Indifferent: A Short Story About The Consequences Of Bullying
Since Bianca died, life changed for me. It was like a tsunami had wiped out an entire town and I was the sole survivor left to rebuild and start over again. Therapy has been helping a little but it’s only part of my rebuilding.
The one thing to ensure that my friend Bianca’s death was not in vain is to make sure that no one in my community ever would be pushed to do what she did. I never wanted to face a tsunami again.
“Nothing’s going to change!” an old friend of mine, Travis, scoffs at me as I try to hand him a flyer.
“How do you know unless you try?” I ask him. I had never asked him this before.
I knew there was no getting through to that pigheaded idiot as he storms away with his friends and away from me. I kept my mouth shut and moved on. I would try again another day. I had to continue to remember that he wasn’t the Travis I knew so long ago.
I continue to walk through the halls of Miriam Lakes High School. I see seemingly endless lines of lockers & shined laminate flooring. I could hear the slams of metal locker doors and endless chatter of my classmates. The hallways were the only place that had not undergone remodeling. They had stayed the same since 1999. It wasn’t that the educational board of the city of McCullom Lake couldn’t afford the remodeling, they just choose not to remodel.
I stop periodically to approach people & hand them a flyer.
“Come join our club today and make a difference,” I would say. Sometimes I’d come off as sounding too rehearsed but other times my voice was as passionate for the club as it was on day one.
The flyers would always read like this:
“Make a difference, it could save a life. Join us for the Anti-Bullying club…”
Then it would list when the next meeting would be held.
Most of our classmates were familiar with the Anti-Bullying Club already but I felt like I couldn’t stop spreading the word about it.
One of the many changes that the club helped influence was the “safe table” in the cafeteria. The “safe table” could be used to help students who felt alone, bullied, or scared. I would usually sit at the table and then wait if anyone wanted to sit with me and a member of school security to eat lunch. I have met several different people this way and recruited members to the club. I had a hard time remembering their names. But I knew that when I would see them at the meeting with their name tags I would be given a second chance to remember their names later on.
On days like today, I go home after school and start some of my homework before hoping into the shower. Then I get dressed and ready to hold an “Anti-Bullying Club” meeting. I would wear a button-up blouse and a pair of jeans. The faculty supervisor of the club, Mrs. Ernest, said the way I dressed was “business casual”. There was no official dress code for our club, but I noticed more and more students who became members would arrive to the meeting copying my style (some would wear dresses or mimic my blouse and jeans combination).
Mrs. Ernest, myself, and other club members would take turns being in charge of the club meeting. Sometimes, we’d all take turns speaking. We’d play it by ear. Tonight, I was the one in charge of holding the meeting.
Mrs. Ernest greets me in the indoor school basketball court, where we held every meeting. She gives me a hug and then let everyone know I had arrived. After me and the members greet each other, we gather together to help set up chairs and a buffet table. Then, Mrs. Ernest would set up the platters she would pay for at the supermarket.
I once offered to pay her back part of the money, she outright refused to take it.
Once enough people arrive, I walk to the front and begin the meeting.
“Hello, welcome to the Anti-Bullying club.”
I go on to describe the basics of what our club was all about. I mention about the “safe table”, for those not familiar with it, inform people about volunteering for passing out flyers or other events, and fundraising. I then share the mantra of the group and hype up the crowd (an idea by one of our members who helps out in student government).
We average about 2-3 new members a night. We started with 5 members and now we have about 55.
Bianca became a statistic the month of August. It has been a few years now, but it seems like yesterday. It was the week before classes started up again. She had walked to the top of a parking garage and climbed on top of the ledge. She didn’t die from the fall but died on the way to the hospital. It would take a year of investigation for them to truly discover what had motivated her to commit suicide. When it initially happened, there wasn’t a suicide note or even a cryptic “goodbye” text. So, without knowing the true reason for why she did it, I would be left with just memories that still haunt my dreams every night.
I wish she would have told me more. I remember for about two weeks before she jumped she had been avoiding my texts. I assumed she was busy or she was going back to school shopping with her Mom. But what if she had reached out to me and I still couldn’t have helped her feel any better? How long had she felt so hopeless that she wanted to die? Did she regret jumping?
More importantly, I wish I would have listened to her when she was alive. Truly listened to her. Maybe she had not told me about the online bullying that skyrocketed before her suicide because I was a bad friend and she had given up talking to me. The pain of that thought makes me cry in the middle of the day if I dwell on it for too long.
Bianca and I were sophomores when the bullying started. The bullies were named Ashley, Tamba, Bambi, Tiffany, and my old friend Travis. One of the reasons why I constantly try to reach out to him is because if he is truly sorry for what happened to Bianca, he would go to a club meeting at least once.
The group would usually torment her when neither school personnel nor I were around. I did witness their bullying and harassment sometimes, however. Travis usually ganged up with one of the other girls since he rarely picked on Bianca by himself.
Ashley was the leader of the pack. I remembered she had bleached her hair platinum blonde so many times that it was as dry as the fluff from a cheap stuffed animal. Her face looked like a model gracing the cover pages in Teen Vogue. Her downfall was that she shaved her eyebrows and drew them on with light blonde eyebrow pencil. Everyone noticed, especially when Ashley had her hair tied back. Those who dared question her “style” were temporarily victimized before she would return to harassing Bianca. Ashley liked to pull on Bianca’s hair and then pretend as if her watch had gotten caught into her hair. She always wore a gold watch with a golden strap that could get tangled into someone’s hair. Not as often as she claimed to do it, but it was possible. Ashley made sure intentionally get her watch tangled into Bianca’s hair, just to have an excuse to tug at it and rip a few strands out each and every time.
When Bianca asked Ashley why she just didn’t stop wearing that watch, Ashley would cry crocodile tears and say it was a gift from her late grandmother. Bianca apologized.
Ashley also enjoyed spilling food and drink over Bianca and then smiling at her as Bianca was frozen like a deer in headlights. If Ashley was caught spilling food and drinks or getting her watch tangled in Bianca’s hair for the millionth time, the school security would usually suspect foul play. She’d always act as if she were extremely clumsy. Bianca had accused her of lying a few times to the staff, but Ashley was an expert manipulator and convinced the adults that she was telling the truth and that Bianca was just “a resentful person”. Travis would usually laugh on the sidelines as all of this was happening. I remember once that Bianca told me that while Ashley was not far away, he ran up to her and threw a bucket of water against her shirt and said, “Go show Miss Ernest your wet t-shirt!” and then roared in laughter.
Tamba had hair as dry and cheap as Ashley except that it was wavy hair and not straight like Ashley’s. In addition, she had a terrible frizz problem. Tamba usually tagged along with Ashley while Bambi and Tiffany stood by as “cheerleaders”. Travis liked to pose next to unsuspecting victims and make funny faces or give a thumbs-up while Tamba took a picture of someone in an unflattering position. Tamba really enjoyed taking unflattering images of people, with or without Travis, and those images included those of Bianca. She’d post the blackmail images on Facebook or Instagram if the victim didn’t comply with her demands.
Tamba once stole Bianca’s wallet from her bag when she accidentally left it behind at the library. Tamba even had the nerve to return Bianca’s bag to her, minus the wallet. I remember that Bianca had a brief glimmer of hope that maybe Tamba was finally realizing that she didn’t have to always pick on people or blackmail them. The truth was, Tamba threw out Bianca’s wallet in the trashcan. I didn’t find this out until a Facebook post was revealed in court where Tamba bragged about her “feat”.
I remember that Bianca’s parents at the time were so pissed off when they had to replace her State I.D., her allowance for the month, and her student I.D. card. Bianca was upset all week from that, and it wasn’t even her fault. She had said back then that the highlight of her week was that Tamba found her bag and they had exchanged smiles together. I hope the guilt eats away at Tamba every day.
Bambi and Tiffany were sisters. They were the prettiest of the girls of the group with cascading red hair and green eyes. But inside, they had ugly souls. Bambi and Tiffany confessed to taking turns in trying to hit Bianca in the head with objects from the roof of school. I had always wondered why Bianca had such rotten luck with objects falling near her. I had to hold in my anger when I heard their confessions in court. Since then, school cameras have been installed where the girls had attempted to hurt Bianca.
Travis liked to walk with Bambi and Tiffany as if he were dating both women at once. They’d never do anything except kiss on the cheeks. Bambi and Tiffany would take turns slapping Travis’ butt day after day and when Bianca & I would catch them we’d start loudly making gagging noises. Sometimes we’d get caught “gagging” and Travis would shout at us to “Shut up!” then we’d laugh and leave the courtyard. Bambi also liked to accuse Bianca of texting her boyfriend (who didn’t exist) and then slap her across the face. She’d quickly run away while Bianca stood frozen in pain. I have no idea how Bambi was never caught.
Bambi and Tiffany were the daughters of the owner of O’Hara’s Pubs. They have additional younger siblings, but I have never met them and don’t know anything about them except that they exist. Bambi and Tiffany’s parents reached out to Bianca’s parents to apologize through a public interview with the local news. After this public apology, Bianca’s parents served the O’Hara’s a Cease and Desist letter. I can’t say I blame them. Nothing that they could say would ever make this situation okay.
Now Travis. My old friend.
Travis was the son of Wels Smith, a man who played for the Cleveland Browns decades ago. He was a bench player that no one had ever heard of, but he had invested his salary well enough to make a small fortune. He used that small fortune to start a construction business. Travis Smith had blonde hair and blue eyes. He was the crush of every young lady and young gay male. I would admit he had some attractive qualities, but his personality cancelled them all out. Travis liked to loudly laugh while Bianca was being picked on. He was the girls’ male cheerleader. When he wasn’t hanging out with the girls, he was working hard on football. He had once played soccer and basketball but decided on dedicating himself to football just like his father. No one would believe me if I told them he was once a budding artist. I met him in art class in middle school.