My eyes peered through the dirty window of the public school bus as it pulled into the parking lot.
The imposing, dirty edifice that loomed before me would be my school for the next year.
I had literally been thrown into what the government termed “Bussing” and it would forever effect not only my future, but my psyche.
The one thing that I had going for me, was that I was a survivor. I always have been, the circumstances of life had seen to that, from the onset of a very young age.
I learned very early on, that there would always be fear and that I would have to learn to do it afraid. Whatever the task at hand would be, I would have to forge on and do it afraid.
The noise jarred me from my thoughts as I was shuffled through a herd of loud jeers and taunts, “You are going to get it the last day of school and every day in between!” These were not empty threats. They were promises of impending judgment for crossing territorial lines.
My days would not be spent studying or learning. They would be spent surviving; literally surviving.
This was just the beginning of a year that would be spent avoiding guns, knives, fights and verbal abuse.
The proverbial “School of hard knocks,” was now my new reality and I would carry the lessons throughout my life.
The things and the people I saw here would stay etched in my memory and I would use the lessons I learned, to make a difference for years to come…
I didn’t take long for me to learn the ropes.
Things like being in class by the time that the bell rang were now a necessary behavior for survival. I had no thoughts of obtaining brownie points with my teachers; that was irrelevant. Now it was about my day to day existence and survival. So therefore the thought of good behavior in order to earn brownie points, never entered my mind.
The Teachers feared the students, why wouldn’t I ?!?
Things like getting caught in the halls, or worse yet in a stairwell now held threats of physical, or sexual assault.
Missing the bus due to day dreaming was no longer an option.
It could literally cost me my life in this neighborhood.
Each day was the same of running through the hallway, while juggling an arm load of books, in order to make it out to the bus on time.
You see, I not only had to be on time for one bus, but now two.
The first bus leaving the school would usher me back into safer neighborhoods and then a second bus would be caught to usher me home to safety.
The four walls of home in the safe suburbia neighborhood could not protect me from the effects of what my eyes were seeing and what my ears were hearing on a daily basis.
If I was going to survive, then I was going to have to make friends and my friend came in a most unexpected way.
I had sauntered into the bathroom and walked right into a pack of girls who were bullying a fellow student.
Today is no different than my school days; the tauntings of choice remain the same for girls, hair and clothing of course.
“Look at her hair, what are you doing to it to make it look like a rat’s nest?” They taunted and jeered.
I in my ignorance joined in; to try and establish some sort of pecking order in this madness deemed school.
I remember when they were gone she looked at me and asked, “Why are you doing that? You don’t even know me; you are trying to fit in like I am; we’re no different.”
She went by ‘Dee’ as a nickname and from that day on, we became best friends.
It would help us to navigate our way through the next three years of hell.
Hell that we would have to endure, for the sake of the education we were not receiving.
I finally just quit school, in order to avoid the stress of it all.
We were inseparable and as the years went on we adapted.
We learned a different culture, a different language as far as communication with our peers; we learned a different way to dress and do our hair; we learned to eat different foods.
We learned an overall different way of living.
Ironically enough, those years of hell cultured me.
Life has a way of making its path known and I would need the gift of being able to be a chameleon and adapt to different cultures, people, languages, and worlds.
Those years of being immersed into an unknown world have served me well.
From Prince to pauper, from Princess to servant, I am able to relate to all different types of people.
From the inner city to the rural country; from the USA to the jungles of Guatemala, I have adapted. And yes I have literally been there and done that.
There is no culture I do not feel comfortable in and I credit it to being thrown out of my element and forced to adapt to the unknown time after time…
Though Dee was my friend, I had another friend that held a much bigger piece of my heart; books.
I would find myself wrapped in the pages of a book being soothed by it’s words, until finally I had to reluctantly dog ear its pages due to some responsibility demanding my attention.
I can remember sitting huddled in the hallway with the glass encased front closure of the book shelf neatly tucked up and under, to reveal the treasured sets of encyclopedias it held.
Hours upon hours I would sit reading and letting the words and literature soothe me. And its soothing effect would be something that I would pass on to readers in the form of my story telling.
I don’t quite remember when it happened, but one day my fingers touched the keyboard of a computer and they have not ceased.
I literally felt the life pouring out of me and onto that computer screen.
The grammar police, the nay sayers, the critics and the book reviewers could not be heard, because my imagination had been given an outlet. I had found a way to tell my story and tell my story I would.
You see… that is what I do, I weave a tale, I tell a story and I pull my reader into my world; they see, feel, and understand the story being told them. And then they connect and the ‘ah, hah’ moment grips them; the moment that says, “I am understood…”
©2013 Suzanne Steele