First Day at Secondary School

I’ll never forget my first day at secondary school. I felt as if I were floating when I walked up the smooth concrete path towards the wide glass doors with their chipped paint. I was aware of the other children staring at me because I was different, something new, something to be feared, detested, or a source of amusement.

All I cared about was getting through the doors and into my classroom.

I heard jeering, laughing and whispering. I remember someone trying to get my attention. I don’t know if it was a boy or a girl. My vision had gone a little blurry. They started towards me. I panicked and walked off the path. When will I be old enough to make my own choices? I thought, then I wouldn’t have to be here. I could walk out of the school gates without any consequences.

I caught my breath and returned to the path. Almost there now. I climbed the steps one by one. My legs felt heavy. Every movement was an effort. One of the boy’s called me a name: nigger. I had heard it so often; I had become immune to it. Names won’t break me, I thought. They had better come up with something new.

If anything was going to break me it was the stares, the multitude of eyes pinning me down. I came to the doors and stumbled across the threshold. I swallowed as I felt a queasiness take hold. I had memorised my class number by heart to avoid the added embarrassment of entering the wrong room. I jumped as two screaming boys ran past me: confident and without a care. God, how I hated them.

You see I had this mantra. It went something like this: get used to the nerves – that won’t change. Just don’t be late for class. Remember, the only thing you can expect to get out of this school is semi-decent grades, and if you make some friends along the way, consider it a bonus.

Someone was calling me. But they couldn’t know my name because I didn’t know anyone. The voice came from behind me. I dared not turn around. There would be more eyes on me! I kept walking. The voice grew more urgent. I heard trotting footsteps. I sped up, suddenly petrified.

A hand brushed my shoulder. My heart leapt again and whipped my head around. Eyes were one thing but no touching.

A girl held my Parker coat in her hand by its hood. Her eyes were so big, she looked manic. ‘You dropped your coat,’ she said.

My dad had sown a name tag into the lining. I felt myself blush. ‘Thanks.’ I took the coat from her with shaky hands.

‘What class are you in?’

I moved to one side to let a boy pass. ‘6G. What about you?’

‘Same.’ She smiled, revealing her crooked teeth. She had hair like brushed cotton-wool. Her school jumper was two sizes too big for her.

I smiled back, light-headed with relief. I wouldn’t be going into the classroom alone. I had one friend. One friend to pin their eyes on me, and then I wouldn’t have to focus on the rest of them.