By eighth grade I’d convinced my parents that I could get to school on my own but they insisted I travel with a buddy. Zena, a classmate and fast friend, lived across the street in one of the row houses.
It took 3 buses to get to school. Each ride took about 10 minutes. And even though we had strict instructions never to walk any of the bus routes, I always convinced Zena to ditch the bus and walk at least 1 of the routes. I figured the odds of us being beaten up were about the same on the sidewalk as on the bus. I didn’t know if I could win a fight but I knew I wouldn’t lie down and take a beating.
One rainy day, Zena insisted we wait for the bus. Of course, the public school kids were already on. A small group of boys and girls whispered loud enough for us to hear. Every other word was a derogatory reference to our looks, uniforms, school, parents, etc. Nothing was off limits. I knew it would only get worse. Looking straight at Zena as if we were in the middle of a conversation, I spoke loudly and clearly,
“Does anyone have something to say to me? Because if anyone has something to say to me, they should say it to my face.”
Every sound ceased. When the public school kids didn’t pounce the passengers slowly went back to their routines. Our stop came up soon enough. Zena and I flew out of the back door and burst into laughter. Once we composed ourselves enough to walk across the street to school, Zena exclaimed,
“Oh, snap, I thought they were gonna kill us.”
The next day we walked that route.