It was Recess, and alone on the field, I sat.
My invisible ears swiveled toward whatever sound came up and eyes glared at whatever caught its interest. No one else ran around in the wide-open field but me. Maybe it was too dangerous for them, but I didn’t mind, it was peaceful.
The bell rang again; my distance to it faded its harsh resonance. I was in my second year of grade school. I knew by now that the bell meant I was to be forced into an increasingly shrinking box with others who I didn’t understand or care for. I walked wistfully across the field and ventured back into the large stone building, not looking forward to being taught about presidency.
This world made no sense to me.
These people spoke with their mouths but I spoke with my body. There had been a few times I tired to ‘run along and make friends.’ When I tried this, the kids would say, “Hello, who are you?” where silence and a pleasant stare of curiosity was all they received in return which, of course, they never understood as me being interested and ready to play.
But, the field understood. It alone knew that my silence didn’t mean I wasn’t speaking. In fact, I spoke very loudly! But I had no ears, no tail, and no large horse body to assert my wishes. Even if I did, no one would understand it. I was lost in my present form. I was a writer with no pen and no one understands a blank sheet of paper; they just use their own pens and project onto it as if it were meant for them to decide what to write.
And since I had no voice, I couldn’t stop them from doing so.
I’d have given anything for someone who understood me.
But no one did.
One day, while searching for my new classroom for the day since we were being subbed, I found a group of boys in the library. They were three best friends. Steven, he was tall, chubby and he seemed to be the leader. Devin, a brainy looking sort with large glasses and neat clothing. And the last was a darker boy with short black hair and a soft presence.
They looked like a little band, not quite big enough to be a herd, but maybe if I stayed close enough, they would accept me in and we could become big enough to become one.
Somewhere in my young little mind thought I would be able to make friends with them if I tagged along without permission... so, I proceeded to follow them..
Every day was now something to look forward to! I felt I might be getting a little bit closer each day. One day they finally noticed me getting a bit close, and questioned me. My tail stuck straight up and I bolted away, ashamed.
That day I had lost all of my progression. I sat in the field crying for lunch instead of eating. I’d never be close to them, and I knew it...but I still wanted to try...
Day after day I followed them. Book club, lunch, field day & any chance I got at assemblies when they let us roam and not stay in our own class.
They were never in any of my classes; they were smart.
I hated books, but they didn’t.
To catch their eye, I held a large book during book club and pretend to enjoy it. I was very bad at it. I couldn’t even fake reading quickly. So, while they chewed through books with their eyes like a woodpecker goes through a tree, I sat there silently, thinking of a plan of action to speak to them, which I knew I wasn’t really going to follow through with, but still, I tried.
I wished I could gain the confidence to use my voice at one of them, but instead, I begged my mother to buy me the 5th Harry Potter book. She scolded me that I better read it; she knew my hatred of books and was very suspicious that I wanted a $35 book so suddenly. Against her better judgment, she got it for me and I was so delighted! I was so happy and felt like this was my golden ticket!
I was going to walk into school the next day and everything was going to be change.
Morning came and I had a spring in my step, grabbed my book and waited to be driven to school. The large and heavy book was held vast to my chest with anxiety.
Reading books was very boring to me, but smelling them was nice. ‘They probably love the smell of books too! Maybe they can smell my book and enjoy it and let me play with them!’ I thought to myself. Lunchtime ended and recess time began. Searching for them, I imagined the look on their faces as they became very impressed at my book. In just moments I would be holding it out to them and I would magically join them for recess after trying for many months.
There they were, talking to one another on the side of the school, and as I walked up, Steven looked at me first. The other boys looked back to where his eyes were pointing and they all glared at me intently. Devin scoffed, "Can't you leave us alone?" The book caught Steven's eye and he snorted aloud taking in too much air before his mightily laughter at the sight of my book and me. "We finished that book ages ago!" he proclaimed and they all walked away.
I didn’t follow.
But, I put a smile on Stevens face. In my eyes I had done a good thing. I got a reaction! I was breaking through…and even though there were plenty of times they ran away from me with great effort, still I followed...
Until one day… after a year of trying…
I finally gave up.
A few days went by and I sat in the field after lunch, watching the bees fly around as they went to work getting their pollination going. Every so often, like on this day, some friends were brave enough to try sitting in the field only to have someone in the group spring up at the sight of the bees, and flee with a squeal sending their friends into a riot of laughter.
The bees didn’t care. They loved the juices people spilled and the sweet things they were eating.
They didn’t want to hurt anyone. Bees couldn’t make fun of you, so they couldn’t be bad.
I watched as the friends pack up to rejoin their flailing and outraged chicken of a friend.
She squawked at her friends as if it was their fault the bees wanted her PB&J.
Then, rounding the corner, I saw the familiar shape of the boys. They were walking across the black top. Unexpectedly, their direction changed…and they were coming right toward me.
My heart pounded swiftly.
Do I get up and run away?
Were they going to beat me up?
Were they going to pick on me?
Oh god! NO! PLEASE!
I was frozen.
I was stuck, sitting down. This means I was vulnerable…
They’re going to KILL ME, DEAD!!
I felt sudden unease. I watched in my minds eye as these boys turned from their human shapes into wolves. Their fur growing out of their bodies black as night. Where even in the bright sun that shined down with godly radiance, their black hue had no shine. It was just, darkness.
My world narrowed as the wolves approached and I was a goner.
I escaped my mind, glasses reflected the strong sun as a boy glared glared down at me, smiling. Devin introduced himself, and asked for everyone if I would like to join them for lunch tomorrow…and, with tears welling up, I grabbed his hand, sprung up shaking my head, "I'd really like that!"
I had done it! I'd really done it! What I thought was a death sentence was a glorious gift and I was so grateful.
I still spoke very little while ‘in the group’ but they spoke to me kindly and that's what mattered. They invited me to things and made me feel included. School was bearable now, and books were OK. They heavily influenced me finally branching out and getting 2 more friends. I learned a lot of social queues. Never had I felt so connected to these creatures around me, but I was very slowly getting the hang of them.
I spent a great and happy year as a member of their herd.
And then I graduated grade school and so, we all parted ways.
I was in the 9th grade now.
It’d been 5 years since I had said goodbye to my herd and I had forgotten about them, replacing the gap with new great friendships. Hell, I was even a little popular now!
One day just like any other school day, the bus dropped me off, and across from it was a park. I felt my spirits rise as I passed it this particular and decided I could go for some galloping around. After I worked myself up, I found a nice hill and sat there resting, ears listening, eyes watching, and suddenly out of nowhere I see a boy walking toward me from a long distance. His body looked familiar, the way he held himself and was shaped. His short black hair, his always-black coat, was so commonplace yet, not.
It was Matthew! He was walking right toward me out of nowhere.
It’d be years and I still remember him just the same. He was taller now, but it was he. We greeted each other softly as if we were mourning the passage of time. We quickly exchanged how life had been going and chatted about little things we used to do as well as how I used to be and had changed. We looked back on those times with a smile on our faces. That group was where I felt like I belonged back then. And even though it’d been years since I’d seen him, I felt like we never parted.
And then when we were done talking, he sat down beside me.
In this field we sat.
There were no words, no being talked at, and no asking of me.
For a long time, we sat and smiled at both each other and nothing.
We listened to the birds, the trees, and the swings creaking in the breeze.
We thought about things and pulled on the coarse grass to hear the interesting sounds it made.
We watched the sky as the clouds moved gently.
Then the time came to part ways...
I think about that herd every now and then.
But the thing I remember most was the day Matthew found me that day.
It was that day …I truly felt like someone finally understood.
I watched him leave, and alone on the field, I sat.
Thankful for the part they played in my life.
Maybe the world didn't have to make sense...
Maybe, it was what you made of it.
That was something I finally understood.