I want to ride my bike…
Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation; anything from your first school bus ride to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of the car on a family trip.
Being the “new kid” is never easy. Making the move in fifth grade, when girls become absolute terrorists, is a harrowing experience.
We moved from Phoenix to Denver during the summer before my fifth grade year. I went from living in a neighborhood full of boys my own age to one full of pre-teen girls and older boys. The change for me, an avowed tomboy not quite comfortable in my own skin, was a rough one. I had been used to running around in tee shirts, shorts and Keds, playing basketball and walking to school with the boys.
With the move, I’d landed on an alien planet populated by creatures concerned with clothes, getting parents to allow make-up, training bras and boys.
I had the summer to begin to acclimate, meeting the girls on the street and around the block. We’d spend time in their finished basements, listening to records, drinking soda and thumbing through teen magazines. I tried to imitate their way of talking, and that particular way of rolling their eyes when a parent or a younger sibling ventured downstairs.
Though I still felt like a fish out of water, by the time the first day of school rolled around, I was too excited by the novelty of riding a bus to think much about the other kids I’d encounter…besides, I had my new friends to sit with.
I waited at the bus stop with my little brother, my friends and some sixth grade boys from the next street over. We all had new clothes and I was particularly proud of my navy blue Izod, collar popped in imitation of the other kids. At this point, I was just starting to develop; but, not enough to require a “foundation garment” as my grandmother so delicately referred to a bra…certainly not enough that I would have expected notice.
I followed my friends toward the back, where the older kids held court. As we took our seats, one of my “friends” and a sixth grade boy turned around in their seat up ahead of me.
“Hey, New Girl!”
I looked up expectantly.
“When did you start stuffing?”
All of the kids around us turned around to look at me.
“What?” I asked. I didn’t understand what he meant.
My “friend” said, “Stuffing…you know…your BRA? We all know you don’t have any REAL boobs.”
I was mortified. Not only was everyone looking at me, but most of the kids were laughing and jeering. A few kids, the ones used to being targeted, stared straight ahead or out their windows, any sympathy they might have for me buried under a strong sense of self-preservation.
“I…I…I don’t stuff!” I stammered.
“I DON’T!” I insisted.
And, with a laugh, they turned their attention to their regular victims.
The damage was done. I spent the rest of the ride with my cheeks burning, blinking rapidly to keep my embarrassed tears in check.
All day long, as I made my way around my new school and tried to learn where classrooms were and the names of my teachers, I dreaded the bus ride home.None of my morning’s tormentors were in my classes, so I only saw them during passing periods in the hallways.
On the ride home, I found a seat near the front of the bus, next to a window. I sat low in the seat, backpack hugged close to my suddenly all-too-prominent chest. The older boys and neighbor girls got on, laughing and pushing past me, not noticing as I made myself as small as possible.
With each stop, few kids filled the gap between me and my aggressors. They ignored the top of my head as I stared steadily out of the window. At our stop, I darted out of my seat, down the bus steps and ran down the street.
As the bus rumbled away, I heard, “See ya later, STUFFER!” and a chorus of laughs.
It was going to be a long year.
I’m participating in this year’s The Scintilla Project. It’s a two-week opportunity to share stories and build our community. Come join us!