NOTE: This story takes place before Jett confronts the bully, Mike, for the first time.
Mike, his girlfriend, Angelique, and a few of his guy friends, were walking towards her again. Mike was looking at her and sneering as he approached. Her heart sped up and she looked down to avoid eye contact. She was anxious every time when she saw Mike and his friends. Mike was taller than her. While Jett was almost 5’2, Mike was 5’8. Mike was on the football team and lifted weights all the time, so he had muscular arms compared to Jett. Jett was small; a petite 14-year-old girl; Mike was a larger than average 15 year old.
As they walked by Mike reached out and knocked her books out of her hands. They did this about 2 times a week. It would be easier if it happened every day, but it was random and Jett never knew when to expect to see them. Jett’s books went flying from her arms and she stopped to pick them up. Mike stopped too, laughing, and started kicking her books as she tried to pick them up.
“Come on half breed, get the books. You’re making a mess,” he said, laughing at the girl. His girlfriend laughed nervously but Jett could tell that she didn’t really like this. Then Mike dropped one of his books on the ground. Jett looked up him, annoyed, but said nothing.
“Pick it up!” Mike ordered sternly, “Pick it up now.”
“I’m getting my books Mike,” Jett said, “Get your own book.”
“Listen half breed, pick up my damn book or I swear I’ll kick you in the face!”
“Mike,” his girlfriend said, concerned, “Don’t threaten to kick girls. You’re being kind of a dick.”
Jett just grabbed his book and handed it to him. It was usually easier to just give in and get it over with.
“There, thank you. That’s not so hard,” Mike said to Jett, and then to Angelique, “You have to know how to talk to them. Let them know whose boss. They’ll fall in line. Half breeds are like that.”
Jett exhaled in frustration and rolled her eyes at this. She wanted so bad to say something, but she was just too scared. Years of bullying from the same kids had worn her down.
“Did you make a face at me? Bitch.” Mike said, “Go ahead, make all the faces you want. Nobody likes you. You’re not anything and you don’t belong here. You aren’t like us and you aren’t like the kids at the other schools. No one likes you or wants you around. So, pick up your damn books and get out of my sight.”
As Jett finished picking up her books Mike knocked them out of her hands again. “Damn,” he said, “You can’t even get that right. Nobody fucking cares about you.”
With Mike it was personal for some reason. He was relentless in his bullying of Jett. The other kids may join in at the beginning but would start to get uncomfortable and try to distract him or get him to move on. Being biracial made Jett a target for Mike. He would also say terrible things about her dad. Jett identified as a black girl, but that just made it more intense for Mike. He wasn’t shy about his racist tendencies. This had gone on since Jett first started school with these kids when she was ten years old. They would bully her and bully any kids that attempted to be friends with her. Ultimately, Jett felt isolated most of the time and spent her down time either alone or with whatever teacher would offer her company. This year it was Ms Henderson, who would allow Jett to eat lunch with her in her classroom sometimes.
“Dude, let it go. Come on, let’s get to class,” one of Mike’s friends said, nervously, “you’ve fucked with her enough.”
“Fuck you, she deserves it,” Mike said as he walked off with his friends. Jett continued down the hall, nervously clutching her books to her chest and trying not to cry. The other kids looked at her sympathetically but said nothing.
At lunch Jett sat at a table by herself. Ms Henderson had lunch duty so she couldn’t sit in her class today. A couple of other girls and one boy sat at her table, said hi to her, and then started talking to each other. At times they would try to include her but Jett just didn’t know what to say. She would nod her head or say “cool,” and then they would continue talking. At least they tried. Jett sat and ate her usual sandwich and chips. She generally wasn’t hungry, but she would be hungry later so she made herself eat.
After school Jett left her last class, put her back pack on her back and walked towards the drive, where her ride would be waiting. She almost made it to the door when she felt someone pull on her backpack to pull her backwards. When she stopped walking, he pulled the back off her back and dropped it on the floor.
“Whoa. . almost made it half breed. But you dropped your stuff again.” It was one of Mike’s friends.
Jett was tired and frustrated. She looked at the boy and said, “I’m not half breed. I’m black. My dad is white and my mom is black. You can call me biracial if it makes you feel better. But I’m not a half breed. I’m not any kind of breed.”
“Well you’re not fucking purebred, that’s for sure,” Mike said as he joined his friend. “Black, biracial, whatever. Your dad is white, and your mom is black? That’s fucking white genocide. You’re dad’s a piece of shit.”
“Don’t talk about my dad,” Jett said, “He could kick your ass. He doesn’t take crap off anyone.”
“Well, apparently you didn’t inherit those genes. Wait.. Are you sure he’s your dad? I’ve heard about your kind. Hardly ever really know who your dads are. Fuck you Jett. And fuck your dad. You’re a half breed, an animal.” Mike appeared to get angrier as he spoke. One of his friends noticed it and said, “Come on man. Let’s get to football practice.” The two boys walked off. Jett noticed other kids were watching their conversation. She also noticed that two teachers who were in the hallway were trying not to watch.
Jett stifled her tears again and walked outside to the car where Ashley, her dad’s assistant and friend, was waiting to pick her up and bring her to their office. She didn’t want Ashley or her dad to see her cry. She took a deep breath, walked outside and just got in the car.
“Hey little Chica,” Ashley said, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Jett said, and went silent.
“Okay,” Ashley said, concerned, “Let me know if I need to kick someone’s butt for you, ok?”
Jett didn’t say anything.
All the way to the office Jett didn’t say a word. She was afraid if she started talking she would start crying. Today was a particularly bad day. When they arrived Jett got her backpack and walked quickly to the elevator. She didn’t say a word all the way up to the fourth floor. She burst into the room and walked quickly past her dad without saying a word, headed straight for the conference room.
“Hey kid! How was your day? Hey! ” Her dad tried to say, while holding his coffee mug and watching her rush by. Jett didn’t say anything. She walked into the conference room, slung her back pack onto the floor and slammed the door behind her. Ashley walked in behind Jett and approached her dad.
“She didn’t say anything all the way home. Something happened that upset her,” she said, “but she won’t talk about it.”
“Ok. Let me go see what’s going on,” he said, concerned, “that’s not like her.” Her dad followed her into the room and just took a moment to observe her, to see what was going on. Jett was sitting at the conference table with her head in her hands, crying. She tried to stifle the tears when she saw him watching, but it was too late. He walked over to her and started to put his arm around her to comfort her.
“No. I don’t want a hug. If you hug me then I’m going to start bawling all out of control,” she said firmly.
“Okay. I can respect that. What’s wrong Jett?”
“I hate that f.. I hate that school. I f.. Ugh!”
“If you want to say ‘I hate that fucking school,’ just say it. I’ll give you a pass on the language this time. Sometimes you just have to say what you feel like saying to say it right.”
“I HATE THAT FUCKING SCHOOL!!!!” Jett said, loudly, with emphasis on the word ‘fucking.’
“Ok. What is it you hate about that fucking school so much?”
“Dad, no. It’s just kind of weird when you use the F word.”
“Kid, I’ve been using that word since before you were born. What happened at school?”
Jett’s dad sat down in the chair next to hers and she turned her chair to face him, so she could talk. “I hate it. The kids are terrible. I’m always alone. I don’t have any friends. I get picked on and bullied all the time. I’m a nobody.”
“Bullied? Who is bullying you?”
“A group of boys. Mainly one named Mike. He’s a year older. He calls me ‘half breed,’ ‘animal,’ ‘mongrel,’ and a lot of other names. He pushes me, tells me that no one likes me, knocks my books out of my hand, every week. His friends just go along with it.”
“Mike. On the football team? Quarterback? His dad’s on the city counsel? Bigshot local attorney?”
“Yes. That’s him.”
“I know his dad. He’s an asshole too. Have you talked to the teachers or principle?”
“And be a snitch? Everyone already hates me.”
“Then you got nothing to lose.”
“They act like it doesn’t happen. They try not to look.”
“The other kids don’t talk to you?”
“They try, but I’m always so nervous about what Mike may do that I don’t know how to act. And, if he sees other kids talking to me he will threaten them too. He hates me for some reason. He’s racist.”
“How long has this been going on?” her dad asked.
“Since Texas dad. Since Texas. Started when I was ten.”
Her dad looked at her incredulously, “This has been going on all this time and you haven’t said anything?”
“I didn’t want to look weak. I figured I could deal with it. Or it would change. Or something.”
“Look weak? By not telling me about this? You have to be weak before you can get strong.”
“I guess it’s because you and Ashley are always in control and know what to do. I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
“Jett, look at me,” he said, looking the girl in the eyes, “You don’t disappoint me at all. Telling me this, or crying, or being weak, whatever that means, is all part of being a kid. So, you’ve been keeping this to yourself for four years?”
“Yes,” Jett said, and she started crying again.
“I’m sorry Jett. You never have to keep things from me. It’s too much of a burden for a kid to carry all alone. You can always come to me, or Ashley, with anything. We’re your family.”
Jett looked down, and then up again. “I just don’t know what to do to make it stop,” she said.
“I’ve never had to deal with racism before. Obviously, I’m white and that hasn’t been a problem for me. I wish I could just take it all on, so you don’t have to deal with it, but we both know that’s not possible. Let’s get Ashley in here, I’m sure she’s dealt with this before. Ashley!”
Ashley walked into the room and approached Jett and her dad. “What’s wrong honey?” she asked Jett.
“Jett’s being bullied by a group of kids and they have isolated her from the others. But the worst of it is that the main kid is racist.”
Jett started crying again and Ashley approached her and put her arm around here and held her a moment. “It hurts. I know. But we have to be strong. Both of us, as women of color we have to be strong for ourselves and for each other.”
“But how?” Jett asked, “I’m just so nervous all the time. Nothing works.”
Jett’s dad regarded the girl a moment, deciding how to carefully say what he was about to say.
“Kid, I’ve never experienced racism directed at myself. But I have dealt with bullies. One thing you must remember about life: The world can be a shitty place with shitty people. That’s never going to change. No matter what you do or where you go, you’re going to run into that. And it’s going to be hard for you sometimes. That’s just reality.”
Jett looked up at her dad, confused and said, “You’re not making me feel any better.”
Her dad looked back and then said, sternly, “I’m not trying to make you feel better. It’s not my responsibility to make you feel better about how shitty people can be towards you. It’s my job to prepare you for it; to teach you how to deal with it, to teach you how to excel and to do what you want to do in spite of it. When you start learning that, then you will feel better.”
“How? They won’t stop.” Jett said, clearly frustrated.
“No, they won’t. But you can’t let that get in your way anymore. It’s time for a change.”
Jett looked at him, confused, and said, “if they won’t stop, then what’s the point? It’s hopeless.”
Jett’s dad looked at her again and then said, firmly, “Stand up.”
“Stand up. Now. Do it.”
Jett stood up and wiped the tears from her eyes.
“They don’t like you either Dad, just so you know. He hates you for having me.” Jett said.
“Good. I’m glad. If you’re hated by bad people then you must doing something right in life. Anyway, this guy, and his friends, are assholes. Simple as that. I don’t care why, or how they got that way. Not our problem. They can figure that out for themselves. But, they are assholes.”
“He’s racist dad,” Jett said.
“Then he’s a racist asshole. Anyway, we don’t give people like that more time or attention then we think they deserve. If my goal is to get from point A to point B, I’m not gonna let some racist asshole distract me from my goal. My goals are a lot more important than something some racist asshole has to say. So, I’m going to stay focused on my goal. Fuck that racist asshole.”
“Dad! Language!” Jett said, “It’s weird hearing you say that.”
“Well, you’re going to say it next. And you’re going to mean it, young lady. Say. Say ‘fuck those racist assholes.’”
“Dad, I don’t wanna..”
“SAY IT! I’ll give you a pass on the profanity, so you get the big picture.”
“Ok f-fuck those racist assholes.”
“Say it like you mean it.”
“Fuck those racist assholes.”
Ashley interjected, “are you sure you should be encouraging the use of those words?”
Jett’s dad ignored her and said, “Say it again. With attitude.”
“Fuck those racist assholes.”
“Hold your head up when you say it. Stand up straight. Don’t look so defeated.”
Jett straightened up her posture and said, with more emotion, “Fuck those racist assholes!”
“Good. Now you have some attitude. You need that to deal with bullies. They respond to fear and anxiety. Give them confidence and attitude. They won’t know how to react.”
Ashley interjected again, “What if they react by getting violent. What if he decides he is going to put his hands on her?”
“If a boy puts his hands on you without your permission, you have MY permission to hit him in the mouth as hard as you can. I don’t want you to start a fight, but you have every right to defend yourself and to enforce your own personal boundaries.”
Ashley interjected again, “Are you sure?”
Jett’s dad responded by saying, “She’s my kid. She’ll know how to throw a punch. Trust me.” To Jett he said, “Don’t walk around looking scared. Stand up straight, keep your head up, look people in the eyes when you talk to em, say what you mean and mean what you say. Confidence and attitude. Once you decide you need to defend yourself from some boy trying to hurt you, then don’t second guess yourself. Commit to it and follow through.”
“How do I throw a punch? I don’t think that kind of knowledge gets genetically transmitted,” Jett said.
“Ok. Start with your feet. You need a solid foundation. Now, make a fist, and when you punch, know exactly where you’re going and get there by the shortest possible route. Don’t throw some round house punch if he’s standing right in front of you.” Jett’s dad then worked with her on throwing a punch the right way, how to put all of her force behind it. This was basic self defense stuff that he’d learned as a kid too. “Now, understand, that this is the last resort thing you do when someone is trying to hurt you or about to try to hurt you. You will not start a fight. You will only defend yourself. Understood?”
“Understood,” Jett said.
Jett and her dad worked on throwing punches, with Jett punching him in the hand. As her form improved and she punched harder, her dad reminded her of what she needed to think to herself when she comes across these guys.
“Dad,” she said, between punches, “can’t you just go to school and talk to the principle?”
“I can, and I probably will if this continues. But it won’t help. That won’t stop them. The principle will make some excuse and talk in platitudes and those assholes will just wait until no one is looking to do something. Sooner or later you’re going to have to figure out how to deal with them.”
Jett rolled her eyes at her dad and kept punching.
“Now, here’s the deal. I don’t want you to hit anyone. I don’t even want to talk to those kids. Just say our little catch phrase to yourself, in your mind and keep on going to point B. Ignore those racist assholes. Ok?”
“I’ll try,” Jett said.
“NO. Do or do not.. There is no try.” Jett’s dad said in his best Yoda voice.
“Ughhh!” Jett said, and then laughed.
Later that night, when Jett was in her room with her tablet, she looked up karate punches. Sure enough, she found something similar to what her dad taught her. She also learned a combination of punching in the face, kneeing in the crotch, and using the person’s momentum to get him to the ground. Jett acted out the moves quietly in her room. She didn’t want to have to do anything, but if she did have to, she decided that she was going to be ready.
Based on a True Story:
There was a boy at a university. He was shy, awkward, lonely. All his friends had girlfriends, but he just hadn’t met anyone. Semesters went by, and he had a few dates here and there, but he still longed to meet that one girl that would be his college sweetheart. That’s all he really wanted. Not one-night stands, or nights of drunken, crazy sex; but just that one girl who would change everything.
Then he met her. He had a long break between classes. He saw her sitting alone in the Café in the Student Center. She was pretty, in a “plain Jane” kind of way, which is what he liked the most. She wore a pair of jeans, a blue sweat shirt and black framed glasses. Her long brown hair framed her face as she looked down at the book she was reading. She was curvy, maybe a little more so than the other girls, but she was perfect to him. He got up his nerve, walked over, and introduced himself.
“Hi. . .my name is. . .uh. . Steve. . May I join you?” he asked.
“Hello. . uh Steve. . .” she said, “I would love that. My name is Amy.”
She smiled and invited him to sit down. They had coffee together. He was thrilled at the attention this beautiful girl was giving him. She was smart. She had a beautiful smile and she used it often. She blushed at times, which was cute. They both talked and talked and talked. They both felt like they had known each other forever. They both said that they wanted to get to know each other more.
They went for a walk together. They held hands. The talked about anything and everything. They giggled. They sat on a bench outside of Building C and cuddled. His heart pounded almost out of his chest as she got close. His breathing sped up and he probably turned red. She didn’t seem to mind his awkwardness. In fact, she seemed thrilled by it. Then they kissed. Neither of them knows who kissed who first, maybe it was a tie. It didn’t matter. It was one of the most passionate and beautiful and awkward kisses in the history of the University. To this day the old timers still talk of this kiss. The perfect kiss between two lovers that would kick off a lifetime of perfect kisses. So perfect and raw. So innocent and awkward. So deep. He felt like something changed in him after he kissed her. In that moment after their first kiss he felt like he was finally complete. In his mind, he kept fast forwarding to many years later, when they would talk about this kiss to their kids and grandkids; when they would talk about the magic of love at first sight and of the first time they met. How she would slap him on the leg, laugh, and tell the kids how shy and awkward he was and how she had seen him so many times and just wished he would get up the nerve to talk to her in the University Café; and of the excitement she had to contain when he finally did. He entertained every corny romantic notion that a boy at University entertains when he meets the girl of his dreams. But not during the kiss. During the kiss, he was in a state of perfect zen. He felt every motion, every sensation, every breath. He felt the give and take as their mouths groped for each other. He felt the the softness of her lips, wetness of her tongue, and the coffee on her breath. He could remember the smell of her skin and the feel of her face against his. All of this he felt, and he could recall it in detail every day for the rest of his life.
She was late for class and had to go. He pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote his name and telephone number on one side of the paper and she wrote her name and telephone number on the other side. He tore the paper in half and, while they kissed one more time, he placed one half of the paper in her soft hand. As she kissed him again, she stuffed her half of the paper in her purse, smiled, walked away and ran back and kissed him once more, and then ran to class. He stared at her running to class as he stuffed his half of the paper in his pocket.
“Call me tonight!” she yelled as she excitedly ran away.
He saw his friends later that afternoon. He told them all about Amy. His friends, who were usually encouraging him to find a girl to sleep with and nothing more, were different. They all encouraged him to call her that night, and were glad he found someone and that this seemed like the real thing. They told him to go slow, not to rush her into anything and to focus on having a relationship. For all their usual foolhardy playboy tendencies, they knew their friend was different. He was the serious type who deserved to have that special girlfriend. They never thought that much of themselves but they did of him, and they were all happy for him.
That night, after he got home from class, he ran straight for his phone. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the paper. He unfolded it as he picked up the receiver and got ready to dial. His heart pounded at the excitement of calling her and planning their first date. A million thoughts flooded his mind at once. He almost put the phone down because he was so overwhelmed with emotion, but he persevered and put the phone to his ear, holding it with his shoulder, as he got ready to dial. He unfolded the paper and just stared at it for a what seemed like eternity. . .
Then he put the phone down, crushed with disappointment.
He never saw Amy again.
Many many years later, one failed marriage and too many martinis to count he found himself sitting at some bar somewhere contemplating his next move in life. Things kept going from bad to worse, then from worse to worse, and yet again he ended up alone. He had gone to visit his family recently and found an old box from college. Among all the old artifacts and pictures and awards was this small slip of paper, folded in half. He kept the paper. Now, sitting at that bar, wounded by what his life had become and struggling with yet another bout of depression, he pulled out the paper and stared at it again, just like he did when he was a boy at Univeristy. On the paper was written:
“It happens in your sleep, Steven” – What I was dismissively told when I first became curious about love and sex.
This will never work out. We’re not compatible.
We’re too different:
If I hold her she will sleep.
But if I don’t hold her, I will sleep.
She can’t go to sleep unless I am holding her.
I can’t sleep when I am touching another person.
She suggested I hold her until she falls asleep.
Then let her go, so I can sleep. Once she is asleep, she will not know I am not holding her she says.
She’s a very practical woman. A problem solver.
But she has nightmares. I hear her. Her breathing speeds up.
She startles. She tries to cry out. But she has no memory of these in the morning.
So I held her one night when she was having the nightmares and the nightmares stopped.
The nightmares she doesn’t remember.
If I don’t sleep, I’ll be okay. I’ll know that she didn’t have the nightmares. This will sustain me.
So I start holding her and I don’t let go.
Late at night, when I’m awake holding her, her hands grasp my hands and our fingers are interlocked.
Her legs are intertwined with mine. She holds my legs tight with hers.
We wake like this, but she has no recollection of how it happened. I dismissively told her that
It happened in our sleep, “who knows? it’s just one of those things,” I said .
“Hmmm. . .” she said, and then she gets up and takes a shower.
At night, when she subconsciously grasps my hand. When our fingers are interlocked
And our legs are wrapped around each other
It’s like her soul is breaking through her subconscious mind.. begging me. .saying
“Don’t let go baby. . .never let go.”
And my soul answers, saying
“Baby. . I won’t let go. I will never let go.”
Now, something strange has happened. When I hold her and don’t let go
I sleep. . .. . . .. . . . .
Sometimes it does happen in your sleep.
So there I was,at this joint on the south side of town. It was a hot, sticky night and all I wanted was a break from the heat… and to be left alone. The bartender just looked at me, so I said, “Give me a whiskey and coke, hold the coke, make it a double and keep em coming.” I had a lot of thinking to do and this wasn’t the time to do it. The bartender grunted, turned around, and poured some whiskey into a glass and set it in front of me. There is an art to ordering a drink and if I don’t get anything else right in this life, at least I got that.
That’s when she walked in. Dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin, with long legs and nails. To be honest, she was beautiful. I was hooked and there was no turning back. But I didn’t let on. I kept my hands and eyes on my drink. I held my breath even though her sweet, sultry scent filled my nostrils and swirled around my brain.
The bar was empty but she took the seat right next to mine. She fumbled around in her purse, clumsily pulled out a cigarette and put it between her lips. She leaned over and touched my arm. Electricity pulsed through my body and lit a fire in my gut. I turned to find her staring into my eyes, “What’s a girl gotta do to get a light in this place,” she asked. Without taking my eyes off of her, I pulled out my lighter and flicked it alive. But I hesitated. . . Because sometimes you’re lighting a cigarette, and sometimes you’re lighting a fuse.