No matter where I went, I would walk with my head down, shoulders slumped, and face staring at the ground. I walked miles just watching my shoes raise and lower, one in front of the other. Most people were unkind towards me, and I believed if I didn’t see anybody else, they wouldn't see me.
My mom would yell at me to watch where I was going because I was always running into things. I was too scared to look up and see the world around me, afraid of whatever and whoever might be coming my way.
Another kid I actively avoided was Gabe. He was my neighbor who lived two houses away and we rode the same school bus. He was constantly picking on me. A confident kid who would needle me all the time – especially when we would get off the bus.
One day Gabe and I were riding the bus and I was already dreading the block and a half walk home. He immediately began to hassle me: “What’s wrong with you? Why do you always look down at the ground? Why don’t you ever look up? You’re such a weirdo.” I never had a response. I just kept walking. Mute. Face down.
If I can’t see him, he can’t see me.
Day two, same needling. By day 3, I did not want those questions hurled at me. So I threw my shoulders back, shoved my chin in the air, and walked the whole way home looking ahead and never once at my shoes. It was meant to spite him, or at the very least disarm and shut him up. But something shifted in me that day.