kept banging my full force into that door at about two second intervals, until I was so tired I slumped down in the locker.
Finally I heard someone walking down the hallway even though I knew first period classes were well under way. I thought I would finally be freed of my metal prison, when I heard the locker next to mine being opened. Great! I thought. I had to get their attention somehow. I tried continuously throwing myself at the locker door so maybe they would hear me and, was it possible? Help? I dared to have hope. I almost cried for relief when finally I heard her at my locker. I peaked out of the slit in the door.
She frowned,“Hello? Is someone in there?”
I quickly replied with the only thing I could get out which was a little quiet squeak,“Help!” and an accompanying whimper. The girl outside unlocked me, and then she opened the door. I fell out and heaved air in and out of my lungs on my hands and knees, blood dripping from my lip and nose. She jumped back when I stumbled out and looked at me like I had two heads.
“Who did that to you?” she inquired, and looked at me with a look of sympathy and bewilderment. I just shook my head and stared at the ground.
“Steve, Robert, Jack, and those people” I mumbled finally. “But why are you here anyway?” I questioned her. “And how did you unlock me? You couldn’t have known the combination…”
“I was thirsty. I left class to get my water bottle, and my friend from honors chorus has a locker next to mine. She tells me her combinations, and I tell her mine just in case. It could come in handy you know?” She motioned toward me. I definitely knew. I was lucky that these two girls I don't even know told each other their locker combinations so that they could help each other out, and that this girl was nice enough to help me out, and that she was thirsty that day in the middle of class. So lucky. I thanked her, and asked her if she would help me find music class, which was first period for me.
She grinned,“No way! I have that first too! What music class are you in?”
“Honors chorus just like you I think.” Finally maybe I’d actually get somewhere on my first day here, first day as the new kid in eighth grade.
“That’s cool!” she exclaimed, “Wait hold up, are you Martin? The new kid Mr. Reguyen
couldn’t find when he was taking attendance earlier today?”
“That’s me. What’s your name? Thanks for helping me out by the way.”
“Oh,” she smiled. “No problem. I’m Alex.”
I smiled back. I liked Alex, and she seemed to kind of except me in a way not a lot of other kids had. I kind of act like a “girl” as other school bullies have put it numerous times. I’m not a jock, I’m not fast, and I have like zero arm strength. I also am equipped with sweepy black hair that never seems to STAY out of my eyes no matter how many times I move it. My favorite color is purple. Oh and did I mention I’m gay? So yeah. Not the kind of thing everyone is willing to accept I guess. But Alex hadn’t seemed to have any problem with me. She was super friendly, even though I was practically tripping over myself from exhaustion, and my bloody lip left red stains all over my new light pink polo. Also the fact that everyone except me was wearing sneakers. And that I had a black eye because-I think it was Robert-punched me in the face when I tried to escape the football jock’s lock on my arm. So I was kind of a mess. But when Alex brought me to music class, introduced me to the super nice understanding honors chorus teacher Mr. Reguyen, (who excused my lateness when Alex explained what happened), and sat me down next to her at a table with a bunch of nice looking girls, I knew I wanted to be her friend. I thought there was a chance that she just might want to be mine.
She whispered, “Who do you usually sit with at lunch?” I whispered back,
“This is only my first day, remember?” She looked at me with her bright hazel eyes and said in a serious tone,
“Well Martin if you would take a short break from your celebrity life full of paparazzi and popularity to sit with the musical nerds and I-” she motioned at our table group and the one next to it, “We would be greatly honored.”
I put my purple beanie. I loved to sing, and I wasn’t going to change that just because Steve said so. I lifted my chip up, proud, not embarrassed, letting the world see my deep blue eyes. I knew I wouldn’t hide them anymore spending time looking at my feet. While I was in the middle of my cheesy spiritual transformation, I hadn’t noticed Brenda tapping me on the shoulder.
They were all waiting for me at the door, ready to go down to lunch now that class was over. I rushed toward them, happier than I’d been in a long time. We sang all the way to the cafeteria, people staring at us like, “What? Who are those weirdos?” But I didn’t care. Because for the first time in my life, I had that feeling like I belonged.
By: Sarah Winickoff