Orange Lessons

Bildungsroman by definition is a novel dealing with one person’s formative years or spiritual education. The character loses his or her innocence and grows up mentally and psychologically due to what happens in the story.There is no way a novel is happening today but I will do my best to try and accomplish this in a short story. And yes, I drew a huge F*%&ING blank on this. I would like to give this another go in the future.

Having food thrown at me almost every other day was nothing new. This is what happens when you are an overweight nerdy student that’s part of the school newspaper and in the band. I have been larger than the younger kids since 3rd grade. Now in high school, the same kids that were my friends are now some of my worst bullies. I would like to think that I’m handling everything really well but in reality, I’m a mess on the inside. Then everything changed.

My grandmother was my rock, my shoulder when I cried and my voice of reason when I wanted to quit. She made everything bearable on the worst days. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was the wake-up call that I needed and was able to put into action everything that she ever said to me. Being bullied was nothing new like I said but the day after she was diagnosed someone threw an orange at me, ‘Eat healthier fatty!’ Normally I would have kept walking but this time I picked it up and heaved it back at the boy. He was shocked. I don’t know if it was from being hit right between the eyes or the fact that I threw it. I never stood up for myself until now.

Over the next few months, my grandmother went to treatments and finally into remission whereas I started to do more for her and myself. We both ate better and I would tell her about how the bullying isn’t so bad anymore. I even wrote several articles for the school newspaper about bullying and the long-term effects that it has on a person’s mental health. My grandmother was so proud that I was able to do that but also not feel hatred towards my bullies.

My senior year of high school wasn’t as stressful as my other years. I gained confidence in myself, an attribute from my grandmother. I graduated high school and my grandmother was able to watch me walk across the stage. I went to college without hate in my heart for people and received my degree in psychology. After graduation, I accepted a position at my old high school as the guidance counselor and even 15lbs lighter. It’s was an important position for me to take as I know students at that age need all the guidance and support they can get.

My grandmother passed away when I was in my late 20’s. Her advice is something I pass on to the students that come to visit me if they are being bullied. One day a girl named Samantha walked into my office covered in mashed potatoes and tears. I help her get cleaned up and explained to her that I use to have the same things happen to me. I asked her if she wanted me to call her parents to come pick her up. We sat and talked about everything that was happening to her when I saw my bully walk in. The one that threw the orange that day and threw it back. It was Samantha’s father. The pain on his face is one I recognized on my grandmother’s face all those times I came home.

When our eyes met all the past came rushing back not only for me but for him as well as I saw him rub his forehead where the orange had hit him all those years ago. He looked down at his feet. ‘Samantha really needs your support and understanding. She’s experiencing something that is not uncommon at this age. Maybe you can help her understand better the cruelty from her bullies.’ He nodded knowingly. Samantha thanked me and before her father left out the door he thanked me and softly whispered, ‘Sorry’.

After they left I pulled open my drawer and there sat my snack. An orange. That day I was hit I told my grandmother I never wanted to eat another orange. ‘Why would you do something like that? It’s not the oranges fault it was thrown at you. Just like that boy has problems that you don’t know about. Neither of which is your fault you were just the target. You’re strong enough to move past that and eat an orange. Maybe even forgive your bully.’ Little did I know my bully was abused by his father who was later arrested. He ended up living with his grandmother who what my grandmother’s friend. So, I smiled to myself as I peeled my orange and forgave Samantha’s dad.

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