He stood there and screamed nonsensical jumbles of words at me, and all these years later I can’t remember if he was actually yelling gibberish or if I remember it that way because I wasn’t listening to him and what he said was never of any consequence.

It was lunch and I was eating in the shaded corridor between two buildings.  I’d learned months before that lunch was a time for sitting alone, doing homework, and, most importantly, hiding from my tormentors.  And, as it was approaching summer in the desert, the shady spot was essential for staying comfortable when not tucked away in an air-conditioned classroom.  Still, staying in one place meant that those kids who liked to push buttons, who like to test boundaries, who liked to pants kids smaller than them, who liked to take away school books and throw them in the trash, who liked to be bullies, could find me.

Sometimes they’d pass me by without a word, sometimes they tease me and try to get a rise out of me.  That day, one of them stood on my backpack and yelled at me as I sat and ate my lunch.  His two goons flanked him and laughed as the scene unfolded.  I did nothing.  Half a sandwich in one hand.  A water bottle grasped in the other.  He threw his arms about wildly and did a little dance on my backpack and then he moved on.  I could hear their laughter bouncing off the walls.

It was then that the horror of what had just happened set in.

He stood on my backpack.

The backpack contained the art project I had spent half a semester working on, had finally been graded, and was ready to be taken home: a paper mache mask.  I quickly opened up the pack, my fingers were trembling and I felt a huge swell of hope that somehow it had managed to survive, even when I knew there was no way it could withstand the weight.  My eyes took in the crushed edges, the split crease down the middle, the complete destruction.

I don’t remember how I got there, but the next thing I remember I was crying in the principal’s office, trying to get out the details between sobs.  I don’t remember anything I said then.  I don’t remember anything he said either, but I do remember that the bully was suspended for a week and had to do community service.

It didn’t seem like enough

It still doesn’t.

That art class was one of the classed I enjoyed the most in junior high.  I had looked forward to going to it everyday, to seeing what project we were going to work on next.  After that afternoon it never felt the same, and I never took another art class.


Written for this week’s Yeah Write:

I took a top row five spot again! Thanks for all the support:


60 thoughts on “crushed

  1. I’m seriously considering writing a revenge piece about this. At the part where the bully stood on the backpack breaking the mask, I thought you were going to go all psycho on him. But you didn’t which was probably for the best. But in my fictional world, that fucker is dead.

    • Hahaha!
      Would love to see a revenge piece based on this.
      I’m sorry it took so long for me to respond. Your comment was lost in the depths of my spam folder for some reason and I’m just now getting around to cleaning it out.
      Thanks for the laugh! 😀

  2. I felt crushed reading this. It is terrible how a single act of bullying can affect an entire life. It seems like the pain never truly dissipates. I am certain that writing about it helps. It certainly has helped me.

    • Writing has helped. Talking about it has helped. Reading what others have gone through has helped. And, while the pain of those days will never truly go away, it certainly isn’t as pervasive as it once was. And now I’m at a place where I can help raise awareness, where I want to speak up about these things rather than hide away from it all.

    • It’s okay. It was a very long time ago. More than 18 years… That’s a funny thought, I’ve lived longer since the event than I had lived up to that point (by more than a couple years). The wound has healed as much as it is going to. Thank you, though. 🙂

  3. Oh I’m sorry. My heart breaks for poor little you. I have had many similar experiences. I bet the nasty kids hardly remember it, but for us the memory never quite seems to fade. Xx

    • I would hope that they do remember, that they get to a point where they regret some of their past behaviors. I was not saint, and for as much as I was bullied, I probably was horrible to other people… and I do regret those moments from my past. That gives me hope that they too have realized what they were to me (and others) and have grown from there.

  4. It stinks that kids are so mean. Maybe they are out there writing their own blog posts about how bad they feel for being awful to you.

  5. that is so awful and so sad, i’m sure you still feel the sting from this. i’m happy you are so happy in your life now, and i have a feeling they are experiencing some bad karma.

      • a good place to start, is talking about ‘how to be a friend’ and go from there. then you can practice ‘how would you feel if?’ scenarios. just slowly add things as you go, as they develop. the trick is to help them develop a sense of empathy for others. once they have that, you are good, with reminders as needed. the other part of this is to teach that to know about, or be a bystander is just a much a part of it as if you are the instigator, but that comes later. hope this helps a bit.

      • Helpful yes… I was only really thinking about the opposite aspect – telling him what to do if he is ever bullied, but the tips you’ve given are equally as important.

  6. People who steal others’ joy have a major component missing or something. It’s horrible that there are people who will go to such lengths to squelch other people rather than cultivate their own talents. It’s sad your love of art was squelched. I hope you can get that back. In the meantime, you’re an excellent writer. You really made me feel those emotions with this piece. You conveyed it all so well.

  7. So sorry. Bullies are the worst. I thought the saddest part was how you never took another art class. I liked your comments, though, that writing is your art now. 🙂

    • It’s hard to know if I would have taken another after that anyway… for the most part my high school schedule was filled up with classes I had to take or wanted to take pursuing other interests… so, it’s okay.

  8. That’s awful, DJ, I’m sorry :/ I hated those types of kids but at the same time felt bad for them, I could never imagine how bad their lives must be to create the need to try to tear down others.

      • Good question… was a parenting issue, or just something about his personality, or was something wrong in his life and doing things like that was his cry for help that noone was heeding… it’s hard to say. It’s hard to understand even all these years later. But, since I was being bullyed and never really told anyone the full extent to which it was happening… perhaps we can assume that he was having problems too and wasn’t speaking out about them either…?

    • I flip flop – there are days when I wish them ill… and then there are days (like today) where I ponder what must have been going on in their own lives to have them act out as they did…

      • So true. Nothing excuses the behavior of those who cause harm and tragedy for others, but we can try to understand it — thus preventing it for future children. (I’m glad that at (the very) least the teacher had a chance to see the project first!)

      • Yeah… I would have liked to have gotten to show it to my parents though… They saw it, in all it’s crushed glory, and I’m sure they had a pretty good sense of what it was supposed to look like, but it’s not the same.

  9. This reminds me of a great story I read about the Bosnian war (sorry to be a little TLDR, but I think you will appreciate it). A cellist was in the middle of the city when the Siege of Sarejevo began. He witnessed atrocities unimaginable to most. During the second day of the siege he returned to the center of city and began playing his cello in the street. He played while the city continued to be shelled. A reporter, incredulous about his stance, asked why he would stay in the city and play the cello. His response was perfection – “I think the better question is to ask the Serbs why they interrupt my playing of the cello with their shells, not why I interrupt their shelling with my music.”

    You may have never made another mask, but your writing is art and your tormentors violence did not silence it. Art is sometimes our best weapon against losing ourselves to senseless violence.

    You captured this moment in time with clarity and precision, great post.

    • Thank you for the compliment, and for sharing the Bosnian War story. Yep, sometimes all we can do is keep doing what we love, keep creating things of beauty (in all their myriad forms) in defiance of the ugliness around us.

  10. Wow. While my heart breaks that you had to endure that experience, I applaud you and your strength to not only write about it, but to do it so well. As they say “success is the best revenge” and after reading not only this piece but also your comments regarding your current perspective, I would say that you definitely got your revenge!

  11. And to think that some people regard childhood as a garden of innocence and roses. I remember it all as a Darwinian exercise in which I survived by hiding behind trees. I hope the backpack stomper is enjoying his career as a permanent assistant manager at Costco, now that he’s out of prison for petty theft. Ratfink.

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