On his first day of school, Jeremy was optimistic. That sentiment soon dissipated.
"Are you wearing a girl's shirt?" asked a smirking girl leaning against the cinderblock wall of the school. "He's wearing a girl's shirt!" She pointed at Jeremy and laughed. Other kids turned and looked. Another girl said "Did your mommy want a girl? Is that why she dresses you like a girl? Har-har-ha!"
Jeremy walked away and sat by a tree, waiting for class to start.
The next day, "Hey, sissy! Sissy!" said a boy with sandy hair and freckles. "Har-har-har-ha!" Jeremy walked to the rusting playset in the yard and sat on a swing. He watched the cars driving too fast past the fence.
Later he sitting on the carpet inside the classroom, lining up a series of little trucks and cars. The sandy-haired boy and another boy with a crewcut came over and stood over him snickering. Then the crewcut kid kicked the cars and they went flying. "Sissy-boys don't play with cars! Har-har-har-ha!" Jeremy got up and walked to a table and sat down, and put his head on the table.
"Are you going to cry?" said a girl.
"No," said Jeremy.
"I thought all sissies cried," she said. "Har-har-har-ha!" Jeremy put his hands over his ears.
In the yard, the next morning, a girl with missing front teeth shoved him into the wall.
"What are you doing?" yelled Jeremy.
"You're an ugly girl. I don't like you!" she screamed. Jeremy turned around. His cheek was abraded and bleeding.
"I'm not a girl!"
"Yes you are!" she punched him in the groin. Jeremy crumpled to the ground. "Now you are!"
"What's wrong with you?" he said wincing. "I never did anything to you!"
"I hate you!" she screamed. Jeremy scrambled up and ran towards the relative safety of a tree. He crouched behind the trunk. He could hear peals of "Har-har-har-ha!" from various onlooking children.
The next week, he was in the bathroom, in a stall. He flushed the toilet and opened the door. Five boys were waiting for him by the sinks. He went over to the sink and washed his hands under the steely gaze of the boys. He wiped his hands on his pants.
"You pee like a girl," said Crewcut. Jeremy was silent. He debated trying to run past them.
"Did you hear what I said?" asked Crewcut.
"Yes," said Jeremy.
"Har-har-har-ha!" they laughed in chorus.
"He said he pees like a girl!" said one of the other boys.
"I didn't say that," said Jeremy.
"Let's teach him how to pee like a boy," said Crewcut. The boys ran towards Jeremy, and took hold of his arms and pinned him to the wall. They each unzipped in turn, and urinated down the front of Jeremy's pants. In horror and pain he started to cry. "Har-har-har-ha!" Finally they let go, and he ran out into the hall. They followed. He ran to the teach, and tried to form words of explanation but could only sputter.
"What have you done!?" she exclaimed. "What's wrong with you!?"
"He peed his pants!" said Crewcut. "Har-har-har-ha!"
She dragged him to the nurse's office, where he was cleaned up and given a pair of old sweatpants to wear. The nurse wrote out a note for his parents, and pinned it to the front of his shirt, then wrapped up his wet clothes in a grocery bag and handed it to him to carry. The nurse escorted him back to his classroom. The teacher sat him down at a table and put a coloring book in front of him. There were a few other children at the table coloring. They stared at him.
"I don't want to sit next to him," said the girl to his left.
"Then go play on the carpet," said the teacher. The girl got up slowly, and glaring at Jeremy, she walked off to the play area. The boy across from him wore thick glasses, and his eyes looked huge as he stared at Jeremy in silence. The boy to his left had a severe runny nose and stared as well. He wiped his nose, rubbing mucus across his face. Then he reached into the communal crayon tray at the center of the table, took a handful of crayons and deposited them on top of Jeremy's coloring book.
"Thanks," said Jeremy. He looked at the crayons as if they were vectors for Ebola.
"Har-har-har-ha!" said the boy with the glasses. "Har-har-har-ha!" said the boy with the runny nose. Jeremy pushed the coloring book away and laid his head down on the table, and used his arms to block out all the light. Then the teacher tapped him on his back.
"Why aren't you coloring?" asked the teacher. Jeremy looked up at here. The light from the ceiling lights reflected off her glasses, so that her eyes looked like big unfeeling blank orbs.
"I'd like to leave now," said Jeremy.
"You can't leave," said the teacher. "You can color, or you can play with your friends on the carpet."
"Their not my friends," said Jeremy.
"Hrmmm," said the teacher. "I'm going to have to talk to your parents." She leaned over and opened the coloring book randomly. Then she picked up one of the mucousy crayons and wrapped his fingers around it. She tapped on the page, then left. The kid with the glasses was was absently making circular scribbles with a purple crayon while he continued to stare at Jeremy. The kid with the runny nose busied himself pulling long strings of mucous from his nostrils.
Jeremy snapped the crayon in his hand in half. The sensation felt good. He pulled over the tray and pulled out another crayon, then snapped it in three pieces. He did the same with a third crayon.
"You can't do that." It was the girl with the missing front teeth. She was standing behind Jeremy. "I'm going to tell the teacher." Jeremy took out a fourth crayon and snapped it. "What's wrong with you?"
"There's nothing wrong with me," said Jeremy. He snapped a fifth crayon. Then Crewcut came up behind him.
"You cry like a girl," said Crewcut. "You were crying when you pissed your pants!"
"I didn't do that, you did," said Jeremy, cracking another crayon in two. Suddenly Crewcut lunged for the crayon pieces. He grabbed them and threw them in Jeremy's face. "Har-har-har-ha!"
Jeremy clenched his fists, then before he knew what was happening, he had picked up the table and flipped it over onto the boy with the glasses, who screamed in shock. Jeremy stood up and grabbed his chair. He swung it at Crewcut's face, and the legs hit flesh--Crewcut went sprawling, blood spraying from his mouth. Jeremy swung again in the other direction, at the toothless girl, and hit her in the chest, knocking her down. She burst into tears. The teacher ran over and grabbed Jeremy by the shirt. The other children all started to scream or cry. Jeremy struggled. The teacher grabbed him again by the hair. He dropped the chair, twisted around, and started punching the teacher in the thighs. She cried out and released her grip. Jeremy ran for the door. He ran into the empty hall, and towards the two squares of white light at the end of the hall. He pushed through the doors, and daylight greeted him. He ran onto the steps and threw up his hands, free.