I rode my bike to Bristol Road P.S. on the first day, wearing my helmet over the hijab on my head.
The building was somewhat intimidating to my ten year-old self, naturally, but I had some kind of undeniable excitement. Here, here I would reinvent myself. Now people would want to know me, know the quiet girl who lurked in the corner.
Boy, was I living in a fantasy.
I had a tough time finding my class teacher, the section 6D. My trademark panic had worked its way into my system even as I greeted what little acquaintances I spotted.
I have a knack for panicking. Whenever things don't go just right, when I've totally forgotten something, when I'm lost and about to miss the bus.
This has given me cause to envy those who relax and accept things as they come, people who can speak like silk and do it with ease. I accept and always have accepted authority with my head kept down, because that is what has been drilled into my head from day one.
I am a coward. Self-preservation is my only true way of life. Putting in just enough effort to survive, to keep my head just above the water.
Grade six was when I started to fail in my attempts to stay up, when the never-ending sea rushed into my lungs.
My teacher was terrifying. He had the most piercing eyes and a hawk-like nose with this cold aura coming from him.
Let us call him Mr. Sikes. Sikes has given me plenty of reasons to believe he hated my guts, but perhaps it was somehow my fault what happened over the course of the year.
My grades were starting to slip, namely those in the mathematics category.
Considering my consistent track record, and the need to be an over-achiever in my family, my parents were shell-shocked. I got sixties in math, the worst grades I have had in my life.
Once I was taken outside of the class with another boy from my class, to be told the disappointing news that I had dive-bombed another test. I was wearing some kind of tacky turtleneck shirt and a one-piece hijab that probably was not very well aligned.
Mr. Sikes returned to the class, but I felt myself break down. I cried, sad with how I had done so badly, how I had dashed my own hopes on the face of a cliff.
The other student who had been brought out to be told the same news as me was much more composed. He reassured me and I was momentarily alright enough to return to the classroom. Nice kid.
I started to write my first story as a way to get away from my 'failures' (I still had plenty of room in passing, as the lowest things got were mid-sixty). It was a total piece of crap, with grammar mistakes and inconsistencies abound, written on the topic of a girl that fell into another world through a trapdoor in her stairs and released some Ancient Greek beasts or something.
Mythology has always been an interest of mine, but the story itself, now that I pause to think about it, provided insight into my own psychology, insight that I can only understand today.
Perhaps I was writing about what I wanted most. To fall into the proverbial trapdoor, away from my responsibilities, away from the chiding looks and disapproval, away from the disgusted looks most of my classmates gave me. Somewhere where I was a hero, a place where I meant something, a place where I could bond with people who understood what I truly was.
I found out about a birthday party one of the 'popular' (or shameless, I should say) girls in my class was having. Everyone with the exception of me was invited.
High grades were the only thing that made me worth anything. With that gone, I craved social acceptance, I became so desperate to simply be 'normal'.
I can't say I had any real friends back then. A girl who probably wasn't much higher on the social acceptance ladder was actually nice to me, but I brushed her off and tried to hang with who I thought were the more popular kids.
I did, for a brief while, and found out how shallow they all really were, with a few exceptions. One of them started to pick on me for some reason, doing her level best to leave me out of everything. Not like she was anything special, or ever would be.
Okay, scratch that. That was really rude, but what can I do? Finally accepted, and the snarkiest of the snarky comes to me on the soccer field after the soccer tournament finale and asks if I have any friends other than the group she's in.
Friends? Hah. But, not wanting to come across like a total loser, I said yes and tried to list some off of the back of my hand, the brunt of them people that ditched me on a daily basis.
She cut me off and said something along the lines of , "Okay, can you hang out with them from now on?"
I nodded blankly, watching as she ran off somewhere with my eyes boring into her feet. She had thrown me out of the group and made me feel like it was my fault. The soccer 'star' was telling me I was too much of a loner to be around her during the lunch break.
I was shattered. My small world had come to a screeching, grinding halt.
My trip home was done just as blankly, blind to the world around me. I closed my eyes and did what I had being doing for quite a while now, imagining that a passing car suddenly hit me and my mangled body flew down the street. My mind wondered how my parents would react, how my siblings would feel, what the girl that just wounded me so deeply would do.
They would all probably shrug it off and say that the planet was better off. Or, at least, that was what my decade-old brain thought.