Don't Point The Finger At Me!
writer: F.A. D'Laurentis
The pavement passed beneath my feet as I shuffled along to school that morning. My head hung low in a forlorn, almost defeated manner. I clutched my books tightly to my chest as the sounds of happier children seemed to pass by. They skipped by; some singing, some cheerfully calling out to one another. That day over 25 years ago is still so fresh within my mind.
Syrah walked next to me, keeping a keen eye for my well being like a big sister should. Even though she was only 14 she was playing the role of mother as well as sister to me, something she still seems to do 'til this very day.
I began to shuffle more slowly as I came to a crawl, falling behind Syrah. Two boys ran clear past me, nearly causing me to lose my balance as they screamed and hollered at one another. Normally, I would have said something, but my young mind was lost in sadness.
I felt sadness for Syrah having paid more attention to Antonia. Syrah was not a person I would ever share with anyone. I thought bitterly about how Antonia escaped my grasp and clawed to my sister for dear life.
The veil of disdain that covered my mind like the thick clouds hovering overhead in the sky was suddenly broken by Syrah's insistence. "Leena, hurry up, RIGHT NOW! I mean, if you're late again you're going to get the switch from Tiidrik." How I hated the belittled feeling I got whenever she scolded me.
Syrah never called our father any fatherly name. After all of the abuse he had put her through he was little more than just Tiidrik. To me he was indeed my everything but I could see the hint of disgust on my sister's face at the mere mention of his name.
"Coming sister, I'm coming" Normally, our father would give us a ride to school but he was catching up on some sleep after his late return from the assembly the previous night. I could tell Syrah was far from pleased with me. She had been virtually silent all morning.
I struggled to keep up. Syrah finally had had enough and grasped my wrist violently, tugging me forward. "Let's GO!" she ordered as I lurched forward. "When I tell you to do something, you DO IT Leena Klammer! Or do you want father to become mad with the both of us?"
"Yes, MOTHER!" I screeched sarcastically. "After all, why are you so miserable today, big sister? Is it because of the weather?" She remained silent as we continued walking. "Well?" I reiterated.
"You know exactely why, I don't think you're that dumb, Leena." Of course, I understood why she was upset. I always seemed to have a grasp on what was is on my sweet sister's mind. Now things were sensitive. I was only a nine year old little waif. Did she REALLY suspect me of wanting to do something so sinister as to hurt poor little Antonia?
"You still believe Antonia over me? Is that it? Like I said she's some kind of liar." Syrah immediately interjected. She poked me viciously in the chest with her finger. "Why don't you just tell me the truth and we can keep it strictly between the two of us. You attacked her because you HATE her, Leena."
"You've ALWAYS hated Antonia, and why? Because our family is wealthy and hers isn't?" I batted her finger away from my chest. "I never ever said that about her. When did I ever say I hated her because she's poor?"
"You know what, it doesn't matter. She didn't BITE you for no reason!" My eyes gazed at the hand Antonia had so viciously bitten. A large band aid covered the area where she drew blood. "You're right. She bit me because she's a little bitch!"
Syrah's face contorted in a look of pure anger as she drew her hand behind her head. I had barely anytime to react as the palm of her hand met my face. The sting of her slap tore into me like a knife. I staggered backwards, nearly stumbling over myself. Now I was mad! I felt any sense of self-control melt away like hot butter as I let my anger take control of the situation.
Screeching at the top of my lungs, I lunged at her with all the might I could muster. I tackled her to the ground as her body made a hard thud against the concrete sidewalk. A group of other children began to form around us as I tried hitting my sister in the arms.
She began shouting all manner of harsh obscenities at me. "Come on, kick her ass." A boy egged me on. "Yeah, yeah, that's how you do it!" shouted another.
The boiling anger I felt within my body and soul were simply not enough to overwhelm my much more powerful sister for long though. A mixed roar of cheers and gasps erupted as I was met by a full fledged punch to the side of my head, hitting me right in the left temple. I flew to my side like a bird dropping from the sky.
At least a dozen or so children were now drawn to the spectacle. To them, this must have been some sort of sick treat for them to watch. A lot like ancient Romans watching a gladiator fight. They jeered in unison as I jumped back to my feet and once again tried to knock Syrah to the ground.
She dodged my attempt and yet again I found myself sailing face down onto the hard, unforgiving concrete. I tried to stand once more but found it nearly impossible to get up on my own power.
Syrah screamed at me as if the gates of Hell had been unleashed. "HOW DARE YOU! HOW DARE YOU COME AT ME!" she cried. The children suddenly became deathly silent. It was as if Syrah had placed an aura of fear over them.
I must have been a truly pathetic site to the crowd. "HOW DARE YOU!" she screamed again. I got onto one knee, balancing myself by placing a hand on the ground. I was facing away from Syrah at that point.
"Because you hit me first" I said in a low, monotone voice. With great struggle, I managed to pull myself back to my feet. I wobbled in dizziness as I struggled to maintain my balance. I bent over and picked up my schoolbooks. Without a word, without so much as a sound, I gently pushed my way through the group of children towards the school building, which was now in sight.
"Don't you walk away from me, you hear me, damn it, don't you walk away from me or I'm telling father!" Syrah threatened. I refused to give any reply. Still, my silence and my disobedience to my sister's demands were probably throwing more fuel on the fire.
I didn't even bother to turn around to acknowledge her. I felt numb. Never in my short life had I ever attacked my sister physically. Then again, she had never placed her hands on me. It was such a surreal experience. "Did that just really happen?" I asked myself. My head continued to throb with pain from Syrah's blows.
I suddenly felt a rush of fear hit me like a ton of bricks and I began to take off running towards the school. I felt the need to desperately get away from my sister. The trees rushed by my vision like a fleeting dream as I made my way to the brown brick structure.
I probably ran a good 100 meters or so. I felt as if the wind had been knocked right out of me as I struggled to catch my breath. I finally found the courage to look towards where the altercation had occurred.
There stood Syrah far away in the distance at the same spot where we had so violently fought. The children had since dispersed, remembering themselves that they would be late for class if they stuck around for too long.
Then it struck me that despite her being over 150 meters away she was looking right at me, searching my poor broken soul. It was as if I could sense her anger telepathically. "All this over Antonia" I thought despondently. Syrah went to another school about a kilometer away from the school I attended and thus I didn't worry about her chasing after me.
I turned my back and headed inside. "She nearly knocked my brains out" I told myself in disbelief. I never knew we had it in each other to be so violent to one another. It seemed so foreign, so alien to me.
There was no sense of self – righteousness, no sense that I had won some sort of victory. The disbelief quickly faded away as I once again began shuffling at a snail's pace. It was only then that the tears began to flow. I felt surrounded, almost claustrophobic by so many students surrounding me like a thick fog.
I didn't want to appear weak. No! I could never allow it! I ducked into the nearest bathroom and rushed into a stall. I slammed the door shut and let my books drop to the floor. I covered my face as my crying intensified. Maybe it was just childish hurt from losing the fight, maybe it was something the shock of indeed of having my sister strike me, I'll never know.
I buried my face in my hand in complete shame. Even though I was alone I felt as if the whole world was mocking me at the pain I was feeling. I wanted my father to take away this pain that I was feeling. I just stood there, my back to the stall door. "Stay quiet, Leena, just stay quiet." I bit down on my finger.
I feared that any moment another student would enter. I was an outcast the way it is. The word getting out that I was balling my eyes out in the bathroom would make my life all the more a living hell for me.
I pulled off a piece of toilet paper from it's holder attached haphazardly to the stall wall. I dried my tears. "Stop crying, Leena. Stop crying." I continued muttering this phrase in some desperate attempt to calm my shattered nerves. My hands trembled violently as I held the tissue to my eyes.
The school bell rung; announcing that it was time for all students to enter the building for yet another day of Communist indoctrination. This was in an era when Estonia was a Communist nation and weakness in anyone was seen as a horrible character trait.
I regrouped, standing up straight. I brushed the dirt off of the dull gray dress I was wearing. I tried convincing myself that I would not get in trouble later on. "She won't tell father. Father never believes anything Syrah says anyways" Once more, I grabbed my books and made my way to class, only three doors down.
By now the hallways were emptying as the students filtered into their respective places. Some were off to study mathematical equations while others were off to learn about the history of this great country. I on the other hand was off to a Chemistry class.
I was placed in Advanced Classes due to my intelligence. I always excelled in my studies, despite how socially unpopular I was. As usual, I felt little more than invisible as I made my way to the wooden desk next to the window that I sat at day in and day out.
Although the tears had dried I still held a heavy heart. "This is all Antonia's fault. ALL her fault! I need to make her pay, she MUST pay! I want to hurt her now!" I thought wickedly. I plopped down into my seat. At least it seemed that none of my other classmates could sense the deep sorrow and contempt that I was experiencing.
In came Mr. Vellokov. He was a short, stout man in his early or mid 50's. His receding hairline seemed to do no favors in showing his true age. His black framed glasses matched his dark eyes as his corpulent body almost wobbled to his desk at the front of the class.
Some of us were in the habit of calling him "Mr. Meatball". I could tell this joke was going around as the children laughed impishly to themselves, no doubt having fun at his expense. "Better him than me" I thought.
The school bell rung one last time, indicating that all students were now to be in class. Surely any student caught in the hallways would get a licking. In Estonia during that time period of my life, it was perfectly acceptable for a teacher to strike a student if they were unruly. The students turned around politely as the teacher situated his fat ass in the oversized leather chair.
"Good morning class, could you please take out your homework from the other night and pass it forward to the front of the class." In obedience, I pulled the worksheet on Chemistry Formulas from my book and passed it forward. My mind had now drawn blank as calmness returned.
One seat remained empty though. And sure enough, the late student came strolling in as the classed turned their heads to face her. In her light sky blue dress came Antonia. Public Enemy Number One! At least she was dressed decently for a damn change.
My eyes cast a cold gaze upon her tiny frame. They followed her as she took her seat. She knew I was in the room but didn't dare look in my direction. She finally spoke up. "I'm so sorry I am late, Mr. Vellokov. I had a bad morning."
"It's not like you to be late, Antonia. I'll let it pass just for today but please know better not to be late next time, okay. You'll hold up the entire class." The little whore nodded in understanding. Oh, yes. The teacher might give her a second chance but certainly not me. Children can be so cruel after all. I certainly knew how to live up to that.
She was several rows over and sat closer to the front. I stared at the back of her stupid little head as the teacher began writing on the chalk board. There were not enough vile and disgusting words in my vocabulary to describe her. Not enough hateful things that I could possibly say to her.
I stared with wicked intent. As if I wanted to revel in her fear. She turned her head ever so softly to the side towards where I was sitting. I knew what she was up to. "That's right, watch your back!" I whispered softly.
Antonia was so uneasy it was impossible to mistake for anything else. She fidgeted nervously in her seat. I wondered what thoughts were going through her mind. Would I attack her again? Would I bully her? All she had to do was stay away from Syrah and I and things would have been okay. But no, she had to become "friends" with Syrah. And now Syrah was angry at me, all because of HER!
Some of the students turned their heads at me as I angrily opened the hard cover of my Chemistry book. It made a resounding sound as it bounced off of the wooden desktop. The eyes remained glued to me for a brief moment. "What?" I muttered, hunching my shoulders. They quickly resumed their studies as the teacher began coughing.
"Class, page 177, third paragraph about Nitric Acid and it's effect of precious metals." I could care less what the hell he had to say today. Nonetheless, I buried my head within the text book, trying to keep the fight with my poor Syrah off of my mind.
"Nitric acid, nitric acid, oh, here we go." I thought to myself. I tried to busy myself with the lesson ahead, despite my disinterest. The teacher began yammering on about the different strengths of acid and what not. No matter how much I tried to distance myself from the day's events I found them sneaking back into my conscious.
The teacher had yet another coughing fit, his man boobs jiggling underneath his tight shirt. "What a fat ass!" I thought. "I apologize class, let me find a cough drop." I rolled my eyes in bemusement. "I think he needs to find a treadmill," I thought with a slight giggle.
As I returned my attention to my textbook the class suddenly stood up in horror. The man suddenly fell over on his side in a coughing fit. His high backed leather chair fell sideways on top of him after he tried to grab on to it. A scream of pained agony bellowed from his lips. Only his head was visible as the desk blocked the view from the rest of us.
I noticed that he was going into convulsions as the class erupted in screams and cries. "Somebody, somebody get the school nurse!" one of the girls cried out. Was I the only one in the room fascinated and amused by this blubber pots sudden collapse?
I sat back down and covered my mouth in the pure pleasure of the moment. The children were too frozen in place to even run and get help as he began foaming violently at the mouth. Just as suddenly as he collapsed he stopped moving altogether.
"I can't believe it. Maybe he choked on a chicken bone?" I thought deviously. Virtually all of the girls in the room were crying in horror. Little Antonia was shaking like a leaf on a windy day. Suddenly, two male teachers burst into the room.
"Get back, get back kids" they shouted. "Make room, make room NOW!" One of the men tore open the shirt of our teacher and tried performing CPR. My sick curiosity had gotten the better of me and I stood up and leaned forward for a closer look as one of the men began performing CPR.
"Wow! I knew he was gay!" I thought, nearly enticing another laugh. Yes, even at that tender age I took an almost natural delight at the suffering of others. That was the first time I had ever seen somebody die. "The live death of a person? I think this should be in Biology class instead." I had no ability to feel empathy or sympathy for the pathetic creature lying on the floor.
"He's not responding" shouted one of the men. "Get the nurse! Just get the fucking nurse!"
he screamed, gesturing to the door in panicked emphasis. The other teacher took off like an Olympic sprinter.
"He's dead! He's dead! Oh, noooooooo!" cried the girl behind me. I remained emotionless as a passive observer of the madhouse that the classroom had now become. Within a moment the school nurse, dressed in her whites, rushed in with a brown leather case that she immediately opened.
At a fever pitch she began removing medical supplies. "An ambulance is on the way. Get these children out of here. They don't need to be seeing this. Just send them home for the day!" the nurse ordered.
"Everybody out! Please! Let the adults handle this, everything will be just fine! PLEASE LEAVE!" one of the male teachers shouted. The children's faces were red with the terror that they had witnessed. "Gonna be a lot of bad nightmares for them tonight" I thought dryly. The children quickly emptied into the hallway.
By this time my classmates had made such a ruckus that many other children had spilled into the hallways out of curiosity for what was happening. I took one final look at the fat man as I exited the classroom. "Yippy! Looks like I get to go home early today and cuddle with daddy!" I thought to my advantage.
"Fat man should have eaten his salad!" I said aloud. Not that it mattered one way or the other. The entire school now seemed to be bursting at the seams with the pure panic and almost insane behavior of the other children. Those children who were not my classmates were going head to head with one another, trying to see for themselves just what had happened.
We were crammed shoulder to shoulder. I felt as if I would be crushed in the crowd of screaming, distressed little brats. The adult teachers desperately tried in vain to calm down the throng of endless faces but of no use. I doubt the school had seen anything like this before.
"Please children! File outside! Just file outside and WAIT! DO NOT go home!" they instructed.
There was so much deafening noise that I spoke my mind out loud. "Oh come on now. That's not fair! Aren't we supposed to go home and cry to our parents?" I ruminated.
The whole crowd pushed forward in the same direction, almost out of desperation to get outside. "Shit! Watch where you're WALKING!" I complained as a boy stepped on my shoes. The school doors opened and like a rushing wave we all poured outside onto the schoolyard.
I almost felt the need to cover my ears as I waffled outside. I had to get away from this mass of humanity. I ran away towards the street to give myself some much needed space. I could once again regroup and as funny as I found the collapse of Mr. Meatball, I found my mind wandering back to Syrah. I had to make good with her so that we could repair the damage that had been done this morning.
As I watched the madness continue to unfold from a distance I could only hope that I could repair things with Syrah or would she hate me forever? I hoped forgiveness would find us both.