I nearly stumbled down the grassy hill after Theresa punched me in the stomach. My left arm struggled to hold on to the books in the crook of my elbow. The right one, swinging free, hung limp. It seemed the fear was more significant than my humiliation. I couldn’t fight back.
Theresa’s rage quickly turned towards my sister. For just a moment, I felt relief that I wasn’t her target anymore. But I did nothing to stop what was coming. My sister had her ponytail pulled so hard; I could see the redness of her scalp and little spots of blood from the ripped out hair. Still scared, I knew this aggression was far from over. The sinking feeling in my stomach was causing havoc on all the nerves in my body. I wished so hard not to be there anymore.
Why were we being attacked? What is it I was supposed to have done to Theresa for this aggression towards my sister and myself? I was so confused. I was scared too. So scared.
Theresa turned around to me again with a look that backed me way down into myself. She threatened my life, and I believed her. Then she slammed her open right hand so hard up against the left side of my head, leaving me with nothing but loud ringing in that ear. It was surreal. The left side of my whole body felt numb and on fire at the same time, while the right side was still part of the ordinary world. She glared at me as we both precariously stood on the hill. She’d braced herself into the hill, and I’d leaned slightly back, securing a foothold in the grass. I remember hearing her mumblings in my head after a bit, but for the life of me, not one sentence in my mind was coherent. I still can’t remember what she said or what I replied. Whatever it was that I uttered, the words seemed to appease her. I’d managed a reprieve for myself and my sister. Our tormentor finally left us alone and walked away.
I can still remember the colors of the grass. And the everydayness of that regular walk to the house. The smell of the wind wasn’t meaningful, and nothing was out of the ordinary. It was all just so average. In a second, all that changed to me becoming a bruised emotional wreck along with my sister. That afternoon was awful. Bathed in fear, I was feeling about as small as anyone could get. But I remember still being happy to have walked away relatively unscathed. This attack happened, for no reason other than Theresa had a bad day. She was a bully, and we were her targets du jour. We happened to cross paths with her on the way home from school — lucky us being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In looking back, I realized courage was lacking in me that day. Self-preservation was the instinct on that hill. But it stirred a resolve in me. I wasn’t going to back down anymore. I realized I shouldn’t be afraid to stand against anyone who would seek to harm me or anyone else who was vulnerable. I wasn’t going to be intimidated anymore.