As we were driving on our road trip from our old land in Ellijay, Georgia to our new home, in New Jersey, we were forced to go on many highways, turnpikes, intersections, & busy lanes of roads at extremely high speeds. I tried my best to hide my fear from Shannon who was munching on some carrots in a plastic little bag next to me, to my left, out of me being his older brother, but, I was crippled with anxiety. I had never been on a large turnpike as large and as fast as this one in my entire 13 years of life and seeing how close we were to all of the cars, trucks, & other vehicles around us and observing how FAST we were driving, I got electrifyingly nervous; I kept having visions in my mind of what it would be like and feel like if we all got into a terrible and fatal car crash. “What if we… what if we all die?!” I remember thinking as a giant truck was speeding right next to my window.
I think my mother noticed my nervousness from peering through her mirror on the passenger side and said “Billy, shhhh just try & get some sleep ya’ here? It’ll be alraaght, baby.”
I didn’t relax at all for another 2 whole hours after she said that. But, to make my momma proud and see that I was the ‘big boy’ I said “Okay.” And looked around as I tried to hide my nervousness as best as I possibly could.
After a long drive of 2 and a half days, we finally arrived at our 3 story & 3 bedroom suburban white colored knew house with light colored & shiny wooden flooring all around the inside. When I walked inside, I immediately took notice that it was newer than any house that I had ever been inside of before, and I absolutely marveled at the kitchen! “WOW!” I thought as a new looking stove, fridge and sink were all in view as I came inside. “I’ll have so much fun cooking here with momma!” I remember thinking. I imagined all of things that we could make here, all the new recipes, all the new foods, with all of the new equipment. The microwave was new to me since we didn’t have one in our house even though my nan did. After getting settled and my father made more arrangements over his cellphone with his business connections from our old orchard, he told us that the equipment would be shipped to our new orchard’s location by the following two days. He told us all that we should just settle in, get some sleep, and prepare for the next day.
Waking up that Monday morning I was nothing, but, a southern bucket of nerves. I had to go to school the following day for the very first time. I didn’t LIKE that one bit. I was fairly shy in large groups of kids my own age, being that, well, I was rarely ever IN groups of kids my own age.
My father brought us some food from the local “McDonalds” and as we all sat at the new large glass table, my momma spoke to Shannon and I. “Clothes. You need ‘em ya hear? Today, we gonna go shopping, you, Shannon, & I. You, Billy-Decker, are to pick your very own new school clothes, yourself. You a big boy, now, startin’ high school. And, I know you’ll do just fiiiiine.” She said with a beautiful smile as she curled some of her long blonde & shiny hair behind her ear and took another bite of her breakfast sandwich.
I didn’t know anything about clothes shopping, whatsoever. And, as I was fumbling around in the small store on the main-street in town and going through all of the clothing options that they had for boys my age, I found my face turning hot from my frustration and nervousness of all of the new kids at my new school. What will they- what will they like?! What will they like for me to wear? I wanted to impress them. I wanted to show them that I was good enough to be in their school. I wanted them to like me. I wanted-
“Uhm, sweetie? ….Do you need some help?” I heard from behind me making me turn around and look up nervously at the manager who stood about 5 feet away from me.
“Uhm-uhh.” I started. She seemed nice and patient. So, I continued. “I-I’m startn’ school tomorrow and I’m looki’n ferr some clothes” I said to her.
She seemed to widen her eyes when she heard me speak and then gave me a large grin. “Aww, Okay. Do you want some help?” She asked me.
I really WANTED her help. But, I’m 13. I don’t need anyone’s help to pick out my clothes, and, like my momma said, I’m a big boy, now, so, I wanted to make her happy.
“No, thank yuu’ but, when I’m all chucked out I’ll ring up.” I said with a smile. The girls at the register seemed to giggle at me, which I didn’t understand.
About a 40 minutes later I FINALLY found some clothes that I felt the kids at school would like. The clothes that I picked for my first day at school were a stripped pollo shirt that was white and dark blue that fit me, snuggly, and a pair of dark blue skinny jeans. I got many other clothes that I figured that I would need in the future as well and decided to ring up everything that I had chosen.
The girl at the register began talking to me. “So…” She giggled beneath her breath. “Where are you from?”
She was fairly pretty so I was a little shy to answer her, but, being polite I said, “I’m from Georgia. I just moved innn yesterday.”
“Oh, that’s cool. You starting school a few days late this year, I see.” She continued as she was finishing ringing up my things.
“Actually, I ain’t never been to a school in all mah life.” I paused not knowing whether or not I should say it. “I been homeschooled.”
She sort of paused and stared at me and smiled, sweetly, “Well, you seem real sweet & I hope you have a great time, okay? If you ever need anything come back.” She said as she handed me my bags.
“Uh, sure. Thank you, Miss.” I said being polite as I took my bags. She sort of held her chest and smiled as though it was a shock and a pleasure that I called her that. I thanked the manager as well and was on my way back home.
Later that day, my momma drove me to meet a counselor at my new school who took on the task of showing me around the grounds at around 4:00pm after school hours. He took the liberty to guide my mother & I around the building, explained to me where everything was located, informed me on the systems that the school operated with in regards to scheduling, how to locate all of my classrooms, and told me that during lunch hour, I was permitted to either go outside to eat my lunch or eat inside of the school cafeteria and then go out for some free time if I wanted to do so for a nice break and some fresh air.
The following day, when I had been dropped off by my papa at school for the very first time, just before he went on his 1 ½ hour drive away to where our new orchard was located, we turned the corner to the school’s street and I was instantly tied in a knot of emotions and social anxiety. Seeing all of the cars, kids walking around and into the building, the crossing guard allowing kids to cross, and hearing all of the noise and chatter that I was so not accustomed to or had every experienced before, I was reluctant to even get out if the car. But, I did, nonetheless, as I would never want to disappoint my papa. And, the very moment that my feet hit the pavement of that cement curb, my entire life had changed forever.
My daddy bid me one last farewell as he smiled and told me to relax and make the most of my day. I half-heartedly grinned back at him and told him how much I loved him. And, before I knew it, he drove off. Turning back around, I already noticed the faces of some kids stopping what they were doing and looking at me. I noticed one group of 3 girls smile at me as they saw me walking by.
When I, finally stepped inside, I took a moment to just stand in the middle of the river of students zipping by me. That’s exactly what it reminded me of, the ol’ river back home and the noise the crashing water would make as the waters were never calm, but, always swiftly moving and in a hurry, is just what this sea of students reminded me of. As I took more time to more carefully examine the other kids, I realized how different they were from any other teens that I rarely ever even got meet at the occasional annual county fair or state gatherings during the season change in the summer, back in Georgia.
In the ol’village, people, when they had to, went out of their way to look clean. But, no one went out of their way to really look GOOD. All of these kids looked like they were dressed like they were going to some fashion party or some sort of a New Years show, at least to ME, anyway. They reminded me of the human version of those action figure toys you see in stores or on the big screen. Most of them looked like they weren’t even real, and like they were pretending to be real people if that makes any kind of sense. That was the difference. That’s exactly what I felt as I stood in that loud & crowded hallway seeing kids look at me as they passed me by as I noticed their clothes in comparison to my own while they chatted with their friends. I felt like I was on a stage of a film and a director was about to yell “Cut!” In order to give me a break from acting. But, this wasn’t a movie. This was real. And I couldn’t pause any of it. I couldn’t stop what was happening; I didn’t get a break. I wasn’t allowed.
When I finally walked into my home class, however, that was when I finally got a real taste of what kids my own age, of this nature, were really like. As I stepped inside, most of the class went silent and the teacher was looking at me with a questioned look.
She was a very nice looking and pretty lady in her 30s with blonde hair and smiled at me when she saw me and said, “William?”
“Uhh- yes ma’am. That’s me.” I said softly as I looked at her. I peeked at the kids who were already looking at me and some girls talked into each other’s ears.
“That’s great. Okay, well, you can have a seat right there in the second row from the window. You can introduce yourself, later, okay?” She instructed me kindly as she egged her head a bit in the direction of where my new seat was located inside of the classroom.
“Thank you.” I said as I slowly walked over to my chair. In the back of the classroom, I immediately, took notice of a group of three boys looking right at me with puzzled looks. One had bright blonde hair. One had shorter deep black hair. And, the third had long, rich light brown hair that flowed, gracefully, over his cheekbones in the front and was longer than this shoulders by an inch in the back.
After I sat down and the class got settled, my teacher spoke. “Now, class I want to inform everyone about and welcome our new student who has just moved from another state & into our town. William-Decker has come all the way from Georgia. He’s never been to public school before and I want everyone to help him if he needs anything.” She made emphasis on how my home state was obviously farther away from theirs and was quite different. “And, I want everyone to include him as a part of our school.” She paused for a moment as silence filled the room “William, would you mind standing up and telling us a little about yourself” she asked me.
She wants me to introduce myself? I remember looking at my desk for a moment and was a bit frozen from the nerves that seemed to tease my body which stopped it from being able to remember how to move correctly in accordance with my will. “It’s okay. Take your time.” She said to me with a concerned look on her face, obviously noticing how nervous I must have been.
I got up and looked around for a moment and shyly said. “Mah na— is william Irv—“ I said.
“Sweetie do you mind speaking up, please? I’m afraid we can’t hear you.” She asked me.
I took a big gulp and talked loudly to them all for the very first time. “Mah name’s William-Decker Irving. But, errybody calls me Billy.” I stopped as I noticed some kids giggle at me talking.
“Classs. Quiet, please!” She said a bit ashamed of their behavior and wanting to impress me and welcome me with respect and opened arms.
“Go ahead, Billy.” She told me.
Reluctantly, I said, loudly, “Mah folks are the owners of an apple orchard in Georgia-or- I mean we were. We bought ourselves a new one close bah’ here and I’ll be livin’ in this town. I reckon’ it’s ‘bout 1 hour and half aways from here and imma see it for the first time this weekend. Uh-I like to cook, go fishin’ when the special occasion suits it right and uhm mah favorite color is blue.” I finished meekly as I then looked up at the teacher.
She smiled so warmly at me and it made me smile a bit, myself, from having her acknowledge what I said in a positive way.
“Well, thank you Billy. Anyone have any questions for Billy before we head on for the day?” She asked the class. The class was silent for a moment besides a few giggles and girls whispering in each other’s ears. No one wanted to ask me anything which made me a little sad from them not wanting to engage in any type of conversation with me.
“Ooo!! IIII have a question!” The blonde haired boy in the back said waving his hand up, desperately, with fake innocence and a false smile.
“Yes, Jesse. Go ahead.” The teacher said and nodded for him to continue.
With a charming smile and wicked malice behind his eyes he mimicked my way own way of talking in an exaggerated & rude manor, “Iss his Graaannyy Paauulaa Dee’eeeen?” And all of the kids in the class immediately laughed at the taunting remark.
“Jesse Bradford, …get OUT.” The teacher said pointing sharply at the door and looking at him angrily. He stopped his movements for a moment and rolled his eyes as he reluctantly got up and walked towards the door. As he passed me, he peered sharply at me through the corner of his eyes.
After he left and shut the door, the teacher asked again, “Any other questions?” And smiled sweetly at me. No one answered, but they exchanged a few hidden looks with one another. I heard some snickers and giggles that weren’t loud enough for Ms. Silverman to be able to hear. I just stood there, awkwardly, as I began to understand… these kids didn’t like me. They didn’t want me in their class. I was weird. I was ‘tainted.’ “Okay. You may sit down now Billy. Thank you.” She said to me and egged her head, kindly for me to sit.
The school lunch cafeteria was an extremely different experience for me. Not only did I feel nervous to stand so close to so many kids that I didn’t know in the line to pick our food from the options that were displayed in the glass covered case which held all of the items that would be offered to us for that day in the lunchroom, but, half of the things that I saw, I didn’t even recognize or knew what they were. Since, I didn’t know what to pick for myself, I decided to peek at the other kid’s trays and get for myself what the majority of them had. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be included. I smiled, though, when I saw a little basket of apples by the register and it reminded me of my family and of my old home and I took one and smelled it, deeply as I closed my eyes with a dreamy smile. In this vast land of foreign things, people, and customs, I finally found one thing that was familiar to me, that I recognized, and that made me feel warm and safe.
Sitting alone at a large table by myself, I noticed those same three boys from my class at a table near mine with a bunch of other kids. After about 4 minutes, through all of the cafeteria chatter, my ears were able to pick up & hear a few distinct sentences which were said by those boys loud enough for me to be able to register them. “What kind of shirt is that? It looks so GAY.” The longer haired boy said as his friends laughed in a boyish mixture of giggles & snickers. I slumped in my chair when I heard that. I worked really hard to pick this shirt out to look as normal and nice as possible to the best of my ability so I could please everyone at my new school. And, I remember feeling my cheeks turn beet red and get extremely hot from hearing some of the other kids in the lunchroom start to laugh at their comments and look at me.
Trying to distract myself and just begin eating my little lunch, I took a sip of my chocolate milk and smiled at its flavor. I liked chocolate milk a lot. Chocolate was something that I rarely ever got to drink or eat back home and was my absolute favorite food of all time. I picked up one of the chicken nuggets and stared at it for a moment. “What’s this?” I asked to myself using my lips, but, making no sound, whatsoever.
“Oh my god.” I heard one of the boys say. I guess they were still examining me and were able to read my lips at my statement about the chicken nugget which I had never seen or eaten before in my life. “Is this kid fu***ng retarded?” The blonde boy said as he looked at me as though I was the weirdest thing on Earth. “He doesn’t know what a chicken NUGGET is? What the f**k is happening?” He said.
The dark haired boy said, “Shutup, Jesse! It’s not his fault he only eats raw corn & hay everyday for lunch straight off the ground with his horsies & cows that his momma feeds him.” And the blonde ‘Jesse’ spit a little from trying to hold in his laughter. “He probably smells like corn & dirt from his lunchtime back home.” The dark haired boy finished.
“He probably smells like sh**” the blonde one said. The dark haired boy, then, got up and walked over to me and smelled my neck and arms.
“EWWWW! He stinks like SHI*!!!” He said really loud. “Probably from sleeping in the barn last night.” He finished and then held his nose as more kids heard what was being said.
“I do not.” I said to him nervously, but, not looking up in his direction.
“Quiet, Barn Boy! Nobody said you could talk.” He called me as a new nickname.
“Mah name’s Billy.” I said softly & staring at the table.
“What? I’m sorry I can’t understand anything you’re saying.” He giggled with them at my sharp southern accent. It wasn’t my fault that I talked like this! I never once in my life felt ashamed to talk or hated my own voice. But, now, I was starting to. I felt so embarrassed and wanted to hide, but, I was in a large table by myself so everyone was able to stare at me and see everything that was going on.
Then, really loudly, the long haired boy said. “NO! His name isn’t Barn Boy. He’s ‘Billy’ right? His name is Hill’Billy!” And, a bunch of the kids in the cafeteria laughed at the new name that he had made for me.
“YEAH!! HillBilly!” The main blonde one said with a smile as he laughed and clapped his friend’s hand in a boyish handshake, liking the new name that he gave me. “Good one, Sascha.” And, he sort of leaned back and held his own belly as he squinted his eyes shut from trying not to laugh so hard.
“HillBilly.” my mind kept echoing my new name over and over again as I heard the echoes of everyone’s laughter circle around in my head while they all looked, stared, and pointed at me. I slowly got up with my head down and threw my lunch away, seeing the apple that I happily picked role into the trash can. I didn’t touch it. I didn’t even want it, anymore. In fact, looking at that apple made me really sad.
I went outside to breathe as I was told I may do so after I was finished with my lunch until the period ended. I was so nervous and embarrassed by seeing so many kids around me outside, just, STARING at me like there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t quite fathom everything that had just happened inside. Everyone felt the same way. So, it made me think that if they all felt that, maybe, there WAS something wrong with me. And, I got really anxious not knowing what it was.
I felt my eyes swell up with some tears. “They-they hate me.” I said to myself looking at the ground. I was a really sensitive kid who didn’t take well to anyone being angry at me back home or not approving what I was doing. And, now, all of these kids-
My mind stopped thinking as I looked up and noticed those three main boys begin walking in my direction with a group of kids following them from behind. They- they were coming for me. I didn’t know what to do and I just backed up all the way against the brick wall as I felt the nerves and social anxiety begin to take over my entire body. They fully reached me and I finally got a good look at them up close and I was… speechless.
The middle boy was a blonde kid with one large set of perfect bangs that swooped over his eye. His eyes were a shining sky blue that almost didn’t seem to look real from how big and bright they were. I remember seeing some Barbie doll commercials back home whenever we got the chance to actually see something on the big ol’ screen. And, that’s EXACTLY who he reminded me of. If Barbie had a younger brother in the flesh, that was him. That’s exactly what he looked like. He wore light blue jeans that hugged his legs around his thighs. He had these really nice shirts on that were layered and I could just tell that they were not cheap, even though I knew nothing about brand names of clothing, whatsoever. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that he was the leader of the group.
The other long haired boy was the very first person that I ever looked at in all my life and thought, “Wow. He’s… beautiful.” He honestly didn’t even look like a normal boy at all. He had a wonderfully slim figure & was the closest thing to being male with graceful & feminine qualities without looking like or being an actual girl. His hair blew and flew in the wind with such grace and fluidity, you would think that his head of light hazelnut hair, that went below his shoulders in the back, was made of actual water if you didn’t know any better. He had really nice cheeks and a pretty set of green, glassy eyes with a very strong looking eyebrow ridge that just made him look like an absolute supermodel. He glared at me and I just couldn’t stop staring at his unbelievable beauty. If someone told me that an angel lived on this Earth in secret… I’d think it was him.
The third boy was very dark looking with pale light skin that was creamy and soft looking. His eyes were a piercing black with a deadly set of eyebrows that made him seem like a wild animal. He reminded me of a werewolf that was stuck in human form, waiting for the moonlight to touch his skin so that he could transform and finally be free and go out for his hunt in the middle of the night. His hair was cut short, about 1 inch in length, and was somewhat spiked in the front to give him this incredibly agile look that just completed who he was. He seemed like the kind of boy that would be extremely athletic, but, not in an overly muscular kind of way. No. He seemed like he would be the fastest boy in the entire school that nobody could mess with or catch. EVER.
I never thought that I would say it, but, these were the most attractive boys that I had ever seen in real life up to that point. They, like many of the other kids in this school, looked like those types of movie stars you hardly ever get to meet in real life, at least to ME, anyway. They looked nothing like the people that I had grown to meet in my county back home. And, the truth was, I secretly admired them for that. I looked up to them for some reason in someway. I wanted to… be like them. I wanted to BECOME them. I wanted whatever it was that they had that I didn’t have. I wanted to be special, too. But, they made it all too obvious that I wasn’t special in any significant way or would ever have any hope to becoming anything close to what they were and that I should be ashamed of myself for even DARING to think that it would be remotely possible. They were on a pedestal and I… was underground.
Seeing the way that they were looking up and down at me, as they examined my clothes and body, I felt stupid for the first time in my life; I felt worthless. I looked at their feet not wanting to continue making eye contact, because, it was like they saw right through me and saw all of my deepest darkest secrets, somehow. It was as if they made me realize how idiotic my life was without even saying anything. My heart started racing and I felt extremely nervous.
Their clothes were perfect. Their faces were perfect. Their hairstyles, though varied, were very nice. And, the odd notion was that I was, strangely, entranced by them. And, that made the nervousness that I felt standing there in front of them all the worse as they examined and ‘judged’ me, carefully. I felt as if I was completely naked and they were peering my body to see and reveal every single embarrassment and flaw that I had hidden under my clothes that lived on my very own skin to reveal them all to the other kids that surrounded us. At that moment, I finally realized my place. I realized just how much power they had over me without even saying so much as a single word. They knew it and so did I; I was inferior.
I remember my shoulders tensing themselves up as I felt all of their eyes on me & I dared; I dared to look the middle one straight in his eye. And, with his head lifting up slightly, all he did was look at me as a sly grin slowly creeped onto the corner of his mouth. And, from that moment on, I knew that this wouldn’t be the last time that I was going have them all in front of me like this, not by a long shot.
I knew something was coming.