God, You’re Such a Freak

“Psst. Over here.”

I glanced furtively to my left. Jamie was one row over, dangling a folded square of paper over the edge of her desk. A note. How could I grab it without attracting the attention of my math teacher, the man whose sporadic, jerky movements had caused many a piece of chalk to fly haphazardly into the face of an unsuspecting sixth-grader? I watched carefully as he called on someone at the other end of the classroom, extending my arm slowly and snatching the paper from Jamie’s fingers.

That test was BS, it read in her round, bubbly handwriting. Can you believe I got a 78? My mom is gonna KILL me.

I quickly flipped my own test face down, hiding the big red “100%” from Jamie’s view. I know, I scrawled underneath her words. Totally ridiculous. SO unfair. Before the teacher had a chance to turn around, the note was back in her hands.

The bell rang and I swung open my desk, looking for my language arts notebook. The test fluttered to the floor. I got down on my hands and knees to grab it, but I wasn’t quick enough. Someone else got there first.

“You dropped this,” Jamie said coldly, shoving the paper into my desk.

I closed the lid and looked at her guiltily. “Thanks,” I said quietly, averting my eyes.

“Seriously, you got a hundred?”

“Yeah, I guess I got lucky or something.”

She laughed, that awful unkind laugh that made me want to crawl under my desk and stay there until my 13th birthday. “You didn’t get lucky.” Her tone was accusatory. “You always get hundreds on everything. God, you’re such a freak.”

I didn’t reply. Jamie was so much smaller than me, but she had the power to make me feel like a tiny ant ready to be squashed by her giant foot. We walked next door to language arts, neither of us saying a word, tears brimming in my eyes. I hated the thought of her seeing me cry. As I took my seat, her voice filled my ears. “God, you’re such a freak.” I was. Oh, yes, I was a freak. What on earth was wrong with me?

My LA teacher started rattling off spelling words at the front of the room. Words I knew; words I could spell in my sleep. What a freak. Sixth graders aren’t supposed to know how to spell all these words. Disappointment. One s, two p’s. Obviously. Me. I was a disappointment. I was a freak. I was never going to fit in anywhere. Not me. The freak.

I scribbled down the twenty words on the yellow paper in front of me. Then carefully, oh so carefully, I erased six of them and rewrote them. Wrong.

We passed our pretests to the right. Mine went to Jamie. She rolled her eyes and started doodling with blue ink on her palm.

She didn’t even correct my pretest. She just handed it back to me, refusing to meet my gaze.

I got a 14/20 for her. That was a 70%. A black mark on my record, and I did it so she wouldn’t think I was a freak. But she didn’t care. Jamie could always find some reason to torture me, this one was just easy and convenient and barely required her attention. I groaned, letting my head fall down onto my desk with a loud thud. How stupid was I?

I wasn’t ready to stand up to her, not yet. I was twelve, and lonely, and hopelessly manipulable. It would be almost a year before I would decide I’d finally had enough. But that Friday, I sat down for my spelling test and I spelled every single word correctly, and I thought, well, freak or not, this was one thing nobody could ever take away from me. I would never again give up my words.

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210 comments

  1. I eventually turned it into a game. Teacher going to grade on a curve? Yeah, good luck with that. I’ll be getting a 100%. We all survive in our own way, and hopefully come out the other side realizing that those schools were for children and become respectful adults with our won “super” powers. Best wishes. 🙂

    1. Oh man, I got so much flak for ruining the curve in high school. Now that I’m in college, thank the good Lord for curves, because I’m not getting 100% anymore…

    1. You are correct this is not the worst bullying and it is managable. But most children her age were trying to fit in. They lack the tools to manage such bullying and therefore it still hurt. She seems well adjusted today which means she came up with tools to cope and manage.

      I believe the point she was making was more about being different and A+ students were different and therefore targets just like the students in special education or wheel chairs were the targets as well.

      Either way bullying hurts and not every child has the tools to manage the bullying. Some actaully kill themselves because of it. I felt this was a great reminder that many kids face some form of bullying in school.

  2. Well done. It can be so hard. I’ve been on both ends of each of you in this story. The girl who struggled through most of school, and then the girl who did well and achieved when she got to college, and sadly, this sort of behavior sometimes finds it’s way there in a more adult form. It takes courage to do what you did, but I admire you for it. Keep writing!

  3. I remember those years. I hated being the only kid in class that had read the textbooks front to back. My son went through the same freak moment when he corrected a teacher after she misspelled a word on the blackboard. His teacher called him a ‘nerd’ . Great read! 🙂

  4. Very similar experience. Fitting in is hard. I’m 12 now, but I say to myself everyday, “Remeber 2nd grade? Time flew by then, so you’ll be sitting there an adult before you know it, thinking back to 7th grade.” Freak or not, it will come in handy for me eventually. I loved the story by the way. Great read!

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