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Not So Tough
I always stuck up for myself when I was young. I was the only girl on the whole entire street. And I mean only girl, that is, until Autumn came along. She was a cute little bundle of joy, but she was also Jean-Brad's new sister.
I didn't get along with Jean-Brad so much all the time. I mean, he had his own trampoline, but he was always so adamant about jumping on mine. His even had a ginormous net surrounding it. It's not like mine was better or anything like that. It didn't have magical powers that made you jump high into the sky. But for some reason, he just had to come over one day and press my buttons like he so often did. He was good at that. He was also a year younger than I was, and he knew I could kick his butt in kickball. But I guess that didn't matter to him. No matter that I kicked the ball farther or ran faster, he had to always test me out and see just how far he could get this time without going so far that I would finally completely lose my already thin line of patience and kill him.
We were kids – probably ten or eleven – and kids are kids, they're going to fight. It happens. Anyway, he came up on my trampoline this one day while I was jumping – doing cool little flips and flops. He decided he would start at his game, and challenge me as to which of us could jump higher; I would win. I always did. And when he got frustrated that he lost, he pushed me – mid-jump – right off my trampoline and straight onto the cold, hard ground.
I thought I just might explode. And it wasn't just because I was so angry with him for possibly just allowing me to officially sign my pretty little pre-teen script right across his death certificate, but because my leg was throbbing with what seemed like every fast thud of my heart beat (or my hip to be more specific).I can't believe he just did that to me! What could have possibly went through his little blond head that provoked him to do such a stupid thing?
I got up and looked at him. For some odd reason that I just couldn't comprehend, his sparkling blue eyes didn't seem to register what he'd done to me. Was he actually considering he'd get away with this one? I was the only girl on this street! I had to defend myself and uphold my butt-kicking attitude.
Slowly, I started toward him (my hip really did hurt) and opened my mouth to unleash the fury that was boiling inside me.
“What in the world is your problem?” My voice didn't come out like the shrill scream it had sounded like in my head. Rather, it was a low and a dangerously calm demanding whisper.
He didn't respond at first, but instead swiftly shrugged his shoulders condescendingly. He did, however, finally seem to realize just how upset I truly was. Backing away from me on the trampoline and descending on the opposite side of where I stood, he still faced me.
“You were wrong,” he stated matter-of-factly. “I jumped higher.”
Now my voice was raging, and I'm sure my face was so red, it probably looked as though I'd stuck it in an oven and set it to burn.
“So you pushed me off?” I was so furious; I didn't know what to do. My mind was beyond lost. Rounding the edge of the trampoline, I kept my eyes on his; mine narrow and his wide.
“I didn't push you that hard!” His voice came out in short little bursts, emphasizing each word, as though daring me to do something.
“Are you serious?” I kept walking around the trampoline, almost half way to him. I was genuinely astonished (which didn't come too often in my general every day life). We'd grown up together; I thought he'd know I'd get upset with him for pushing me off. If he would have just apologized and helped me up, I probably wouldn't be so angry. But he didn't, not even close. It was as though he'd left his brain slumbering away in his cozy bed across the street when he woke up this morning.
My hand brushed across my jeans, and I felt something cold and sticky. Glancing down, I saw mud on my fingertips. Oh no. These were my favorite pair, and now they were filthy. My shoes squished along in the mud in my advance. Shoes can get dirty – it's expected, they're on the ground all day long – but I just got these jeans, and I hated that they were already messy.
“Stop making such a big deal out of it,” he said, his voice cracking a little and eyes rolling, purposefully turning his back on me to stomp away.
“Jean-Brad! You idiot!” I couldn't control myself any longer. I started to run the short distance that was left, momentarily forgetting the pain in my right hip.
When he turned his head to glance back at me and tell me off with a sour face, I shoved him hard. Letting out a little sound of surprise, he fell forward, arms flailing in every direction – straight into the mud.
I smirked at my little victory, and realized too late that I had shoved him a little too hard and in the worst direction possible. His face slammed right into my neighbor’s house, mouth connecting solidly against brick. When he collapsed in the ditch of mud, he let out a helpless yelp.
I crossed my arms over my chest defiantly, feeling remorseful, yet not allowing it to show on my stubborn face. My expression remained like that of a blank canvass waiting to be painted. Now he knew what it was like to be shoved in the mud (yeah, okay, he had a lot more mud to deal with, but still...)
He got up holding his mouth, and I noticed the stark contrast of the little blood on his pale, boyish fingers. It looked as though he were trying very hard not to cry. Losing his internal struggle, a single tear rolled quickly down his cheek, followed by another. Hastily, he used the back of his other hand to swipe the tears away in upset frustration.
“Look what you did!” He yelled at me – standing about five feet away – drawing his hand slowly from his mouth. I saw a slight piece of his front tooth was missing, and looked instinctively at the brick making up the house next to me, half way expecting to see a small white shard pointing accusingly at me. I opened my mouth to speak of my guilt and apologize, but before I could utter a word, he turned swiftly away and ran across the street to his house, his shoes squishing in the mud at his retreat.
A soft sigh escaped my dry lips. I swallowed past the huge knot that was growing in my throat. Keeping my arms planted firmly across my chest, I stood very still and thought silently to myself. The unsure sound of my usually steady voice playing across my mind made me feel more alone than ever as a slight drizzle rained down on me from a very dark gray, gloomy sky.
So yes, I was the only girl on the street, but I really wasn't as tough as I - or anyone else for that matter - thought I was.