She was a shy, mousy-looking little thing. Unlike the other kids in the mall who were in groups, she walked alone, kept head down, and moved quickly. The group by the cafe saw her first and the tallest boy pointed at her.
I kept on with my regular mid-week shopping and met her again in the bookstore. Ironically, it was the only store that the after school kids didn’t frequent. We were both in the fiction section, I looking for the book of the month and she was looking at historical fiction. Suddenly, the store is loud and the group of kids with the tall boy who was pointing at her saunters in. I glance over to her and I can see her tense up. I could bet all the money in my pocket book that they have harassed and heckled her before, tall boy most likely being the lead bully.
He walks over, pretends to be reading the back of a book and I’m fighting to mind my own business. The former teacher in me heightens. I’ve seen it before. The intimidation and the bullying. He walks down the row and bumps her and she drops the book. His ‘crew’ begins to laugh.
Hey Keisha, you’re so fugly with your big forehead. Loser. Four-eyed freak. His pack of hyenas laughs again and he saunters out, they in tow. The tears run down her face. She doesn’t even bother to pick up the book, but runs out the store, knocking over the discounted books stand at the door. She stops to pick these up and bully boy and his crew roar harder.
I’m mad as a hatter now. It’s not my fight but I’ve been that girl. I’ve been bullied teased and made to feel like I didn’t want to go back to school. I walk over to him. Immediate silence. Remember, you’re the adult, I say to myself. I’m so mad I want to shake sense into him. Childhood memories now fully awakened in me.
You feel good about yourself, Tall Boy, I ask? He stares at me. Does it make you feel better and superior making her feel embarrassed and on edge? His mouth is open, yet no words come out. You know what, your parents would be so embarrassed of you right now. I’m sure of it. You know what, if picking on her makes you feel better about yourself and makes you feel hip and cool to your entourage then I feel sorry for you because obviously, you’re the ugly one. Ugly on the inside. One guy snickers and the other three disappear into the after school mall crowd. He walks away muttering unmentionables under his breath.
I turn to her, where she and the store manager are busy picking up books. She smiles. Don’t let them break you honey and don’t believe the things he said, I say to her. She nods her head and I walk away.
It was not my fight and it was not my business but I’m so sick and tired of the constant bullying in schools and the workplace. It’s damaging. It hurts and some people can’t handle it and end up being defined well into adulthood by their bullying experiences. So come to think of it, it was my fight. We all need to stand up for those too paralyzed by fear to stand up for themselves. To stand by and say nothing is just as bad as the act of bullying itself.