Friday, November 19, 2010

In Honor of National Stand Up to Bullies Day---Two Stories

      The first is a simpler story of the playground in elementary school. It is a tale of triumph. The second can 
can be found in the last photo, if you click on it to enlarge. It is from my book published for my exhibition in 2004, Insomnia (Awakening), about human on human cruelty. This story as well, 
 although a story of greater terror and longer term consequences, has in it an element of triumph, in that certain intentions were thwarted.

          A word about the text on the page of the book: I wrote the first draft of all text in the book in pencil. I wrote second drafts in ball-point pen. Third drafts were written with black sharpies. I then typed several drafts on transparent paper on an old typewriter. It was a first book, with myself as editor, and no computer. I read from the book at poetry open mics in the year following it's publication by Meridian PressWorks, a limited edition of 100 in color, 100 in black and white. Each page of text is accompanied by a photo of my art work. As I read aloud to the public in that year each time (five times I was feature reader) I used the same copy to read from, each time I edited further. It was a first stab at writing for me, and was intended at first as a catalog for the show.  How I wish I had not been in such a hurry to publish; while the text itself is art, clearly further editing was needed. Even with this blog I have the luxury of amending again and again, and I do.

            When I was nine, I had a classmate named Mary Ellen Weingarten (not her real name). She made fun of the "clodhoppers" I wore to school--- practical, all white oxfords---saddle shoes without the saddle, far from the fashion of the day. I had no choice, these were the shoes my mother chose for me. Mary Ellen was twice my height. I was the better athlete, small but wiry, and I was very fast. One day while the class played in a softball game, I was able to hit a few home runs, and  I was able to tag several members of the opposite team on which Mary Ellen played with the ball, before they got to various bases. I tagged Mary Ellen for the second time before she got to first base. She lost her temper. She ran at me, grabbed my hands fast and hard, interlaced her fingers in mine, and before I could protest, my fingers were being bent back, torturously slow. I thought my fingers would break. I was in pain.

      I bent my right leg at the knee, raising it and my leg as high as I could behind me. With all the desperate furious adrenaline fueled strength of my tiny but fierce little body I could call forth. I let her have it with the full force of my clodhopper clad foot: a lightening fast kick aimed and landed square in the center of her bare shin (we all wore dresses to school back then).

           Soon enough I was being called into the principal's office. Mary Ellen was in there with Mr. Reid. She was crying, a huge red welt obvious on her shin. He looked at me sternly, inquired if I had done this to poor little giant Mary Ellen. One arm's elbow akimbo, teapot style, other hand gesticulating my sense of justice, I explained the situation in no uncertain terms to Mr. Reid. His jaw dropped to witness such articulate power in a very small girl. He dismissed us both, no punishment to either meted out. My first political battle won, I had successfully stood up to two bullies in one day!

          While you may notice I used no actual names in this story, except for the name of the principal, it is a testament to the terror that is still in me over the Insomnia story, that although I know the names, they are not used. That is the triumph of the even greater brutality that that narrative portrays. In some measure, there is always some degree of silence. The best and only way to fight sometimes is to break the silence.