A lot can happen in a minute….

by Jotter girl on February 1, 2014

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I think back to arriving at the bus stop that first day of 5th grade, when I was met by two neighborhood girlfriends and immediately knew something was wrong. I approached them with a smile but could see that they were not smiling back. That long minute before the bus arrived was awful and shocking, mostly because I never saw it coming. They took turns hissing at me while slamming me with the following messages.

We weren’t really your friends over the summer.

We were just using you.

We’ve always hated you.

You’re ugly.

Everyone hates you.

You have buck teeth.

You’re a dog.

Your mother probably packed you Alpo for lunch.

You’re a fag.

We are best friends and have always hated you.

You are a pig.

We are going to beat you up after school.

Your shoes are so ugly.

We are going to turn everyone against you.

Your clothes are so ugly, you must be poor.

We are going to beat you up at recess.

We hate you.

You are nothing.

Add 42 more and you have the minute that changed everything.

This was the first of many minutes just like it that would thread their way through the next 10 months of school. Each morning, while trying to find ways to stall at home, my mother made sure she swooshed me out the door so I wouldn’t miss the bus. It felt as though she was sending me to the lions.  I walked to the bus stop as slowly as possible, hearing the taunting getting louder the closer I got. Occasionally, a neighbor would open her window and yell at those girls, “Leave her alone!” This would only make them curse me under their breath as they continued their tirade onto the bus.

As the months went by, the only thing that improved was the fact that I could mentally prepare for what was about to happen each morning.  Yes, I was still scared, hurt and angry, but at least I knew the verbal assault would be temporary and that it would more or less end when I entered my classroom.  The emotional effects however, would live with me for the rest of the day, leaving a permanent mark on how I trusted the world and its ability to protect me from the lions.

One minute was all they needed.  Sixty seconds to turn a ten-year-old’s world turned upside down. One minute and one school year that seemed like forever.

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This was a piece I wrote based on the writing prompt, A lot can happen in a minute, over at ReadWave.  I thought it was worth posting here as well although I originally hesitated because I didn’t want to come off as if I was looking for sympathy.  In fact, what I wrote is very much toned down from the actual events.  I admit that 42 years later, I still bear many of the scars from that year but have dealt with them and have tried put them into their proper place.  These type of events in life are simply not things you “get over” as some might advise.  Our choice is to bury them deep or face them and acknowledge their weight.  For me, writing this has lifted away some of the burden.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy February 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Wow.

I wish I had known. After reading your horribly sad post,
And wiping tears from my eyes (
Because I realized I was hanging with you in 5th grade- although not a lot and only outside of school )…..I thought …. WAIT !
She wasn’t ugly- She didn’t have bad teeth- She wore the same kind of clothes I did !
….and I wish I had known.
You were quiet,
But so was I. I like to think I would have stood up to those assholes, but I most
Likely would have asked you to come
To my house, or your house or the local pool….
So we could hang in our awesome bathing suits !!!
I Sooo wish we had more
Time to do all the things we did – because I absolutely loved every minute I did get to hang with you.
And look what you have
Become !!! You are all they will never be.
Love you Cath

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Jotter girl February 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Cathy,
This is why we are life long friends even though we’ve missed a lot of years here and there. We are there for each other when needed. Thanks for your kind words and support. I recall back then, wishing that I lived at your house. xo
(And yes, we wore awesome bathing suits!)

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JP February 1, 2014 at 2:01 pm

beautifully written, powerful, sad… good reminder of how words can be worse than sticks and stones.

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Jotter girl February 1, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for your comment dahling.

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Adrienne February 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I find it incredibly brave to write about something so hurtful. It is amazing how one person’s insecurity can ignite such hatred toward someone else. It’s also amazing how that flame can spread so quickly to others. It did not, however touch you, which is the most important thing I would take away from this. You became a beautiful, empathetic person, filled with kindness, instead of the anger being spewed by them. I love the writing and I hope it brings you even more closure.

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Jotter girl February 1, 2014 at 4:03 pm

My dear Adrienne,
I thank you for your sweet words of support. You are one in a million. xo

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Barbara February 1, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Powerful. And, very insightful. We think of bullies, these days, in a more physical way but, this is the most common type I believe. I had my share of verbal abuse in my childhood, and I was a homely little sucker! Big thick glasses and all. But, I think all the moving around we did gave me a feeling that it wouldn’t last forever. Sounds kinda crazy, but that was my light at the end of the tunnel. Flight, even if I had to wait for it.
And look how we turned out!
xob

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Jotter girl February 1, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Thanks Barbara. Unfortunately, this story unfolds to show the absolute worst side of people because it eventually included physical altercations. I’m not even sure if back then, people like this were referred to as bullies. In my mind, they were two very powerful monsters who instilled so much fear in the bystanders that I was pretty much in it by myself. My light at the end of the tunnel was when school was finally out and although the next year wasn’t much better, both of these girls moved away not long after 7th grade.
Yes, look at how we turned out!

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Jo-Anne February 1, 2014 at 5:36 pm

As a girl who suffered this type of torment I can tell you this really struck a nerve with me, school can be a nightmare

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Jotter girl February 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Thanks for reading Jo-Anne and I am sorry that you know all too well about what I wrote.

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Mynx February 2, 2014 at 3:53 am

Despite having my own problems fitting in and finding my place at school I just can’t imagine how awful and soul destroying this bullying was.
So happy though that you were strong enough to survive or else I might never have met the wonderful person you have become

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Jotter girl February 2, 2014 at 9:57 am

Mynx, In this long life I’ve lived so far this year and a half is just a blip on the radar. During the time, it seemed like forever. Thankfully both of these girls moved away and school from then on was completely different. We all deal with things growing up which challenge us to find ways to get through, heck, the same thing can be said for us grown ups too! Thanks for taking the time to comment. xo

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Criss February 7, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Children can be very cruel. I am sorry to hear that you suffered so harshly at the hands of such unsympathetic girls. Sadly our world is filled with such loveless souls.

I congratulate you on rising above. For walking into the Lions den and facing the demons every day. I am filled with pride that you can, despite the hurt, go on and choose to be an honest, interesting, creative, loving person. That you never let them win.

Know that karma will one day be their friend.
Hugs xx

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Jotter girl February 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Hi Criss,
Thanks for weighing in and as usual, for your support. I hope 2014 is going to be a good year for you!

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Twitter Flirt March 5, 2014 at 11:14 pm

I know none of the people who frequent this site frequently, but I do know those who do had the same level of respect and admiration for Catherine that I did.

I’m writing in the past tense because Catherine — my dear Catherine, a woman I adored more than she realized — was killed tragically this afternoon in a freakish accident. The world lost a lovely, beautiful, unassuming woman, one too good for me and almost every man whose heart thumped heavily when she offered him a part of her.

I am heartbroken. I am sure many of you feel the same. I just wanted to make sure you all know that her voice didn’t go silent by choice, but by a rotten, filthy twist of fate that will make me wonder why her and not me or any of the other 8 billion people on this planet whose absence would mean less to this world than hers.

Keep Catherine in your thoughts. Her sons as well. And comfort yourselves, because we lost a woman of amazing talents and beauty.

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Barbara March 6, 2014 at 11:28 am

Twitter Flirt,
I’m so glad you commented here. My heart is heavy and I still can’t wrap my brain around what has been taken from us. A warm, talented, and beautiful woman with so much to give. I am so grateful we had the chance to meet, which brought us closer. I’m heartbroken for her boys and all of those who were her inner circle.
RIP dear Catherine.
b

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