Leap of Faith
Author's note:This is very over dramatised so I'm sorry.
Author's note:This combines both fiction and truth and basically reveals how it feels like to be an outsider. Note, I'm not saying that everyone is like this, but my secondary school was. I'm not here to offend anyone, but to tell the story of what it feels like to be an outsider. I hope you understand.
He gestured to the middle of the gym where an odd layout presented itself to our childish eyes. There were three rows of platforms, gaps between each, three lines that stretched the entire length of the gym. At the end nearest to us were three tranquil blue mats, tattered and torn at the edges where previous pupils had damaged them. These mats lay ahead of the three lines of platforms and a bench lay beside each mat.
"You have a task," the teacher spoke gruffly, smugly, as he gazed at the layers of confused faces that surveyed the equipment.
"You'll be separated into three teams. One team per row. You're mission, if you choose to accept it…" he waited for a response. He got nothing but barely concealed disgust as a reaction. His tone became hard as if to punish us for not laughing at a joke that had been run so far into the ground that it could never be resurrected, "is to get all the way to the third platform and back."
The pupils began muttering excitedly between themselves as they assumed their superiority over the task.
"But," the teacher added, again smug, "you must get as many of your team members to the last platform and back."
The storm inside the gym exploded to a new strength, pupils literally throwing themselves onto their feet from their sitting position and bombarding the teacher in what became an impenetrable ring of ceaseless babbling.
"We'll never fit!"
"Too many people!"
I watched, silent from my still sitting position, arms wrapped around my legs that I had pushed up into my chest. Another group activity, I shouldn't be surprised. Disappointment I would expect but I would not allow myself to feel the former. The small collection of friends I had, I knew, were bound to be separated from me in a sick joke that somehow they found funny. I never did.
The teacher hushed the bubbling crowd of pupils that bounced around him. Reluctantly they silenced but still kept the teacher imprisoned in their circle.
"I said to get into three teams," he huffed, arms crossed against his chest. I scowled at him, waiting for the inevitable shun of the more popular and waited patiently for yet another blow of my already depleted self-confidence.
The pupils immediately began jabbering between themselves, grabbing an assortment of limbs to claim them into their team. The reaction was fiercely different for each pupil. Some, as I have already stated, rushed to anyone they knew and grabbed, hard, onto them as if to claim them as their own property. The person captured often-showed mutual desire and easily folded into the other's will. When the person didn't show a desire to be in that team, they were forced into it anyway, blackmailed into a torture to which they couldn't escape.
Other pupils, such as myself, lived in fear and we sat amongst ourselves in a protective circle, just waiting for some comment, some insult from another, more popular pupil that would easily disintegrate the fragile shield of ignorance. Some of them clung together, arms wrapped tightly around each other. I noticed some of them even shivered: others on the verge of tears as they clung desperately onto the one person they felt they could trust. They all knew, as I did, that there was no point to this, as we were all going to be separated in the end. We were too small in number to comprise our own team, but too large to all fit into another one. The teachers would have the last word.
The third reaction was something that I also bordered on but was favoured only by one pupil. The basic standing away from the crowd, arms crossed, face expressionless as the sea of pupils rushed past, ignoring what they considered a silent plea, but to me was a ear piercing cry for help. Retrospectively, it was a good idea to stand away from the masses for those in the middle were kicked, punched and deliberately pushed by others in the race to get the most popular pupil. Yet the deliberate disassociation with other pupils would prove a fatal mistake when it finally came down to joining a team. Those pupils had already put their head in the blocks and all the others had to do was release the guillotine.
The chaos of the jabbering pupils continued for several minutes, each time the number of active pupils speeding from one end to the other decreased and a larger amount stayed in their appointed group, all laughing at the still ring of people who hadn't moved an inch since the order. Eventually the three teams were decided, except for a small group of people and a solitary soul in the corner.
The silence in the gym was unbearable. The chaotic and random babbling of the crowd had tortured us in a different way, reminding us that we were never to be one of the group, that to them we were nothing. It was a horrible and fierce reminder of our social status. Yet the silence was far worse. In the crowd we had gone unnoticed, something which we could cope with, yet in the silence we were the main focus of attention, subject to the ridicule and humility of every pupil and teacher in the room.
The teacher approached us, his footsteps strong, slow and intimidating all at once.
"You have to join a team," the teacher scolded, his voice like the mountains. "You can't just sit there."
The other pupils laughed and sniggered behind their hands. Others were far less subtle in their approach as they pointed and laughed at the outcasts.
I merely shrank further inside of myself, wishing so much that I could escape the scolding heat of their ridiculing words.
The teacher remained still for a moment, waiting petulantly for anyone of the group to make a move. He was set to be disappointed which only made things worse for us.
I dared a glance at Nicola, a weak acquaintance of mine, who was huddled into a tiny ball like myself. She caught my gaze and mouthed a simple "Split up". I knew all to well what she was referring to. If we did not join a team of our own free will, then the teachers would prise us into one. We had very little options. We could have stood up and dared to ask if we could join a team. But that was an idiotic thing to do at best. It was practically inviting those who hated us to hate us even more, and that person would be subject to an overwhelming amount of both mental and physical attacks during the exercise. The rejection of not being allowed into a team would only verify what we already knew and what they so wanted to see as a solid fact. I personally had sworn, silently perhaps as I cried myself to sleep at my home that I would never allow them to see me hurt. The risk was far too great. Others didn't seem to care about releasing their emotions. They didn't understand that the others were vultures that fed hungrily off human misery such as ours. Acting upset, I thought, would only provoke them. Besides, I had long since run out of tears.
"Very well," the teacher said. He extended his index finger, letting it wonder lazily over the four or five people in our protective circle. He smiled as each one of the outcasts flinched. Even I, with my artificial smile found myself wanting to flee from its touch. It was time for our judgement.
"You," he said, pointing at the person next to me, "and...". My heart froze. His finger was pointed directly at me, resembling, I thought, a loaded gun.
He pulled the trigger. "You." The bullet fired, burying deeply into my heart. The shock hit me like a speeding vehicle. Any hope of being blissfully ignored was drained away. I turned to the pupils, all of them looking at me in disgust. The message was quite clear "You are not coming in our team".
Whether I would survive this lesson was up to the overly reluctant team I was placed in and it angered me. I was at the mercy of every tiny word, every stray insult that was aimed at me or not. I had no control and I was too sensitive to ignore their obviously blatant criticisms.
The teacher called me again. I uncurled from my tiny little ball, feeling their stares hit me like as a physical force. I walked then into the darkness of the glares, sliding not from the light, but from another type of darkness. I stuck a synthetic smile on my face, smiling as I entered the very back of the queue, trying with all my might to ignore their judging glares. I slipped through and immediately fell into an even deeper silence.
The others went the same way as I did, all mournfully moving into their designated group. Some of them were lucky as an odd one or two were at least allowed the pleasure of being ignored rather than to be rained with criticisms. The real problem struck when the true outsider stepped up on the blocks.
I felt so sorry for that person. She remained as stolid as ever, leaning up against the gym door, eyes staring down towards the newly polished floor. Everyone else sniggered; even some from the circle earlier gave a false laugh, differing with the success of this traitorous manoeuvre. I fought against the urge to do so myself. The desire to be included was great and I didn't blame them the others for trying it.
"Come on! JOIN!" The teacher yelled, clapping his callused hands together. The girl flinched.
I couldn't help but look over towards her, eyes staring pleadingly at the girl to obey. She didn't budge. I saw a little of myself in her, and secretly I admired her. I wish I had the guts to stand firm and tall as she did, but unfortunately I wouldn't let myself. I wasn't sure whether the girl was either being stupid, disobedient or a mixture of both. The girl looked up from the floor and towards the teacher, eyes blazing with the strength of the sun.
So, she couldn't disrespect the authority figure even if they were forcing her to go against her sacred beliefs. She stared at the teacher for some time, a silent battle of wills. The others laughed and jeered at the confrontation, but their vision was clouded. To them the girl was defiantly strong, but in a way that they disliked. They only saw the anger there, but I didn't. The others from the circle saw it to, I could tell. We didn't see just the premature anger that the other more shallow people liked to see; we all saw the bitter helplessness, and the unanswerable plea for help. We all saw those tears glistening weakly in her eyes. They were minute and easily missed, but to me they were the size of the universe and screamed more loudly and demanded more attention than those hungry scavengers who yelled the insults in front of me.
She wasn't looking at him in anger but in a desperate plea to be released from the inevitable torture.
"Join this team."
The plea was ignored, shoved aside as if it meant nothing. I momentarily wondered if these teachers even thought about the repercussions of their actions. I doubted it. All of the teachers at this school, with very few exceptions, cared for more than their monthly pay packet.
The student joined the team that I was in.
The earlier remarks of the pupils from before were increased ten fold as the red haired girl dragged herself into the disorganised queue. The pupils were no longer concerned if the teacher heard their heart wrenching and explosive criticisms, and were far more open in their opinions than earlier. I glanced briefly at the teacher, shocked and disgusted to see a smile creep along his face as the criticisms grew more violent.
The girl approached me. She stopped, a metre short, eyes still lingering on the ground. I tilted my head, trying to figure out this movement and noticed that the girls' fists were clenched so tightly that her knuckles were white. I stared at her tense body for a few moments, running through all the possibilities. Was she afraid of me? Surely she must have noticed that I was an outsider, like her, and posed no threat unlike the others. Or maybe she had noticed that the members of the circle had laughed along with the others and so presumed I was the same? No, somehow her expression, which was hidden by her curly red fringe, told me that wasn't it. She was bracing herself, wishing for something maybe? I mouthed a soft "oh" when I realised her predicament. She wasn't afraid of me, but was waiting for some sort of invitation to ensure that she was welcome. I smiled weakly, trying to ignore the part of me that screamed "if you team up with her, you have no chance".
"Hello," I said weakly, barely audible against the noisy banter of the others. The girl shivered, and raised her head, her eyes staring helplessly into mine. I smiled to comfort her and gestured to the empty spot next to me. She smiled gratefully and I could see the tension in her ease. She shuffled next to me, hiding behind me so the others couldn't see her.
"You're in my English class," I said, desperate to start conversation. She didn't react. I put a hand to my head, prompting my memory to recall her name.
"Is it Jenny?"
She didn't respond.
"Uh," I said, still scratching my head. The girl was certainly enigmatic.
"Why pretend?" She said suddenly, shocking me with her sudden contribution.
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, watching her feet as she did so. I knew what she meant. This so-called friendship of ours was forced and would go no further than this lesson. We were two people in the same boat, at least for now, and the girl seemed to hate the idea of getting friends through sympathy. She knew that I was only making conversation to be polite, and she didn't want that. She only wanted a conversation with someone if they genuinely wanted to be her friend, otherwise she felt like a charity case and her helpless position was amplified to breaking point. I also believed in her theory, but felt that making an effort to make the torture move quicker was worth it.
"Who's pretending?" I countered, slightly angered yet impressed by her perception.
The girl coughed, and I could tell that she was surprised that I knew what she meant.
"This is pointless," she growled, as we walked towards our appointed mat. The other pupils jeered at us, sniggering again, before focusing on the task ahead. They collected around each other, discussing ways to get to the end. Myself and the girl sat down against the gym wall, ignoring the circle but making it seem to the teacher that we were contributing by sitting fairly close. The girl winced as she sat and a hand shot to her side.
Before I could ask her what the matter was, she started talking again. "What is this going to achieve?" she asked genuinely, still clenching her teeth against the pain she was in.
I decided not to ask about her injury. A cold chill in my mind told me that the girl had not just been subjected to verbal abuse at this school.
"A bunch of idiots climbing over a mat, fighting with the next team? Oh please."
I smiled at her scepticism. "I guess it's supposed to encourage team spirit."
"The only thing it encourages is bullying," she said, her tone thick with anger. "It just gives them another opportunity to have a go at the less fortunate."
"You're right," I conceded, ignoring the badly stifled laughter and the ridiculing glares that were aimed at us. "It encourages the other people to team up with who they like. No doubt we won't even be invited to participate."
"That's fine with me."
"But it only amplifies our position, and they know that the teachers won't allow a break of the rules."
"The teachers won't notice. They never do."
"I suppose." I glanced at the teacher, watching as he lit a cigarette. "But I wouldn't be so sure. If they want to win, they'll have to get rid of us. I wouldn't be surprised if we're accidentally pushed off a platform."
I didn't know why I was being so open with her, dishing out my endless thoughts and theories that I had made to make myself feel better. I immediately silenced; realising that discussing how much trouble we were in was not going to help our situation. We were only succeeding in making ourselves even more miserable.
"So, is your name Jenny?"
She opened her mouth to answer but was interrupted by the teacher.
The solid mass of pupils was even more predictable than I thought. The second the order to start was given, they all rushed towards the bench, struggling to lift the colossal piece of wood. They failed several times, dropping it onto the ground with a reverberating clash. The group of pupils then began bitching at each other, screaming at the others to do better as they gave reference to another team that just happened to be about 1second ahead of them. The pupil responsible for dropping the bench was often given a severe reprimand, despite the fact that they were all to blame in the mistake, before they all scampered off to start again.
"Remember, the bench is not allowed to touch anything but the platform and the mat!" the teacher yelled, still taking drags of his cigarette. He coughed harshly between his order, and stopped briefly to bang his chest with his fist. "If it does, you lose one person of your choice."
"Wow, we're just potential scraps. Fantastic!" Said the girl sarcastically.
I only nodded.
Watching the pupils' battle with gravity, the bench and the platform was funny to watch. One Pupil had cheated in our team when they had seen that the other teams were further ahead, and had simply walked to the platform and climbed up. As the girl had suggested, nothing happened except the triumphant gloat of the pupil and the cheering of the mindless crowd. With one pupil now on the raised platform, it was easy for the bench to land home, and the second it did, they all crawled up it like a thick army of ants, flooding the bench with their bodies. Not one of them bothered to look back at us, not caring that we were still part of the team. They turned back to drag the bench fully to the platform, shutting off any chance we had of joining them. To my surprise, one of the pupils stayed back, probably to assist when they travelled back. That person gave us a secretive glare before looking back to monitor the others' progress.
"Well this is predictable."
I jumped, surprised at the introduction of this new voice. I turned to see Nicola, who had walked over from her team.
"Yeah," I said, surprised at such an aggressive action. The girl shrank back into her self.
"I got thrown off the platform," she said cheerfully. "It's over for me now."
"Were you thrown or did you fall?" I asked although I already knew the answer.
She smiled widely and gave a soft laugh. "A bit of both I think."
She looked towards how the team we were in was progressing. She stared at them quizzically, tilting her head as pupils continually fell from the platform as space became short and simply climbed back on with no retribution taken. "Your team is cheating," she said simply. "But hey, they all are. Did you know that the team I'm in started on the second platform? I mean what is wrong with that teacher anyway?"
"He doesn't care I suppose. Why should he?"
Nicola stretched her arms into the air and yawned loudly. The freedom from the torture had done wonders to her usually gloomy temperament. Her cheerfulness though was not infectious, as I had hoped as I still had a strange hollow feeling inside of me.
"Look," Nicola ordered lightly, nodding her head in the direction she wanted us to look. "Alison is over there. I wonder if she got chucked out too?"
The roar of the pupils was becoming deafening and the chaos caused by them was so unremarkably huge that it was difficult to decipher which pupil she was talking about, let alone hear her. I tried to see Alison, another member of the circle. I found her eventually, scrunched up against the wall like we were, a smile gracing her lips. Nicola screamed her name, again unusually aggressive for her, and Alison flinched, expecting some sort of insult to follow. When it didn't, she turned to Nicola, smiled, and walked over to us.
"Hiya!" She greeted.
"Hey," Nicola replied.
Me and the girl remained silent.
"You get chucked out too?"
Alison smiled. "No, I'm just pretending I did. And you?"
"Faked it," Nicola smirked.
The two turned to us, eyes piercing. "What about you?"
I tore my gaze away from two fighting pupils on the platform ahead, finding a morbid enjoyment in their crossed words, and addressed them. "We're not doing anything. We're just sitting here. If anyone asks, we're out," I said, gesturing weakly to the girl beside me, "but I doubt anyone will."
The girl gave a weak nod as thanks for being included. I could tell that she was just being protective of her emotions and found difficulty in trusting anyone. Again she winced as she shifted on the mat and I noticed, for the first time, a huge bruise on the top of her shoulder and fierce red scratch marks raked along her neck. I shuddered involuntarily. The scratches were new, perhaps only hours old. I wondered why the girl had not told anyone of her plight, but then I realised that would be only asking for more trouble.
Nicola and Alison began a strained chattering amongst themselves, ignoring us now they had each other. I noticed the girl gave an angered sigh and shook her head. They were pretending too, just passing the time. I understood her aversion to that but kept silent.
Meanwhile the pupils up ahead were continuing their quest, all of them falling off the platform and then coming back on again. The chattering of the other two girls became drowned out, and the only voice I could hear was my own.
I looked in envy at those pupils ahead. I felt like I was sitting in a wide chasm, flooded in darkness, with no where to go and very little hope. Then there was the promised land, a place where those pupils could not get to me. Oh to be accepted! The joy it would bring! Unconsciously I stood up, and walked to the edge of the mat, toes dangling over the edge. I looked again towards the pupils, eyes longing, arms wishing to reach out and embrace what I could not have. I knew all of my theories about the pupils were only designed to make me feel better in my land of darkness. They were my only fuel in a baron land of lost hope. I felt that it was the last fire I had. I had always told myself that I was glad not to be one of them, that they were just artificial creations that caused more misery than happiness and that I should be thankful for who I was and what I had. But I couldn't stop dreaming of being one of them, being a pupil that was loved, no, even liked would have made me happy. But they were monsters weren't they?
I could feel the longing to be with them as a physical force and on many occasion I found myself leaning towards them, with rational thought being the only thing which held me back. I felt the girl's eyes on my back, but I ignored them, too caught up in my own game.
Those pupils always seemed so happy. They had fun, friends, and didn't dread every day of school like I did. Somehow I felt beckoned by them, that maybe, if I jumped, I could be with them.
The rush of pupils in the gym was no more settled than previously, and I unconsciously noticed them as they ran past me, ignoring me as if I was invisible. But I didn't care; my thoughts were centred on the third platform where all the others were.
The first platform was nearly two metres away, and at least half a metre tall. Yet at that moment it seemed so close, so easy to reach. That feeling increased ten-fold, and I felt myself once again looking towards the holy ray of light.
Jump, my thoughts said, drowning out the noise.
But part of me knew that I would never make it. But what if I could jump? Could I make it? Of course not! It was too far. My mind wondered unpredictably, hitting reasons for and against the move. I couldn't explain it; it was just so real. At that moment in time I actually believed that I could fly. That if I jumped a pair of wings would sprout from my back and I could fly away, fly free in the sky and never be worried again. I was so compelled, I felt that this was the time, but I was held back by those rational thoughts.
What if it's test? I asked myself. That I had to believe in this feeling that I had? Maybe I was wrong to question it. What did I have to lose? I should try.
But what if the teacher caught me, and I was thrown out of the game. The criticisms from the pupils would become god like in their strength and my life would be shattered.
I should have courage, I told myself. That platform had never looked so close, as the voices of the pupils echoed in my head.
You can be free; you just have to believe I told myself. You can fly, you can, you just have to jump. You'll make it, I promise.
But if I was caught?
The urge to jump was unbelievably strong in me and suddenly it no longer mattered that the platform was so far away, and it didn't matter that there were people watching me. Screw them! I thought to myself! I wouldn't, shouldn't let them get in the way of my dream! Why should they? They were just pupils whose opinion of me didn't count. Surely their ridiculing words was a small price to pay for the luxurious freedom that I would obtain.
I had never felt like this before in my life, I had never believed in something as strongly as I did then. At that moment in time I thoroughly believed that this was a test, set by some force I shouldn't question. But were my beliefs blinding me? Had my desire to be accepted or free of this cursed life I lead transformed into this, a dream of growing wings and flying? Was I going mad? Or maybe that was what they wanted me to think? Would it make me a monster if I tried? Would I ever forgive myself if I didn't?
The world had grown silent with the beating of my heart being the only sound, and a small, seductive voice saying: "jump". I had always believed that the world I lived in was devoid of any magic, that it was dull and not the world I dreamt of living in every night. But somehow the world in my dreams was so close; maybe this world was the one I had hoped so much for.
All I had to do was jump, and I would be there.
I was so happy at the prospect and I paused to wipe away the accumulated tears. How much I wanted to jump!
I couldn't take it anymore. My decision made. Here I come world! Embrace me!
The noises and the sights of the gym faded away into a pointless background. I didn't think twice as I crouched and prepared to jump…
My leap of faith
I felt wonderfully free as my feet left the ground and my body propelled itself into the air. I smiled for perhaps the first time in five years as the platform came closer.
Come on, I pleaded, now is the time!
I just continued to go through the air, the surprised Alison and Nicola now watching me as I leaped.
Please,I begged…I need this…I need a world with magic.
I need to be me.
But my prayers were never to be answered. I began to fall, easily short of the platform. I gave a last desperate plea. It was never answered. My feet struck the ground, shackled forever to the curse I had to live through. As my feet struck the ground, my hopes and my dreams shattered into a thousand pieces.
I stood, shaking, unbelieving as rational thought flooded back into my mind. What did you do that for! I cried. Are you an idiot! Get back before the teacher sees you! But I couldn't move. I just shook, eyes wide as I stared at the floor. Nothing happened.
My breathing became fast and hurried, my eyes once again filling with tears. What did this mean? Were my dreams always untrue? Do I have any dreams left?
I turned to the others, eyes betraying the cool exterior I pressed so forcibly on my face. Alison and Nicola just glared, unbelieving, at my stupidity.
I slowly walked back towards the mat; every step ringing with the shackles that would forever hold me prisoner to the earth. I ignored all of their questions and shrunk into the ground, still vulnerable from my discovery that my one burning desire had just been put out. I cradled my head on my knees and silently watched the light of hope be consumed by a ferocious darkness.
I had lost everything.
My dreams, hopes of a better world, were nothing.
I tried to put on a brave face when the others forced me to look at them. I merely smiled, told them a pack of lies, and silenced again. They wouldn't, couldn't understand.
I held back my emotions like I had trained myself to do so many times before, but the dam I had built was weak and failing to hold back the flood.
I looked over the gym, noticing that no one except the three had noticed my jump, and accidentally I met gazes with the girl. She looked at me for a moment, studying me with a learned eye, before nodding knowingly.
We just stared at each other for a while, ignoring the now jubilant cry of the victorious team from across the other side of the gym, and the school bell which told the end of the lesson.
Okay, I apologise for that. Um, please tell me what you think as this is the first time I've ever tried anything like this. You comments are greatly valued, so please review!
Luv ya peopleys!