The Voice I'm Meant to Have

Written by Jacqueline Marie Larson

Since the summertime, my reasons for wanting to join the Trojan Triumph have changed somewhat. At first I always thought I wanted to be a journalist because that is a good occupation for the aspiring writer, which I am. More importantly I could really *speak.* The written word doesn't stutter, and more importantly what goes down on paper comes out well thought out and complete. I also thought that I might be able to make a difference in the lives of my fellow students, somehow, that perhaps I could touch their hearts. Since the summer my reasons have become more selfish, which doesn't shame me in the least. Journey back with me and see why:

June, 2001, second to the last day of school; I got up and was excited to go. I had two easy finals to pass that day, plus I had just gotten my hair dyed, and I wanted to see what my friends thought. It took me forever to wake my brother, as always, but like clockwork he was still up in time to get out the door. We got onto the bus, and I took the first empty seat I came to. People didn't like me very much because of the way I looked, plus I couldn't exactly dress as richly as some, and they disliked me even more if I asked to sit next to them, like I had a choice since the bus was usually so crowded. I never wanted to be the one to cause trouble, so avoiding anyone save for my closest friends was always a habit for me. This day was no different. I just hugged my bookbag and purse to me and waited to arrive at school.

Once at the school, since my seat was in the very front, I got up right away and started to get off. My shoes squeaked on the rain-soaked floor, and I paused at the stairs to grasp the railing. Impatient murmurs behind me hurried my ascension, and I slipped with my first step and fell all the way down; in that time I think I fainted. What brought me back to reality after the impact was the pain in my lower back and my ankle, which was turned in an unusual angle below me. Then my hearing was flooded with a sound that almost always puts tears to my eyes now; Laughing, coming from on the bus. It was like thunder that shook my bones and twisted at my insides. I always knew there were a lot of cruel people riding to school with me, but the realization came to me that these were a species more foul than average man; they were the kind that could only make themselves feel alive by feeding off the torment and suffering of people they think are lower than them. It's funny how if one goes up to any of these boys or girls and ask them if they think they are good people that they will say they are, however it is my strong opinion that they are not.

Moving onward, because of my colorful history of being the butt of every joke since I got into kindergarten, I've always been kind of a paranoid person. If someone near me is whispering to their friend(s) and snickering, sometimes I wonder if they are talking about me, but in all honesty, true pain is when one knows that someone is laughing at them *for real.* The only thing I could think was _They want me to hurt. They think it's funny to watch another human being cry because they're barely human themselves. Get away. Get away *fast.*_

With that decided as the best course of action, I bit my lip and faught back the urge to cover my ears and cry as I levered myself to a standing position. Nothing would make me give them that kind of satisfaction. After being picked on for more than eleven years, I had taught myself to pretend like nothing bothers me, to be quiet and act as though I'm above it all, because I really believed that I was.

I only vaguely remember Mrs. Perkins' voice above the roar, asking if I was all right. I saw concerned faces in front of me without even acknowleging it, for I didn't have the time nor the willpower to care for anything save for getting to my feet and getting away. A wince twisted my features as a burning pain shot up my spine, a hurt like the kind one recieve from a very large scrape or cut. Silently I prayed I was not bleeding, but a part of me almost wished I was, so that those people that were still laughing would see and feel sorry.

I did not notice that I was limping until I got indoors and by that time I resolved to go to the school nurse. My foot felt swollen and numb, almost like it was asleep. Like my back it burned a little, too. I think that I had forgotten to worry about the pain since I was making such a hard attempt to hold my tears in and look unscathed.

My backpack slid from my arm and hit the floor with a loud *thud* as I stopped in front of the closed door to the Nurse's office, where a small sign in the window of the door read "Nurse is out today." With an injured grimace I shook my head to clear it and headed for the stairs. If I just went to my first class and sat down for a while I would feel better. On my way, I met gazes with a girl who had been on the bus. She held my eyes for a moment expressionlessly then started giggling and indicating me to her friends. _Can't she see that I'm hurt?_ I thought, forgetting I was trying to hide that in the first place. When one is in pain they tend to want to shift their anger on someone who is supposedly deserving.

Once I found the Algebra room and a desk I started to feel worse. It hurt my back even more to be sitting down, but my foot didn't seem to ache so much anymore. That was a blessing, I supposed, but for some reason I couldn't completely stop myself from shedding tears. Finally I brought up an end of my overshirt and wiped my eyes, but not before a few of my friends could enter and ask me what was wrong.

Now I don't know about most other people, but if I'm trying desperately not to cry and someone asks me if I'm okay or whatever, it just makes crying a lot harder to control. My natural reaction was to wave a hand at them and whisper quietly and steadily, "I don't want to talk about it." Had they persisted I would not have been able to muster the composure to do anything but scream for them to go away.

The tardy bell rang and my Algebra teacher, Mrs. Boston, finally entered. I knew she would not force me to sit through class like this. Being a mother, I think she knew how severe a situation like mine could be.

Sometime in the instant she came in, I decided that I might be seriously injured,

and even if I wasn't, I could not go to any of my classes that day without completely losing control of myself, so I raised my hand. She took notice of me and seemed to know right away something was amiss. With the countenance of any concerned mother, she came close and leaned over to listen to me so that I wouldn't have to raise my voice and make a scene in front of the classroom.

"I fell off the bus today," I breathed, swallowing hard at the ache in my dried throat. After she nodded, I continued quietly, but with building agony in my voice at the strain to keep a sob in, "I twisted my ankle and my back hurts...."

I lost the battle, finally, and a few droplets managed to escape as I clamped a hand to my mouth to keep my voice quiet.

My eyes left hers, so I had no idea what her reaction was, until I heard her demand in a very edged voice, "Didn't a teacher come and help you?" It was, after all, policy that several teachers be outside as the busses were arriving to watch for accidents and such.

I shook my head and forced out, "Busdriver asked if I was okay...."

When I looked at her again I could tell that the management's lack of attention to this event made her angry. It wasn't that she was scowling or making as though she was going to break something. Mothers don't do that often, and any teacher that does obviously has too much stress in their lives or very unruly students. No, it was more like a look of calm agitation. I recall her murmuring something about how my busdriver shouldn't have been the only one before she grabbed up my bookbag, (and stumbling, since it weighed a good thirty pounds) and gestured for me to try to get up and follow.

"The nurse isn't in," she stated solemnly, "but I think you may need to go home." Before I could protest about the finals, she assured me that they could be made up.

My back was relieved to be out of that stupid desk, but still complaining just the same like some irrepressable infant that was satisfied with nothing. I wiped my face determinedly and followed Mrs. Boston through the halls and down to the main office. I seated myself, and she found an accident form for me to fill out. I supposed with a sour smile that it might have been required so that the school didn't have to pay the doctor's bill.

Before she departed to return to class, Mrs. Boston leaned over me like she had before and asked softly, "Do you want to call your mother or would you feel better if I did?"

With no small amount of tremor in my voice I let her know with very few words that I was too close to hysterics to talk to anyone for more than three seconds at a time. With a small nod she turned to the front desk and picked up the phone there, handy for anyone who needed to make a call home during the school day.

A little less than an hour later, my mother appeared, signed me out, and helped me to her car. There were no words between us as we journeyed home; I couldn't speak and she knew not to try and force me to by commenting. My mind was not in the cab of her Ford Escort at the moment, anyhow. It still lay at the bottom of the steps of the schoolbus, beseiged by the sound of harsh laughter.

Finally I blinked and found myself close to my home again, my face twisted in heartache, and I covered my face with my hands and wept. I didn't stop until we reached the house, and still I sat for several long moments without any intention in forcing it to stop now that cruel voices could not find me, for it was only alone that I could cry, and even then it was nearly unbearable.

A day of pampering and good television lifted my spirit somewhat, and I was surprised when sometime in the early afternoon my brother phoned from the school to see if I was all right. I don't think I've ever been so happy to have a brother.

A doctor's examination told me that my back was only bruised, but my foot suffered from a sprain and tears in several tendons. I recieved an ace bandage and a pair of crutches for my troubles and was sent on my way.

The day after, I returned to school aided by these medical tools, feeling a little better and able to think about what had happened without tearing up, until I journeyed to my first class of the day. I passed the same girl from the bus that I'd seen in the hallway the morning before. She looked me over critically then smirked. Suddenly my back ached even more. If anyone else from the bus noticed, I am not completely sure. When the day ended, though, I was ready to forget, and that's just what I tried to do.

Now, I have this bad habit of dreaming of almost nothing but school when summer vacation finally hits. This time, to my absolute horror, these visions of North Hardin consisting of being late to class and meeting with friends were replaced with the reocurrance of my swan dive off the bus. There was almost never a night when I would not awaken to find my pillow wet and my hair damp from my crying. It haunted me so that I did not want to go outdoors anymore. I was afraid of falling and more afraid of someone seeing me.

As the days wore on faster and the first day of my Junior year came close at hand, I began to rethink my priorities. As much as I hate to say it, I wanted a way to get back at the people that hurt me inside, a way that would not leave me feeling empty. Newspaper became my way to achieve that, in my eyes, my way of speaking out with the voice that I was meant to have. If I could publish just *one* piece that told the world how I felt, then perhaps all things would be better. The nightmares, while fewer now, might go away entirely. I find this very selfish on my part, but I think that if there were ever a time that I should have a right to want something for myself, it would be in the present.

For those readers out there that don't know already, this was supposed to be an article about forms of violence and disrespect amoung the students of our school and what could be done to help solve the problem. It became this passage because everytime I sat down to the do the job, only six words would appear on the computer screen:

"*Who Do You Think You Are?*"

Now, months after the incident, I look back and remember with only a faint glimmer of remourse in my eyes that such a simple event as falling off the bus could pain me so and shape me as I am now. Despite my wish to show a love for all mankind, I've become in many cases bitter and cynical toward my fellow peers. There have been times in this new school year that once again I have been met with the cruelty of other students, and each time I have located either a computer screen or a sheet of paper to convey my feelings to, so that I might record that, yes, *I've come close to breaking down again.* No tears were shed during these events, not in those instances just after or even much later. In that sense I have become stronger. In those moments I have turned to this story, this tiny piece of my life and I reminisce of my pain, my utter *hatred* for the people around me, but glancing back into these pages I see the inclusion of one teacher in my life, who *helped* me, who seemed as angry and hurt as I had been for my misfortune. I imagine her as the definition that with every hindrence in life there is some relief; there are others who have ached as I have and wanted to speak out about it. They do so by sharing your pain and taking some of it away with the offer of a smile and a comforting word. They are the ones that live through it, and they are there to tell you that you're not alone, and you shouldn't be afraid to be yourself just because someone else makes light of you.

No, I'm not going to tell my feelings on racism and religious intolerance and blatant disrespect because I've already said what I can. I'm going to go on *being* myself, the quiet kid, who never complains to anyone save a friendly ear. I have my chance right here to speak out, and I'm using it this once, for I have no idea how anyone will react. I'd like to know, really, if I should continue, but that is for the readers to judge and tell me of their own accord. I don't want to butt into anyone's lives with my preaching; I just want the hurting to stop.

Because of this wish, my idea for a calling has changed. I do not believe I can make much of a difference by catering to a publication. One day I'll learn to give my voice life and convey it with sound. When that time comes I will be complete, and perhaps I can be one of those that survived to pass on the legacy.