Stare right back

I was terrified and scared, but there was no one to reach out nor cry out for help. Yet, this experience gave me an enlightenment that I can only rely on these three people when I’m in need – me, myself, and I.

It is the first day of my new school. I enter the main gate and head to the administration office where I meet my teacher, who has this warm and sweet smile on her. Though it is my first time meeting her, I am able to sense that she is a nice person. She leads me to my new classroom and asks me to wait in class, for she needs to bring some stationeries for me. The kids in the classroom are really noisy; I hear some laughter,  screams, and also some quarrels too. I compose myself, open the door, and enter. There is a sudden drop of silence. There isn’t a single person who is speaking, but instead, 42 pairs of eyes on fazed faces are looking right into me. Needless to bother, I sit on an empty seat, though I am honestly terribly bothered. But slowly, like a crescendo, whispers start to rise. Whispers, giggles, and laughter filling every corner of the room.

“Settle down class! Is this a fish market?!” the teacher screams as she enters. The lesson goes on. So does my day. It is now the end of the school. I ride on the school bus.

I am jobless at this point, so I decide to sleep. In my dream, I am sitting, with various faces looking—no—staring at me. “Cheenie!” a face screams, and the room fills with laughter and giggles once again. “I am not Chinese! I’m not a Cheenie!” I scream, but my voice is just muted by the tumult. That was when I realize that something is wrong. It is too real for this to be a dream, the voices are too clear, the laughter too loud. Then I wake up realizing that I am sitting in the bus, surrounded by 12 other kids in the bus who are laughing and chanting “cheenie.”

I ask myself, why did I wake up? Why isn’t this a dream, or a simple nightmare to just ignore? Why is this real? Why couldn’t have this been a one-time nightmare that I could have simply forgotten? Why are they doing this to me?

I am terrified and scared. I look around to see if there is anyone on the bus who can help me. Then I see my teacher! My teacher who gave me that warm and cheerful smile, my teacher who seemed so nice! My teacher, who neglected me when I was calling her. “Ma’am! Ma’am!” I cry out on top of my lungs to get her attention. But all she does is sigh “bachho.”

My innocent little second-grade heart shatters into pieces. Oddly enough, my head is crystal clear. So the next thing I do is look at each and every single one of those kids right into their eyes, waiting and staring at them until they stop giggling. And once they do, I drift back into my sleep again.

And from that moment on, I engrave these two quotes on my heart and nibble on them to this day, to remind myself: “Learn to save yourself, for there are no superheroes in real life,” and “Don’t expect, and don’t be disappointed.” I am tired of getting hurt, and I am tired of getting disappointment.

Edited by Aarti Malhotra. 

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