Title: The Time Has Come
Summary: A time comes when innocence is taken, when the world becomes clearer, and you can no longer pretend to believe. I no longer believe.
A time will come in every persons life when the world abruptly clarifies. The proverbial lightning strikes, the light bulb flickers, and the enormous epiphany lands with a heavy thud atop your head as would a large rock. It is at this point in time that the body goes into shock, then convulsions of emotion, and finally into subdued acceptance. The cycle of grief for your slain innocence has begun.
As a positive person by nature, I rarely used to look upon a fellow human being as anything less than what I would consider myself, even if said "human being" happened to be utterly deplorable. I, more or less, viewed the world (through my rose-colored glasses) as a fairly decent place to wait out my unavoidable physical existence. Even terrorists had their reasons, no one was completely evil, and hatred was to be reserved for the Almighty powers that be. My philosophy was of a glass half full–and I was content. Then came the day, October 3rd, 2003, that forced me to look over the rims of my glasses...
It was an average school day for the most part. I had woken up at the un-Godly hour of six AM, made it through all of my classes of the day relatively unscathed, and was to ride the bus home that afternoon. Of course, the latter was slightly out of the ordinary since my friend, Jennifer, had been giving me rides home of late. However, fate (and her younger brother) had other plans for me that day.
I, begrudgingly, climbed onto the bus and took my seat in the back with another friend of mine complaining loudly of the accommodations of public schools.
"I'll never be able to have children now!" I moaned as we jarred a speed bump. Another girl, a special ed student that for some reason unknown to me idolized me, moaned louder in anguish. I paused briefly in my conversation to inquire of her health. I quickly diagnosed her with a cold and recommended extra sleep that night, plenty of fluids on the side.
We inched along Park Road at the usual snail pace of afternoon traffic, each of us idly chatting away with one peer or another. A few minutes into the ride, my tirade about the school bus was interrupted again by something other than idle chat.
"She's having a seizure, or something!" some unidentified girl squealed, inching closer to the front of the bus in wary repulsion. Everyone else had jumped out of their assigned seats and began the slow migration to the front as well, murmuring discreetly to one another in hushed tones. Many openly gaped at the disturbance as they stood frozen in the aisle.
Curious as every rubber-necker is, I craned my neck to pinpoint the disturbance. Near the center of the bus, the ill girl lay splayed in the aisle, jerking and twitching unnaturally against an unseen assailant. I later learned that, due to a condition, she was prone to seizures.
Save a moment of hesitant shock, I sprung from my seat and rushed to her aid.
"Help me lift her!" I shouted at the gawking crowd. None made the slightest indication of movement. "Lee!" I pleaded to a fellow bus rider, a person I could trust under normal circumstances.
Lee shook his head. "We shouldn't move her." he argued. "You're supposed to wait it out."
I hastily corrected him, panic rising in my voice as the girl jerked closer and closer to the metal bars supporting the bus seat. "Only if there's nothing in the way! She could injure herself with all this stuff on the floor. Help me lift her back into the seat!"
To my utter relief and gratitude, he walked around to her other side and assisted me in hefting the victim into her seat with much difficulty. Sometime in the midst of this, my friend also leapt into the fray and helped untangle our patient from the seat while I swatted Lee's hand away from her mouth. "She won't swallow her tongue." I assured him as politely as I could under the circumstances.
We held her as still as we dared, aware of the danger presented to ourselves and the victim of holding her down, and waited for the convulsions to pass. As we waited, I couldn't help but take note of the poor girl's condition.
Her bodily functions had deserted her. Foam dribbled down her chin and she gurgled against her tongue, which threatened to suffocate her even if it couldn't be swallowed. Urine seeped through her pants and onto me as I held her legs still. Her eyes rolled into head, the sightless whites pleading for salvation. Sweat trickled down her face and soaked the clothing still unsaturated by her own excrement. Once the compulsions ceased, her muscles continued to spasm erratically like the aftershocks of an earthquake.
I climbed into the seat with her once I was sure the worst had passed, holding her upright so that she didn't slip back into the floor. Gasping for shallow breath, she turned to me and asked in a voice strained from trauma "Am I home yet?"
Unsure of how to answer, I settled for the truth in a low, soothing tone. "Shh...no, we're almost there." I murmured acceptable answers to all of her delusional questions as the ride stretched into an unnecessarily long one. She whimpered and sobbed pitifully for her mother as I cooed sympathetically into her ear. I never did find a satisfying answer to her first question; I can't even think of one now.
I know you must be wondering "Why did this cause her great 'epiphany'?" Well, it didn't.
The whisperings of my fellow bus occupants grabbed my attention again, this time perking my interest to something far more sinister in nature. With direction from the unidentified girl in the seat in front of us, I leaned out of the seat and found my answers at the front of the bus. A group of boys, six to eight total, chuckled openly as they pointed back at me and my half-conscious charge. The leader of the group, who shall remain nameless (even if he does deserve such utter humiliation), cracked inappropriate jokes at her expense. He imitated her rigid convulsions until he could no longer fend off his laughter and joined his cronies in a hearty guffaw.
The cold numbness of shock settled into my chest and my heart slowed to a dull thudding as I gaped openly at human nature at its finest.
"There...are people that cruel?" was the only coherent thought that ran across my mind. To this day, I have difficulty fathoming the realization. If I hadn't witnessed it myself I would still be under my romantic delusions of humanity as the epitome of good.
The ice in my chest melted away and my heart, free of its frozen bonds, beat furiously against my rib-cage as it struggled to distribute adrenaline throughout my system. The hand free of comforting my ward clenched into a white-knuckled fist, trembling with its own tension. I cannot recall the moment before or since that my rage has reached such heights. If it were humanly possible, my eyes would have set my adversary aflame with my passion.
As we passed by his seat, my friend and I assisting the struggling girl down the bus steps and to her house, he-who-shall-remain-unnamed threw himself into another fit of giggles at her expense. With my tongue thickly tied into knots, I could find no better counter than "Shut UP, T–!" We led Ashton off the bus, silently praying that she could not hear their undeserved taunts.
After humbly accepting her mother's sincerest thanks, my friend and I left the unfortunate girl in the proper care as we set off for our own homes. The frantic rage unexpressed in the face of my adversary swelled and burst from my mouth, pouring forth like Niagra Falls during flood season. My sobs were barely drowned out by the rushing cascade as I screamed to the neighborhood of my profound distaste for HIM and his like.
Barely inside my house, after taking my leave from my friend, I stripped off my clothes, tore the ornamental flower from my hair, and threw myself into the shower before the water had time to properly heat. The water did nothing to drown out my screams and lashings. I scrubbed my skin raw and tore at my hair, not in an attempt to cleanse Ashton's fluids from my skin, but to wash away my hated humanity. I sat in the bottom of the shower when my emotions subsided, quivering from the exertion and the new chill to the water. I moaned pitifully on behalf of all human beings, including myself and he-who-shall-not-be-named, and huddled close to the porcelain so that I might be absorbed into the pure stone...
A year later, my opinion of humanity, though less dramatic, has varied little. I can no longer have the privilege of wearing my rose-colored glasses because the frames are warped and the lenses missing. No matter what happens now, I can never think the way I used to. Surprisingly, I don't think that everyone is like you-know-who, thanks largely in part to people like Lee and my friend. The girl, of course, plays a huge role in this too.
The next week, after she felt well enough to return to her humiliation, she tentatively approached me and gave me a handmade card that said simply "Thanks for saving my life!" with her signature. In my heart, I didn't feel deserving of her gratitude. What did I do that was so special? What did I do that actually saved her? I'm only human, after all...
Despite my best efforts to convince her otherwise, she still hails me as her "hero," even though I've explained to her countless times that her life was hardly in danger. I've given up on trying to explain to her the difference and, instead, have accepted her thanks and left it at that. There will never be any convincing her that, being human, I did nothing to deserve her adoration.
Since the incident she has fully recovered. No lasting damage, not even the psychological scars I carry for her. It turns out that she couldn't hear what they were saying and I praise any God(s) listening for that. One less encounter for her to cry over. I hope that, one day, she finds herself a real hero to worship.
AN: I'd just like to mention that I'm really NOT depressed and bleak like this essay implies. I actually lean toward the glass being half-full most of the time, but I still distrust humanity. I don't "hate" anyone, I still believe that emotion is reserved for beings much greater than I, but the disgusting asshole at the center of this incident is at the very top of my "dislike list."
Word of advice: help when you can, don't be afraid. And don't be like him.