I met a boy today. A small, lonely home-schooled kid with a heart of blazing fire, this boy told me he was dropping out of his first year at a normal school. He told me he was getting punched and school because he was different, and he flung words at me; ‘fat’, ‘fucking cocksucker’. This boy is in his first year at a normal school, he is in year five. I sat there dumbstruck. He says he punches them back, but he doesn’t want to go anymore and his mum is fine with this, claiming the school fees are too high anyway.
So I said to him; ‘I was bullied once’. Then his ears perked up. I said, ‘yeah, I was bullied once. And all you gotta do is keep your chin up. Write down everything you feel in a big book. In there, you can draw, you can use harsh red pen, you can swear, you can tear and you can burn the corners. Please write down your feelings, don’t punch them back. Punching them back gives them satisfaction and the thing they want the most is a response. When you write down what you feel, you can throw that dreaded book into the bowels of your wardrobe and then when you’re older and successful, you unearth it and re-read all your hardships. Then you think to yourself, “look how far I’ve come.”’
I crouched down to him and he lowered his eyes and stood closer. ‘But I’m so lonely,’ he whispered. ‘I have no friends.’
I said, ‘I understand that too. And that’s when you read. You read glorious books, sad books, fantasy books and silly books. That’s how you find friends, you find other people who like reading and then you read together.”
He shuffled around and toed the dirt a little.
‘If all else fails,’ I smiled, ‘I’ll be your friend.’