When I was in seventh grade, there was a girl bully who purposely stood behind me in line between classes so she could step on the back of my shoes and sneer at me when I looked back. She knew I would be silent and she found power in my shame. Here's the thing with bullies: they make you feel inferior from the sheer force of their hold over you and your inability to break free.
In the coat closet, when we were alone, she made fun of my Snoopy raincoat. She called me a baby. She belittled me. I was powerless and broken.
One day, we were in line on our way to lunch and she was doing her thing, when a friend came to my rescue. She waved me over and invited me to cut in front of her. She had seen what was going on. She had intervened. I was so thankful I may have fallen in love with her.
It's these moments of kindness that shaped me.
That same year, our class had planned a bike field trip. Every student had confirmed that 1. we had a bike. 2. we could bring it to school on a particular day to participate. I loved my bike. It was a red Peugeot handed down from my brother.
I lived four or five blocks from the school. I asked my mom if I could PLEASE ride my bike to school on this one day and she said no.
No. It wasn't safe. (I am my mother. I understand her overprotective nature.)
The day of the field trip, my classmates and I were all outside and the teacher asked if we were ready to go. I didn't say a word because that's how I am/was. Invisible. Mostly, I remember feeling small. Silent. I was the only one without a bike.
The girl who had saved me from the bully had a 10-speed bike and offered me a ride. She was an Indigo Girls song waiting to happen.
I climbed on and she carried me for a while and then got too tired to continue.
A boy offered to carry me the rest of the way. I agreed. He was nice and I had no other choice. He was riding a dirt bike and my shins got shredded as he pedaled us back to the school.
He was an angel, sweating and panting to get us back. Rumor has it that he had a crush on me.
My twelve-year-old soul was tired and bruised that day. I was a burden. A weight to be carried. But love had been my savior. Love and kindness had carried me through that day and that difficult seventh-grade year. To paraphrase the Girls, love was stronger than the monster beneath my bed, smarter than the tricks played on my heart.
Thank you. Both of you have altered my life.
And to the bully who tried to destroy me that year: I hope you've finally learned how to love. I hope you've slayed your own monsters.