It was just another lousy day at Presidio Jr. High in San Francisco. My life had taken a major nosedive, and I tried to make the best of it.
We played volleyball one sunny afternoon, all of wearing those ugly blue gym suits with these bloomer type things. My mother had gotten mine way too big and it kind of hung. We wore white sweatshirts over the blue suits, which didn’t help much.
I hated PE and I hated Volleyball. I loved to ride my bike long distances and run, but Volleyball was a special kind of hell for me. Number one, I didn’t like these girls and number two, I was lousy at it. I never did well with any sports involving a ball, maybe because I’m blind in one eye. I was the person sent to the way outfield whenever we’d play baseball in the neighborhood and I could barely handle that. Tackle football wasn’t as bad because you could run around and tackle people and they tackled you and somewhere in the crowd, there was a ball involved.
But volleyball at Presidio Junior High in the sunken schoolyard surrounded by brown walls was pure torture. I tried to remain as oblivious as possible until one day a volleyball came right at me. When I looked up at it for a split second, the sun shined right in my eyes and looked about ten times bigger than it really was and I moved out of the way to keep from getting hit.
“Why didn’t you hit the ball?” one girl on my team yelled.
“Yeah, what’s wrong with you?” Why didn’t you hit it?” Soon, half the girls on my team were yelling at me.
“The — the sun was in my eyes!” The entire class laughed at me like I was some sort of freak.
I had enough. All the stress from the evil stepfather and mom being possessed by him and this new school bubbled up inside me. I could feel the anger course through my body into my face which felt hot.
“You’re so weird!” a tall, darkskinned girl with an Afro yelled at me. That was it.
“No, I’m not!” I yelled and I charged at her like a wild animal. I pushed her and she pushed me, and next thing you know, we were rolling around on the hard cement.
“Fight, fight!” girls yelled, and the teacher blew her whistle and ran towards us. My lip bled a little, and her nose bled and we looked as if we’d been in a mud bath.
“Break it up, girls!” the PE teacher picked me up and some of the other girls helped the mean girl up.
“It’s her fault,” one girl said, pointing right at me.
“She charged at me for no reason,”
“Go to the office now, Mary.”
I trudged towards the school building with my head down. There was no use arguing. They were all against me, even the teacher. At least that was better than staying there. I had to endure a harsh conversation with the Dean, and I tuned most of it out.
“Since I’ve never seen you in here before, consider this a warning…” Then he went into “blah blah” mode.
He sent me back out into the schoolyard and said I was benched for the rest of PE. Whatever, I thought. I’d rather be benched than play volleyball with those crazy girls. I stopped in the locker room and changed back into my regular clothes, so happy that I didn’t have to see any of those other girls.
I trudged back outside into the bright sun and the salty air and shuffled over to the bench sitting as far away as possible from my PE class, but where the teacher could still see me. I fought back tears — you can’t cry because then they’ll know they won, I thought. I laughed at all the girls when the seagulls decided to fly off the roof of the school and everyone had to run for cover because they’d “bomb” people.
I didn’t leave the bench when all the girls left for the locker room. Everyone pretty much forgot about me by that time. Then I noticed a tattered paperback book sitting on the bench not far from me. I picked it up and looked at it. “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton. I opened the book and started to read.
Suddenly, I was caught up in the world of Ponyboy, Dally, and Johnny — Ponyboy had it tough as a 14-year-old who lived with his brothers because his parents had died, The foghorns blared as I continued to read, and the schoolyard emptied out. A couple of seagulls swooped down to the garbage cans, but I kept reading. I didn’t stop until I finished the entire book.