The Essence of Fear

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A coward is not someone who refuses to hurt another person. A coward is someone who weighs their own self-worth based on how capable and willing they are to hurt others. This story is about what
becomes of bully victims, years after having survived being a victim.

Submitted: July 26, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 26, 2018



The Essence of Fear

I was hoping that I could just walk out of the gym room and head straight for my next class, but I was wrong. In the back of my mind, I knew that Adrian Turner (fake name) would never allow a victim of hers to escape the last increment of her harassment stage – the violent part.

As I headed for the exit of the gymnasium, I could tell by the eerie pitch of silence in the air that something bad was about to happen - probably to me.  First there was the dead-silence, and then came the excited, muffled chatters from behind me, dreamlike murmurs, almost too low to hear.  The chattering got louder. As I approached the exit door, I could hear the shuffle of people scurrying behind me. I didn’t look back; instead I hurried down the hall in a desperate attempt to make it to my next class. I’d taken only a few steps before people began to spread out, forming an impenetrable circle around me. I stopped and turned to face the bulk of the crowd. Among the gathering of anxious spectators were people who had been bullied and beaten a month prior, and some that had been assaulted a couple of weeks before, and even a few victims from the previous week were among them. And of course, there were the pathetic few who weren't even smart enough to realize that their day would eventually come, and couldn't possibly be too far off.

Adrian Turner emerged from the head of the crowd and stood in front of me with her chest puffed up like a drill sergeant and her fists planted onto her narrow hips. She pushed me a few times and called me some awful curse names, and then she asked me where I thought I was going.

“I have to get to my English class.” I answered as humbly as I knew how.

Adrian cursed me some more and then said, “You won’t be going anywhere until you tell me why you were talking about me.”

I was frightened half to death. “But I didn’t…” I began to speak, in a low petrified tone, trying to declare my innocence “…I, I've never said anything bad about you Adrian – ever. I didn’t.” I was concentrating really hard to chase away the opinion I had of Adrian inside of my head – just in case she happened by chance to be clairvoyant. Adrian Turner was a horrible human being, but I had to turn her into a saint in my mind, if only for a moment.

“Are you saying that my friend was lying when she told me that you were talking about me?” Adrian asked, calling me a different curse-name, every-other-word.

I chose to respond with silence because I'd seen that particular skit play out half a dozen times, and I knew the drill quite well. …Whenever the victim dared to attest that the rumor was not true, Adrian would in turn announce that the victim was calling her friend a liar, and then some other tough girl would reveal herself from the crowd, identifying herself as the friend. And then, as a result, both girls would take turns punching, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, and ripping clothing from the body of their helpless victim. 

I looked around, and for the first time realized that I’d been literally backed into a corner – with no way to escape until my tormentor was ready to release me or until someone comes and rescues me.  I must have looked quite frightened and helpless because that’s exactly how I felt.

Adrian’s hateful narrow eyes glared at me, and her stone face distorted only slightly as she whacked me across the side of my head with a Social Studies book.

I wanted to scream out, but I dared not omit as much as a whimper.

“Answer me!” Adrian hissed hatefully, calling me the ‘B-word’ for about the tenth time in less than a minute. “…Are you saying that my friend is a liar?” she asked through clenched teeth. “Are you?” She whacked me a second time, harder.

Pain radiated through my head, and I could feel the hot sting of my ear lobe beginning to swell. It was fortunate for me that I'd forgotten to put my earrings back in after gym class.

“I am saying that I think that your friend is mistaking.” I responded in a timid tone, blinking back tears as headache pain began to invade my skull. I wanted so desperately to massage the sore side of my head and face, but I didn’t because I knew that there was more where that first and second whack came from. 

“Are you calling me a liar?” growled Adrian’s friend Kim, who seemed to have appeared from thin air. Kim stepped up close to my face.

“I didn’t do anything to anyone.” I confessed in despair, more so speaking to God than to my tormentors. Tears finally spilled down my cheeks. I felt like I was in a daze.

Kim and Adrian moved even closer in on me, nostrils flared, fists clenched, breasts – seemingly made of steel - shoved me further into the corner. They had me crammed so tightly into the corner that I could feel my shoulders ripening for a bruise. All I could think to do was to shield my head with my arms and slowly melt down to a squatting position. I held my breath, trembling with fear as the slaps and punches rained down onto my arms, head, shoulders, and whatever other body parts my arms couldn’t protect.

Finally, when the pain got too unbearable, I screamed out frantically.

…It was just another nightmare. I could always tell the difference because I only screamed out in the nightmares; I'd never screamed out for help back when I was a victim getting beaten. Never.


The Essence of Fear; Forgive and Forget

“Mommy? Mommy, are you okay?” A tiny voice from the other side of my bedroom door served as a telltale sign that I had experienced another nightmare.

My daughter gently pushed open my bedroom door, with wide cautious eyes. “Mom, you were begging someone to stop hitting you.”

 I assured my preteen daughter that I was okay, and then the usual indignation set in.  ‘Another of those horrible nightmares,’ I thought resentfully to myself. I fumbled about my nightstand, searching for my cell phone, and before I knew it, I was calling my best friend Deena. I cancelled the call once I realized that it was four in the morning. I felt like I needed to talk to my friend, yet I knew that I was not ready to hear another of her lectures coercing me to go for counseling. I figured that if one insignificant encounter could trigger a series of nightmares that lasted for up to a week, then what sould I expect if I was to spend an hour or more talking about the torment of my junior high days with a complete stranger?

There is no cruelty in this world that exceeds that of a nightmare.  …Long wicked fingers stretched out, reaching down into the darkness of the night, abruptly plucking you away from your safe, happy, secure life and tossing you right back into a time of agony, constant fear, mass confusion, and eminent danger. You are then at the mercy of the nocturnal slumber monster with no way of escaping except to wake up.  You awaken – drenched in sweat, disoriented, trembling, engulfed in fear – and sometimes even crying. The frustration you feel over having to live through the worst part of your life over, and over, and over again is overwhelming. The reality that a ghost of your past has succeeded at making your current life a living hell, is an abomination almost too great to endure.

I knew exactly why I had experienced the nightmare. There are certain triggers; things that induce nightmares, and I knew exactly what it was that had caused my most recent nightmare.

I 've always been fond of rising extra early each morning, so that I can do my ‘Internet fun stuff’ at the beginning of the day, while I enjoy my coffee. I usually read my local news and then my hometown newspaper online, respond to emails, and sometimes browse eBay or amazon. That particular day, I found myself reading facebook posts from the previous night. As I read, I sniggled, giggled, pressed LIKE to agree, and even posted a couple of comments in response to a few of my friend’s posts. I noticed that I had a facebook friendship request, so I investigated it. The request was from someone I didn’t recognize. The profile picture was of an infant, and as if that was not confusing enough, the name given was a set of initials and a last name. The person had used one of those facebook-common, ridiculous 30-letter-long sentences, all bunched up together and presented as if it were a middle name. Apparently, someone on facebook, who referred to themselves as ‘AD livinmylifeforGod Evans’ wanted to be my facebook friend. ‘…No offense AD, but I do not know you. And until you manage to jog some part of my recognition, I am afraid that I will have to deny your friendship request.’ I reasoned rationally. I noticed that I not only had a friendship request from this AD person, but a personal message as well. I read the message, and I couldn’t believe it. Both the message and the friendship request were from Adrian Turner, and the content of her correspondence was as if she and I had been best of friends back in junior high. I couldn’t understand it; why would she think that I would want her as a facebook friend after all the hell she’d put me through as a kid?  Did she think that I forgot about the awful names, and the Social Studies book twice-whacked upside my head? She even claimed that she had ‘found God,’ and I could not help but to wonder curiously if she had remembered to ditch Satan first, along the way, first. The only memory I had of Adrian Turner was that of an evil, violent, psychopathic teenage girl with a volatile temper and an affliction of diabolical intent. All my memory could process were incidents of me, and countless other decent civilized kids being shoved, punched, smacked, cursed, ridiculed, and clubbed over the head with 400 page hard cover books – all at the hands of Adrian Turner. Flashbacks of my having been interrogated by a pack of seemingly uncivilized, sanguine juvenile degenerates over a violation that I hadn’t even committed, kept shouting silent screams from my mind - warnings that this person should remain the enemy.

After I got over the initial shock of having received a correspondence from an old enemy, my next reaction was, ‘How dare she intrude on my personal life!’ She'd spitefully used me as a kid to vent her anger over having been the product of an unstable, unhappy childhood. She used me, but eventually I got over it, even if my method of coping with it was to [pathetically] compel myself to forget it ever happened. As a kid, I'd served as her whipping stone – a scapegoat of her misery, and now, as an adult she was trying to use me to find solace – recruit me as a partner in her mental healing process, but I wanted no parts of it because I owed Adrian Turner absolutely nothing.

Part of my moving on process was to dismiss the animus I felt over having been violated, victimized, exploited, and dehumanized by a juvenile sociopath. Throughout my adult life, I'd adamantly refused counseling with a plan to heal myself in my own way.  A crucial part of my coping mechanism as an adult was to refrain from admitting to how severely the victimization had damaged me as a human being. From my perspective, admitting to the intensity of the torment would only continue to empower Adrian Turner and people like her. I felt as though it was the same as granting them the satisfaction of knowing that they had accomplished precisely what they set out to do – destroy the self-esteem, peace, and quality of life of an individual whose existence had always seemed stable and content. I felt as though I could never grant a person like Adrian Turner that kind of satisfaction.

When I received the facebook friendship request, I felt as though Adrian Turner was still trying to bully me, only now with a different tactic. One of the aspects of my perspective was that she was attempting to manipulate my spirituality by challenging me on the Godly concept to ‘forgive and forget.’ I've always been vigilant that, from The Godly Perspective, everyone deserved to be forgiven, but my question was, ‘At whose expense?’  The so-called new Adrian Turner may-well have been ‘Living her life for God,’ but the old Adrian Turner was still taunting me in my nightmares, as if she were living her life for Freddie Kruger.

If I didn’t accept her friendship request, then it would have seemed as though I was not living in accordance to my spirituality – forgive and forget.  If I didn’t message her back, then it would have been the same as promulgating that I was still suffering because of the things she’d done to me back in junior high. In a sense, I felt even more backed into a corner than I had as that frightened twelve-year-old. Should I have admitted [impliedly] that I was still suffering – decades later – because of the abhorrent deeds that Adrian Turner had committed against me as a child? Should I have dared to defy the very signature of my character – my willingness to forgive? 

I was fully aware that, over the years, life had rained onto Adrian's head, a hail of misfortunes; struggles with drug abuse, bouts with the law, failed romances, destroyed relationships, jail sentences, deteriorating physical and mental health, homelessness – you name it, Adrian Turner had lived it. …And now, she expected me to embrace her, since she’d extended a hand of friendship. I still don’t know what it was about me, and so many others that made her hate us so passionately. I can think of no other explanation but that she hated everyone; she’d just chosen to attack only those who were incapable of defending themselves against her and her troop of miscreants.

I deleted Adrian’s friendship request and blocked her name from any further facebook contact with me. The way I saw it, I didn’t want her for a friend; I didn’t back in junior high, and I still didn’t.



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