Every adult likes to tell you the same exact useless string of words when you're sitting across from them distraught, sobbing, and drenched in a combination of your own tears and snot: "if you ignore your bullies, they'll leave you alone."
It was four months into my first year of middle school and so far I'd had my locker vandalized repeatedly, I'd been ridiculed in front of entire auditoriums, I'd had giant wads of spit balls lobbed into my hair during every in class movie, I'd been physically pushed, punched, and shoved around every other day, and I'd had just about every part of me that made me, me, torn apart and dissected and made fun of by my omnipresent group of five bullies led by their ring leader named Tasha. Maybe, I'd often think, just maybe, if I'd done or said something to my bullies, then perhaps there would have been some sort of reason for everything happening to me, but I was just one of the ones, these five decided was going to be their target that year.
These four months in Hell, I'd only managed to make one friend, a girl named J who could have been my twin as we were both really tall and skinny. We did everything together because both of us were trying to survive the torment of our five bullies we'd nicknamed the Five B's. The two of us would meet usually at lunch time, if not in class, and discuss our war wounds and just try to re-assure each other that it was only two and a half more years here.
Well, it finally happened.
All of the physical abuse, bullying, harassment, and complete lack of support or care by the school staff, had all come to a head on this one hot football field in a game of Red Rover. If you don't know what that is, basically you split a group into two. One half on one side of the field, the other, on the other side, each side all lined up in a row holding hands in a chain. The object of the game is that one side calls out red rover, red rover, let (name) come on over. The other team sends that person running over in an attempt to break through the chain. If they break through, they go back to their own team taking one of the two members of your team who's part of the chain they broke with them, but if they don't break through, they become a part of your team until time runs out and one side has the most players.
What does this have to do with revenge exactly? Well, you're supposed to just simply hold hands with the person next to you, J in my case, as the opposing team sends their player to run at you, but J and I were standing there seven rounds into this game where the Five B's and their team had repeatedly sent their players over to bust through our arms at either sides of us at full strength because, let's face it, the two of us had arms like snowmen, and their strategy had worked so far because our team was losing badly. Of course rather than pick either of us to go back to their side, they'd just pick the arguably stronger players to the right or left of us, so they could do it all over again and eventually, in their minds, win the game.
In a short break in the game, J and I looked at each other, our paper thin arms already starting to bruise, when we jointly decided we were not going to be the weak link in the chain that everyone on both sides thought we were. Our team as a whole had decided that if they could take Tasha out, then maybe our team would have a chance, so J and I knew already that no doubt, Tasha was going to make a run at us because she hated us and everyone else had done the same on either sides of us already.
Right then and there, J and I hatched a secret plan between us in whispers, and then took our positions back in the chain. Red Rover, Red Rover, let Tasha Come Over! J and I looked at each other again and out across the field. Tasha was rearing up like a bull, her muscles tensing, kicking the dirt out from under her heels while taking a few steps back to prepare at the run. Then, it was like it was all in slow motion. Tasha took off with her track level speed and her hair blowing back into the wind. She was hell bent on breaking us outside, and now inside of this game. In that exact moment that she charged us, J and I let go of our floating handshake, and slid our hands up our forearms to lock at each other's elbows. Once locked on, we gripped each other so tight that we could feel each others pulse throbbing. Locked and loaded, the two of us raised our new steel fence up a few inches so that it would hit her body dead on in the chest.
I don't think Tasha ever saw it coming. In fact, I know she didn't. In her mind, J and I were an easy kill, her two prey, always so easily caught and strangled in her jaws, but today was different. J and I were sick of everything Tasha had done to us and since there was no other real recourse to get her back that wouldn't land us in trouble, this was the only way we could think to get revenge. We thought we knew exactly what were were doing. We thought the move would bounce her back a few feet to the ground and then we would high five each other like two queens that had just reached the mountain top because it would have been the two weaklings who had taken the star athlete and head bully out, but as it turns out, we were really actually a lot stronger together than we thought.
When Tasha hit the brick wall, and it WAS a brick wall, her body violently catapulted head over heels and she landed hard on the clay ground beneath. She made this gurgling sound and then that was it. She lay on the ground completely motionless. Everyone's laughter and jeers stopped immediately as our sixth grade teacher dropped her clipboard and made a mad dash to our location. J and I stopped grinning.
I think we both legit thought that we'd killed her, and maybe we could have a few inches, here or there. Our teacher yelled for someone to run inside to get help (no cell phones back then). Tasha didn't move, she didn't fidget, she didn't have anything nasty to say to us in that moment because she couldn't. She was in that moment, helpless in the way we felt we had been over the last four months at her and the five b's mercy.
The days following the incident were literally the best J and I had ever experienced all year. With Tasha out for nearly two weeks with a serious concussion, we found out that apparently the five b's were nothing without their ring leader. It blew our minds that the minute she was carted off in the ambulance, they all started acting like normal human beings. They became nice...without her. We couldn't believe it. We theorized that she had been secretly terrorizing them to do what she wanted them to do, i.e. bullying them too, and since they didn't want to become even bigger victims themselves, they'd just done it mercilessly because of their own fear.
Imagine it. One day, you're being shoved into a locker by these people, and the next they are trying to sit with you at lunch and have a conversation about what was on tv last night as if the last four months hadn't happened. It was nuts. J and I felt like we'd won. Initially we felt like horrible human beings, but then we thought, really, how much are you supposed to stand by and take from someone every single day and keep taking it. The polite clean syrupy way to talk about the incident, would be to say that what we did was wrong and we regretted it to this day, but it felt good for both of us. It felt like justice where no justice had been before.
We'd listened to all those teachers and parents and others who weren't going through the hell we were, telling us to just ignore the problem as if that would solve anything, or telling us to stop tattle telling and complaining, or that they would deal with our bullies, yet absolutely nothing ever happened to any of our bullies until we did something about it. To think about our reactions to the situation is incredibly sad considering in following years what kids under that same pressure, under that same feeling of helplessness did to others in their quest to free themselves from their own pain, and still do to this day.
The only bit of luck in my situation was that we went through what we did in a time before the internet because bullying is an entirely new art form now that doesn't end with the school day but goes on 24/7, and can even become viral and spread across the world. With all the violence and suicides that occur now, we now as adults, can not just shrug things off and say walk it off to these same kids. That didn't work for us, and it isn't working for kids now.
If anything, bullies have gotten 100% more relentless and intense with sometimes no way to even know who's behind the computer doing the bullying of their fellow classmates and uninhibited by adults looking over their shoulders at school. I can't excuse my actions. I know what I did but I do ask myself why did it have to come to a level where I felt that J and I had to take action into our own hands. I'm lucky that a concussion is all we gave Tasha because it certainly could have been worse, and then what?