Through the Eyes of a Bully
By Sara, age 25, Pennsylvania
As I pushed Jackson up against the lockers, I could see the fear in his eyes. I could see the fear in the eyes of all the students who gathered around us, watching me once again humiliate Jackson. It felt good knowing they were all afraid of me, because it also meant they respected me.
"What's going on here, Ethan?"
"Nothing, sir," I replied in my best I-have-no-idea-what-you're-talking-about voice.
"Everybody needs to get to class, NOW!"
Looks like Jackson got lucky this time. He was saved by Principal Stone before I could pummel him properly.
That night at home everything was pretty normal. Normal in our house meant Dad getting drunk and slapping Mom around while I listen to music in my room, trying to drown out the noise. Sometimes I can avoid a beating if I stay out of the way and don't get into trouble. Mom isn't so lucky. She gets it any time he is drunk, which is most nights, and the drunker he is the worse it gets.
I used to think I could save Mom, you know, be the hero and stand up to my dad. For as long as I can remember Mom has been doing everything she can to keep Dad's attention on her and away from me, even though that means she is constantly getting beat up. One night, about a year ago, I tried to be a man and save my mom.
I could tell the minute he walked in the door it was going to be a bad night because he was already drunk. I knew Mom could feel it too by the way she looked at me with pleading eyes. She didn't say anything, but I knew she was begging me to go upstairs.
Even though my door was closed and the radio was on, I could still hear the sickening sound of Dad's open palm connecting with Mom's tired face. I could hear him slap her over and over until I just couldn't take it anymore.
I bolted down the stairs screaming like a warrior running onto a battlefield. My vision was blurred with fury, except for the figure of my father; I could see him clear as day. I flung myself at him, wrapped my arms around his bulging neck, and tackled him to the ground.
"Ethan, NO!" Mom cried, and then I blacked out.
I woke up in the hospital. Mom was sitting next to the bed holding my hand and weeping. "Please," she begged. "Please, Ethan, promise me you won't do that again." I gazed at her face, noticing how old and broken she looked, even though she was only 31. I had failed. I couldn't protect my mom.
"I promise," I whispered. She smiled a half smile which didn't make her face any less sad.
"I called the school and told them you would be out for a few days," she paused and took a deep breath before continuing. "Because you fell off your bike."
Shortly after that happened Jackson transferred to my school. We had homeroom together and he sat in the desk next to mine. I noticed a rainbow glued onto his notebook.
"Why do you have that gay rainbow on your notebook?" I snickered.
"Because I'm gay," he casually replied. This, I can honestly say, was an answer I was totally not prepared for.
"Are you for real?"
"Yes, I'm for real, and yes, I'm gay." He seemed so confident, so comfortable in his own skin. It wasn't fair. Why should he get to be happy while I'm miserable? He is the gay one, so he should be the miserable one. That was when I decided to make sure Jackson was as miserable as I was, and for the last year that is exactly what I've been doing.
The next day at school Jackson showed up wearing purple skinny jeans. Purple skinny jeans! Between that and the fact that he was saved by Principal Stone yesterday, he was due for a beat down.
I stuck out my foot as he walked past which sent his books sailing and his body crashing to the ground. I sat on his back and pulled his head up by his hair. "Nice pants," I stage whispered in a mocking tone.
A group of kids had gathered around us to see what I would do to Jackson today. I liked having an audience, but unfortunately they blocked my view of Principal Stone. I felt a stern hand grip my shoulder. "Ethan, get off of him, NOW!"
Taped to the wall in Principal Stone's office was a poster of a rattled cat clinging to a tree limb over the caption "hang in there." I think Jackson should have sat in this seat; maybe he would have found comfort in the cheesy poster. His ghost white face and shaking hands made it seem like he was in need of some comfort. I chuckled to myself, what a baby.
"Boys, I have called your parents and asked them to come to school for a meeting," Principal Stone announced as he opened the office door. Crap, now it was my turn to take that stupid cat's advice. All I could do now was wait helplessly, hoping Mom was the only one who walked through that office door.
Unfortunately both of my parents and Jackson's parents showed up. As Principal Stone recalled the "incidents" that had occurred over the last few months, Jackson's mom cried and his dad placed a supportive arm around his scrawny shoulders.
My parents weren't as supportive. Mom stared at the ground and Dad's face was a shade of red that symbolized pure fury. After the meeting I slowly pulled on my coat and shuffled my feet down the hallway, anything to postpone going home, because I knew it was going to be ugly.
I was right. That night was brutal. No matter how hard Mom tried to step in, Dad was completely focused on punishing me for bullying Jackson. It's ironic how my punishment for beating up Jackson was getting beat up by my dad.
I sat on the steps outside of school the next morning dreading the long day ahead. I was sore and exhausted from the night before and really didn't want to be at school, but come to think of it, I really didn't want to be at home either.
A car pulled up to the curb and Jackson climbed out of the passenger side. His dad got out of the driver seat, walked around the car, and hugged Jackson. As I sat there, watching a father hug his son, I became enraged. Jackson had a supportive, loving dad who drove him to school and gave him hugs. Why did I get stuck with a jerk father who never showed any kind of emotion, except anger?
Jackson started walking across the schoolyard. He had his head down, staring at his shoes, so he didn't even see me coming.
Resentment had taken over my body. I felt like Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk. All the anger, sadness and frustration brewing inside of me erupted like a volcano spewing red hot lava, and all that lava was being directed at Jackson.
I tackled him to the ground and started whaling on him. I punched his face, chest, anywhere I could. My fists came down hard like boulders falling from a mountainside, crushing into Jackson's limp body, and it felt good.
The next thing I remember is the side of my face pressed into the cool, damp grass while a cop handcuffed my wrists. I saw Jackson sitting a few yards away with a blanket draped around his defeated shoulders. His lip and nose were bleeding, and each time he took a breath he clutched at his ribs, trying to ease the pain. He looked like, well, he looked like me. He looked the same way I did after my dad ... OH NO! I'm just like my dad!
The cop pulled me to my feet and we walked towards his cruiser. I glanced back to get one more look at Jackson. I hate my dad. I hate him for what he has done to me, Mom, and our family. The last thing I want is to be like him.
The cop car pulled away from the curb and started driving me towards my future. A future that is unknown and unwritten. A future that currently looks pretty dark, but if I look hard enough I can see a sliver of something. Light? Hope? Something.