The Day I Decided to Quit: A Memoir

Ghaisany Brilliance Shabrina Hadi

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My eleven-year-old self walked towards the old school building with a big backpack and braided hair. There were no clouds that day. The flowers had bloomed in the small park near the gate and the butterflies were flying around it. Despite the nice weather, I felt weird. My left hand could not stop playing with my red skirt while I kept biting my right hand’s nails. I knew what was going to happen after school. I sensed it since the day before, when all of my friends gathered around the back of the class, giggling seeing me all by myself as I ate my lunch. It was not hot but I was sweating. My eyes were trembling and looking at every direction, making sure no one was following me. Few steps away from my class, I stopped. While still biting my nails, I looked the class’s door nervously and was contemplating my entrance to the class, Should I just go home? that was probably the thing I thought about that time. I decided to step up my feet and got into the class. I opened up the door to the green classroom. The previous works done by the student were on the wall. Old woody smell lingered around the room. The chalks were put messy around the teacher’s table and the small shelf below the chalkboard. Unlike my expectation that morning, the class was quiet. Everyone was doing their own thing. I put my backpack under my table and sat quietly. After a while, I heard another giggling. It was from back of the class. They gathered around at the same place as yesterday. They were writing something while kept their filthy eyes on me. I did not know what that was about, but I knew that they were going to make my day feel like hell again. Then, I could see from the corners of my eyes that they were moving toward me. Just before they say a thing, the teacher came to the class. I sighed and felt terribly scared.

Lunch time. The class was empty. The emptier it was, the calmer I got. I ate my lunch calmly while reading Majalah Bobo special edition of Harry Potter. Suddenly, a thought came to my mind. There was this book where my friends talk bad things about me. They wrote it right in front of my eyes. Then, I went to the back of the class. I looked for it under the table of Dina, the leader of the ‘social movement’. The smell of old wood and trash that had not been thrown for days, were lingering around my nose. My class was filled with old wood tables and seats that felt uncomfortable to sit on. Finally I found the ‘sacred’ book. I read the first page and felt some kind of pain in my chest. My eyes were burning and the vision became blurry. Bad and harsh words were written in that page. I flipped the pages and saw all things they wrote for me. I did not understand why they hated me so much. I thought, if I was lucky, maybe I would get this book as the birthday gift someday. I heard giggling from the school hallway. So I hurriedly put the book back and sat back in my seat. They entered the class in a group. Dina walked in first and followed by others. She looked at me and whispered to Lala, my old best friend. Lala looked shock then our eyes met. Her eyes were asking me for an apology. She moved closer while dragging her feet on the dusty floor then she said,

“Baby, can you meet us after school? We need to tell you something.” I wanted to say no and made ridiculous excuse like my cat fell to the pond and it can’t swim or other illogic excuse. But I knew they would never let me go home. So, I nodded my head weakly. I was looking at her eyes, searching for the kindness and friendliness left inside her but found nothing.I could see Dina smirking away then walked to her seat. I sighed and wondered what was going to happen after school?

The school bell rang. The teacher said good bye. The students packed their bags. I packed mine, nervously. The fan was turned off and the windows were closed. The class suddenly felt stuffy. Only Lala and I left in there. She came to me. “Whatever is going to happen to you after school, I hope you will not lose your spirit and happiness. You used to smile a lot before Dina came. I hope you will still smile. I’m sorry that I could not protect you and play with you. I have no choice; she is the daughter of my mom’s friend. You understand me, right, Baby?” I smiled and nodded. I was scared that I was going to cry if I say something. I was so tired of everything. What Dina did to me, what everyone did to me, I wanted to give up. So, when Lala said those comforting words, I felt reassured and calmed. At that time, I just did not know that Lala was actually as mean as the others.

I walked toward the furthest canteen from my class. It passed the school hours so there were probably less people there. That canteen was not as good as the others. There was only a small store selling small snacks and cold drinks. The seat was just a long bench made of woods that could get broken in a second. My feet were moving slowly towards it. My hands were trembling and my face was wet from all the sweats. Suddenly, someone yelled, “Can’t you walk faster?.” Then everyone laughed. I did not move faster. I wanted to, but I just could not do that. I stopped right in front of them. It was quiet for few minutes. They did not say a thing, they stared at me. I looked down and bit my nails.

Dina started the thing. “We were being mean to you without telling you the reason why. So we are sorry, right, guys?” I could not believe she said that. She did not look sorry at all. Why did she bother to say that? From being scared, I became angry. “But that is not our fault that we hate you. Maybe Lala can tell you the reasons.” I looked up and saw Lala’s face. Her face was totally different from what I saw in the class. She smirked evilly and her face was just full of hatred.

“First, your name is ‘Baby’. Why would you want that name unless you are a cry-baby. Baby or babi, choose one!” Her words really hurt me. My eyes were teary. “Second, you always lick the teacher’s face. I mean, you are always kind to them so that you can get good grades, right? That is why you always get good grade and my mom always compares me to you!” She pushed me. I was taken a back and tried to explain, “I did not mean to be like that. I did not mean to hurt your feeling, even though I know I did not do anything wrong.” All of them laughed. Then Lala continued, “Stop saying gibberish. We all know that you are laughing behind us and thinking we are all stupid.” Tears started to fall from my eyes but my hands were clenching. I had enough.

“You know what, I do not know why my parents named me ‘Baby’ while there is none of that name in my full name. I once wanted to change my name to ‘Ayu’ because that is more Indonesian. But my parents said that they love me. So they named me ‘Baby’. And yes, I’m happy whenever I get good grades. I studied hard and finally got good result. Who doesn’t like that? If you don’t receive good grades, maybe you should study, not saying mean and gibberish to someone like this. Maybe your time is used to do useless thing like this. Saying bad things to someone does not make you better. Hating on someone does not make your grades rise up by themselves. Why don’t you all go home and study? If you don’t like me, just go ignore me rather than wasting your time like this. I’ve put enough with you all and I won’t stay quiet any further if you keep doing this. I will tell the teachers and also your mother. Mind that.” They were taken aback. They did not expect me saying that, so did I. I wiped my tears and turned away. Then I left them with a relieved heart and mind. I finally quitted. The rotten wood bench, the dying plant at the corner of the canteen, and the sky that suddenly became dark, were the witnesses of the end of the weak and quiet Baby.

Word count: 1496

Illustration by Valentina (https://i.pinimg.com/originals/02/6f/e3/026fe313e68707c151a275eea43de174.jpg)

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