So, up until now, I’ve had a good day, to be fair. Scored a hat trick and got top marks in English Lit. The world looks great. Then I get off at the chippie and my mood changes, immediately. I’m overcome by that familiar sinking feeling I always get when I make the short journey home after school.
I look both ways at the roundabout before crossing, thinking that it might be better to get run over than to keep having to psyche myself up for this daily walk of shame and a feeling of rage wells up inside me that would freak out the hardest kid in school if I ever let it out. But that’s all it is, a feeling, because I don’t have it in me to fight the bullies that have been destroying my confidence. I’ve never had a proper conversation with any of them in my life. We don’t even go to the same school, but all it took was a split second glance and the next thing I heard was, “You got a problem, blood?” And ever since then, they’ve been beating me up and steal money whenever they get hold of me.
I cross the two streets before mine and on cue, my heart starts beating faster. The lady in the dry cleaners waves at me, as usual. I just nod back, pre-occupied, praying that those kids are elsewhere so I can just make it into my house without any drama this time. I turn into my road and look halfway down. There they are sitting on their bikes, the four of them laughing and joking, oblivious to the world of pain and rage welling up inside me. Shamefully, I tuck my chin into my collar and walk on, hoping to God they never saw me and now I’m off, running towards the corner shop where I can kill some time.
After ten minutes of flicking through magazines without buying anything, I can see the shopkeeper’s face begin to twitch. I’ve been coming here since I was little, but he still gives me the same look as if I’m about to nick something so I take the hint and leave. My thoughts turn to home again, but I know it’s too soon. And as I begin weighing up my options I suddenly feel the need to shit. I think about the nearest place I can go: the library. But it’s too far and their toilet is for “STAFF ONLY”. No exceptions. My stomach starts to rumble. A dry fart escapes.
I begin walking around the block, really slow steps so I don’t upset my bowels, but I’m struggling to fight the pressure building up. Focus on something else. Deep breaths!As I go, I hear myself muttering:
I hate you . . . I hate you more than anything in this world for what you’re doing to me! I-wish-you’d-all-just-fucking-die!
I really can’t go on like this. One of these days, something inside me’s gonna snap and someone’s gonna get seriously hurt.The thought scares me, but at the same time gives me a surge of power for a brief moment.
I study my watch again. It’s been almost half an hour. Surely they’ll be gone by now. I cross the road and start back towards my house. My heart begins thumping once more and my stomach feels full, but I’ve got my plan B ready: if they’re still there I’ll duck behind the cars and creep up to my place. Just then, a long shadow looms across the pavement up ahead. I freeze; it’s too late to turn back. But it’s only Micah and Michaela, the kids next door. I let out a huge sigh. My face burns with shame.
I look round the corner and relief spreads through my body. They're gone! I want to run now, but I can’t because if I break into a jog my bowels will erupt so, butt clenched, I speed walk the short journey to my front door. It feels like the final hundred metres of a marathon, but I’m almost there. And then I hear those familiar words: “Oi, Jamal!” I daren’t turn around, but I know exactly who it is . . . her!I shut my eyes. The tears begin to sting and I resign myself to my fate.
Honestly, there’s nothing as bad as being bullied by girls. I can’t tell my mates ‘cause I know they’ll just laugh and I can’t tell my mum or the teachers because I’m too ashamed. I JUST WANT IT TO STOP! As I turn to face the music, she flashes past on her BMX, followed by her all-girl crew. Looking back at me, she cackles, flicks me the finger and shouts, “You little prick!” Then they disappear up the road and my whole body relaxes. But I still can’t move. My y-fronts feel heavy. And I smell bad.