The Involuntary Muse
Sitting at the table eating my cornflakes, and being careful not to accidentally dip my school tie in the bowl, an unpleasant memory crept into my mind. I remembered how I lost the tie I had before this one. Well, I shouldn’t say lost really. Belinda Scott, a girl both older and stronger than me from school, tried to strangle me with it. And like the sociopath she was, she decided to keep my tie as a souvenir. An act that made me wonder if she collected souvenirs from all her victims. Did she put all the items that she had accumulated through the years, into a secret compartment under her floorboards? And I bet she would label each souvenir with the names of her victims, and the violent or humiliating acts she did to them. For instance; Nadia Bijan: punched her in the stomach before stealing her stationery from her bag, Khadija Begum: threw her lunch tray in the rubbish seconds after she paid for it, then stole her wallet, and then there’s me, Asli Jama: because I felt like it. I went to a predominantly white school, in a small, English coastal town. I recall my first day there, three years ago; a Somali refugee girl, who spoke in broken English. I instantly became an unsightly stain on Belinda’s white canvas.
Two weeks ago Belinda pushed me down the stairs at school, during the busy lunch-time rush. Dozens of kids were out, running through the corridors and heading to the staircase. Once I finally landed and stopped falling, my skirt was over my head. Everyone saw my zebra pattern nickers, and well, you’ve probably guessed what happened next; embarrassing fall + kids with camera phones = YouTube star. I was unconscious for two minutes. That’s when people started to panic and feel guilty, thinking I was dead. Some kids even started to put their phones away as one of the teachers frantically called for an ambulance. Someone told me that I opened my eyes just briefly, and with a sigh of relief the teacher on the phone let out, “She’s alive!” Then those same guilt-ridden kids brought their phones out again to continue filming where they left off. On account of my fractured arm and ribs, the school allowed me to take two weeks off.
I hadn’t left the house in 14 days, since the fall, and I’m dreading going back to school today. I can barely finish my breakfast. Living as a teenage hermit wasn’t so bad. If only my parents knew that this solitude was my salvation. They both think that bullying back in their schooldays is exactly the same today. But my humiliation is immortalized on the internet, and that makes it difficult for my generation of victims to just walk it off. My generation of bullies sees their acts of evil, as an art form that needs to be captured on camera every time.
Mirvat Manal is a British -Somali, writer and poet based in Manchester. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from 101 words Magazine, Maudlin House, and Cabinet of Heed Magazine. She has also been included in “The Best New British & Irish Poets Anthology 2021”.