Aw, lunch. The best time of the day. I get to sit on the playground and read while I eat my sandwich (or if I’m lucky, fried okra from the cafeteria). My friends don’t share the same lunch period as I do, so I find my little patch of ground and enjoy the quiet. No one is around to bother me or call me names or point out the traits which mark me nerd (my glasses, my big nose in a book, my shyness).
Nope. None of that. Just quiet time.
The breeze is nice out today. I look up from my book to take in my surroundings and see a boy running straight towards me. I glance over my shoulder, but I see no one. Turning back to him, I notice that his eyes are fixed on me.
What is he doing?
I put my head back down into my book and try to ignore him. But I can hear his footfalls. I know he’s coming.
I look back up, and now I’m certain he’s coming for me. What do I do? Oh my gosh! What do I do?!
I drop my book and bound up and away. I run. As fast as I can. I don’t bother to look behind me. I know he’s there. There seems to be a moment when I can hear his breath. I can smell it. I feel it on the back of my neck.
It goes on for what seems like forever. I duck in and out of the equipment and make a full circle before racing back to my bag to run back in the school.
Once I’m inside. The jeers start, but I don’t even hear the words. I’m puffing and shaking.
I remind myself, “You’re eleven! Grow up and settle down.”
I collect myself and head into the gymnasium to finish my reading before the bell rings.
The next day’s lunch is a nightmare too. I tell myself I won’t run. I’ll just stay sitting on my patch of earth and demand to know why he’s chasing me, but when he gets close again, I run again. My mom tells me that he chases me because he likes me, but that sounds ridiculous! What kind of bs is that? That sure is a funny way of showing someone you like them. Besides, it’s not like we’re little kids anymore.
Now we’re running again, and all I want to do is tell him I don’t want to run. I don’t like running. I don’t understand what enjoyment he gets out of this.
A switch flips over in my brain. I’ve had enough of this crap. Seriously, he needs to know I hate him. I barely even know his name. I think it’s Jay. I’m really not sure. He has buck teeth and untidy hair and smells weird.
It has to stop today. It just has to. I need my nerd time back.
I stop and turn around as he runs straight at me. He stops just in front of me, but before he can even say anything, I react.
My leg raises. I don’t even know what I’m doing. Why is my leg raising between his legs? Oh gosh! I’m doing this. I’m actually doing this.
Yep! It’s happening.
Time slows. He grabs his crotch, doubles over and falls to his knees. His eyes are filling with tears.
“Stop chasing me,” I say in a whisper as I walk away.
I hate myself, but I love myself at the same time. I can stand up to someone. I did. I did that. I hear cheers and laughs across the playground. Those who see it happen are clapping and telling the person beside them.
I soak up the fame for a minute. I did something cool. It was funny. Everyone agrees. I can be cool.
Inside I want to apologize. I want to walk up to him and ask, “Why?,” but I never do. I never find out why. It gets forgotten by all but the two of us.
At least now I can keep my little patch of earth and no one will ever bother me again. All’s right with the world. Sorta.