Belonging. | Teen Ink


October 22, 2018
By ellarobiinson BRONZE, Sydney, Other
ellarobiinson BRONZE, Sydney, Other
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
“No hope without faith, no faith without hope, no love without trust, no trust without love. Remove one and the entire human house of cards collapse.”
-Rick Yancey, The Infinite Sea.

I sat at the back of the bus, the eyes of every white person searing into me. Short, sideways glances, scoffs and the occasional slur muttered under-breath seeped into my consciousness. I felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment. The only coloured girl who’d take a bus nowadays, Mom used to say. In the beginning no one seemed to really notice. But as more and more people joined the Montgomery Bus Boycott, I seemed to stick out more and more as I took the bus around town. Like a bruise, only surfacing after the first few days. That’s how white people saw me. Like a bruise. A painful and visible reminder of how we’d been treated. How different we were to them.

The bus jerked forward with the impact of it’s stop, and I felt my body being yanked forward with the momentum. As the white folk slipped off, I waited patiently. I didn’t want to make anyone mad. The bus driver called out me.

“Get off.”

I nodded, and tumbled out of the bus, hardly catching myself on its handrail before the engine started up again. Amber rays of sunlight were cast over my face, sending a glow through my body. Alabama was a hard place to live for us, but it was beautiful. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Even though the war was over 10 years ago, America was struggling to get back on its feet. So were the people. We all just tried to move on,  but it was never going to be that easy. But coloured people got hit the hardest. We just wanted to be equal. But the war did something to everyone. It hardened their hearts. Made them…. Crueller. Harsher. They were angry, and needed someone to lash out at. And we were there. We had to put up with their anger, their frustration. Some didn’t say much. Just stared, withholding their disdain. Others hurled abuse and insults, pushing and shoving, taunting, jeering, spitting. We’d been labelled, too. They thought that we wanted to be called “coloured”. We didn’t. We wanted to be called people. They didn’t realise that by giving us a name they’d just made us feel even more different to them. We just wanted to be equal, to belong. Coloured people had lived in America long enough for us to call it home. But it wasn’t. For coloured people, it wasn’t. Ever. We’d had enough, and it was time for it to stop. We were reduced to taking the path of violence and disruption, in the desperate hope that it would make a difference. That someone, anyone, would choose to listen. And if they didn’t, we’d force them to.

My hand curled around my pistol, concealed in the fold of my trench coat, the cool metal of its casing oddly calming. Loaded with just one bullet. Just to get an audience. It was a small handgun; my pop had given it to me before he passed away the year before. In case those white folk give you trouble, he’d said. If only he’d known.

I walked down the Rose Boulevard and onto Main street, my red heels clipping against the asphalt. I took a deep breath and, pushing lightly on the door of Café Louisiana, stepped in and scanned the room. Twenty or so white faces turned to look my way, and I heard someone mutter the word “scum”. A young man sat in the corner, writing on something I couldn’t see. He was one of us. He caught my eye and I smiled at him, a mutual acceptance and familiarity passing between us.  

No one could have prepared themselves for what I was about to do next.

My hand slid into my jacket and pulled out the pistol, my other hand coiling around my first to hold it steady. No one noticed at first. Not until I craned my hand skywards and shot into the ceiling. The reaction was instant. People screamed, pushing themselves off furniture and under tables. No one would have to know that was my only bullet. I didn’t plan on hurting anyone. I set my jaw, squared my shoulders and stalked to the middle of the room. Once there, I cleared my throat and began to speak.

“I want to belong!”

The room was silent, save for the occasional sound of a sob or someone taking a shaky breath.

“Have any of you ever done something embarrassing and felt everyone stare at you once you’d done it? Done something that made you stick out, and feel different? I’m always feeling like that. In fact, I’ll tell you something-”


I never got to finish. I was cut short by the bullet that cut through my back, fired from the barrel of a police officer’s gun. A white one, of course. I never got to see the change I made, or if I even made a change. My name blended in with the hundreds of other coloured people who were silenced before they could speak. But I know something. That young man sitting in the corner of the café? His name was Martin Luther King. He would grow up one day and do something amazing, would change how the world saw us forever, and set us on the road to belonging. Because that’s all anyone ever wants to do, isn’t it? We all just want to belong.

The author's comments:

I wrote this piece as part of a Year 8 Extension writing challenge. It's loosely based on the struggles of a young woman during the apartheid regime and her struggles for acceptance. Hope you enjoy xx. 

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This article has 1 comment.

MaeveAnn GOLD said...
on Nov. 8 2018 at 8:15 pm
MaeveAnn GOLD, Berlin, Maryland
10 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid. -Homer

I loved the punch this story provided. "We wanted to be called people", is probably my favorite line in the piece, and will no doubt stick with the reader. However, I would have loved the story to continue. Maybe switched perspective or changed to third-person to show the impact the girl's defiance to society made.