I have recently been thinking about bullying and the disgust that it creates in the world. I know, I should be studying, as my next two exams are tomorrow, and the following day. But, I feel like this is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
I have written a short story which (I think) highlights the consequences of bullying, and not seeing the person who they really are. It is quite a strange story, I have to admit, so I am sorry if it is a shock to your system.
I hope this brings a perspective to the issue.
When I was younger, I used to think ketchup was good for you. I thought this because it’s made from tomatoes, which are vegetables; my mum let me eat it like a pasta sauce because she thought it was ‘cute’ and I loved the artificial taste of tomatoes. So she let me keep thinking it, as if it was normal.
One day, before I realised that the tomato was a fruit, I picked one from our plant at the end of our garden which grew like medusa’s hair, sprouting snakes on the tips of the tomatoes. But I pricked my finger on the branch, the hiss of cynicism demolished me.
I didn’t want to tell anyone about it, because I thought there was ketchup streaming from the cut on my hand. I was confused, I thought it was wrong, and there was no chance of another trip to the doctors; I had already been four times that past month, and my doctor thought I was borderline psychotic. So, I ended up taping it with a little Barbie plaster which I found in the medicine cabinet alongside pills for mental issues.
A couple of days later, my friend ripped off the plaster; saw my wound and started to cry. It was a deep, disgusting cut that would not stop producing ketchup despite the sheer desire for it stop. I got sent to the emergency room at school, and the lady in there started to ask me all these questions. “How did you cut this finger then?” Her patronising tone made my chest close up into a horrible indignation.
I said to her, “I cut it on the ketchup plant, miss”.
This led to episodes of laughter, the taunts, the verbal punches against my chin that made my brain disintegrate. News that I had a ketchup plant spread quickly, as if I had dribbled petrol on the ground and set it alight.
That’s when I got the nickname: Ketchup girl.
From that moment onward, I have hated tomatoes.
Because of the mess I seemed to have made, we moved to a completely different place. Forgetting the past is easier than it looks, but the fear of touching anything with a point, like a pencil or a pen, restricted me from succeeding at my new school. Everyone thought my fear was strange, but I didn’t have the Barbie plaster on anymore, nor was the wound so visible to mock.
However, I met a boy with short brown hair; curls to be precise. We thought no one would ever love us, we discussed the loneliness that we felt surround our bodies so that no sun could see us. Our faces were just something God had built
for us so we could see the ketchup ooze out from under our skin. Kids play with our broken hearts like they were footballs kicked around in after school club hitting innocent kids in the head, like me and my friend. I thought he was my friend. But the ball hit me, and not him. And he became the mocker, the bully. And the ketchup came so much quicker at this moment more than ever. Being emotionally scarred hurts more than pricking yourself, one thousand times.
He just pretended to be the same.
My wrinkled hands only wrote with my wrinkled fingers on the day that I got called freak by five-year-olds for the first time. All I could write was freak. Immaturity was the word written on the door, as the children who bullied my bruised façade were inside the room chanting nicknames and slurs.
My teacher sat me next to this girl, who had plaits going down both sides of her
almost perfect face, and I thought that this might be fine, not perfect, but better. But the first thing that she said to me was that I was a disaster to look at.
I stayed inside at break time because outside was worse. I stayed still on my spinning chair, waiting for time to slow to a stop. The other monsters would notice the clues of where to find me from my footprints engraved into the carpet in the hall, running away from the war-ground halls where I was beaten until I snapped.
Life was such a pitiful time. I became a fifteen-year-old girl; got called ‘hot’. What does that even mean? I was not hot. I was not red and flushed, like ketchup, like blood. Every time people objectified me as ‘smoking‘ I looked at my arms to check that they were not on fire, or cut into shreds like my bones on the primary school playground. I don’t understand why people use these metaphors for words like BEAUTIFUL. Because my insides have been torn to pieces, by the ketchup kids way back when. So, even though someone may have said that girls are hotter than the sun, this allowed the torture to scream in my ears and say that I AM BURNING. THE RED DRIPPING DOWN MY BODY IS DEADLY.
They saw me as a wrong answer, who they tried to erase, when they saw my face. If my body was on fire then that was OK to everyone, and they quite liked the pile of ash that I would become every day as soon as I was objectified and sexualised. I just left a smudge stain on the path, so that they would remember their wrong-doings.
Is there anyone who would see my face before they see my sihouette? Before they see the cuts from the ketchup plant which I tried to scrub away years ago?
Does anyone realise that girls are attracted to men that respect them more than they respect themselves? And respect that even if we were as big as buildings, or as small as snails, we would be the same beauty that we are when they call us ‘smoking’.
I was a broken bone; a wound that couldn’t be bound to heal. I still am. Not because my parents split like a broken branch off of the ketchup plant; not because my anxiety levels reached higher than the sun and the moon and the stars. The counselling was just another way to make the others call me Ketchup Girl one more time.
I didn’t know what to live for. The cruelty or the pain? My parents were never understanding, and they didn’t understand that my mind was an unpredictable sea with bullying and belittling and banishing over and over again. I had nothing to do to get someone to make a sound. No one ever made a sound. No one ever helped me. I needed a lift to take me upwards, and a slide to go down the cliffs of solitude. But no one else ever saw the solitude as they were either too busy objectifying me, or thinking that my way of life was an opportunity to taunt.
Nobody cared to see my face through the smudges of darkness. But there was years of pain in it, etched from all of the tears that God has given me. From all the hitting and abusing and being treated with so much disrespect that I couldn’t help but scream. When I ever needed someone to stop the ketchup from floating from my body, no one understood what I was asking. The only thing left to do was to quit the game.
But sanity held me back. Just to get over it.
Despite everyone who told me to quit, I have battled through the bullies like a warrior. But everyone knows that I could’ve died along the way, and every time I broke a bone or burnt to the ground like an unstoppable flame, I signed the cast that helped me to heal by saying I won.
They must’ve been wrong, the bullies. Why else would I have won? The only way I could’ve lost is if I told myself that this was all a dream, or a nightmare. The day that I won never happened, then I would just have to wrap the ribbon around my broken body and sign it I almost won.
Thank you for reading, and I hope this was an eye opener, either that or I have left you feel befuddled and confused.