Mom is cooking up soft boiled eggs and Italian toast. In the background, the radio hisses and crackles The Harry West Show opening theme, followed by a commercial extolling how incredible and edible eggs are. She senses my uneasiness. So as not to alarm her, deeper, I bury the fear. She kisses my cheek. She tells me she understands. First grade is a big step. More so, it is a full day. She reassures me that her and grandma will be waiting at her house. She runs a comb through my hair. Angelo shows up on the sidewalk.
We share a nervous glance. We both know today will be the first day of seeing our tormentors. It has been months – neither of us are looking forward to the renewed torture.
We are a few minutes early. All the kids are in the school yard. Some are talking, some are playing games. It doesn’t take long for the taunts to start. This time, they are joined in by some of the older kids.
Last year, we were isolated from the other grades.
Not this year.
The ridicule by the older kids is even more brutal. The insults are peppered with vulgarities. A group of them approach us. A temporary reprieve. Sweeny appears with his bell……..
We run to the entrance marked boys. From the large glass doors, we hear; “Are you sure you two are in the right place? Your tits are bouncing like high school girls.”
We ignore them and are soon within the safety of our classroom. We take what we believe will be our assigned seats. The new teacher calls roll and has us make some minor moves. I end up in near the front, directly across from Angelo. At least now, we are right next to one another. We both smile.
Class isn’t as bad as either of us feared. Our class mates have found a new target, a new kid. He is obviously very poor. His clothes look like they have been handed down many times. He wears heavy rimmed glasses that are taped together at the nosepiece. I feel badly for him, but at the same time, and I am embarrassed to admit, I feel relief.
It is lunchtime, Angelo and I hook up with some of the other prey from last year. I suggest we invite the new guy. I am roundly shut down. He is alone, away from any group.
The predators pounce.
I want to do something.
I don’t have the courage.