Like laser beams with pinpoint accuracy, I was besieged by unfamiliar glares which seemed to burn holes deep into my uniquely coloured skin. Everywhere I looked there were eyes, eyes that judged me, assessed me, pleading for me to make a mistake. The sight of the entire room was locked onto me as if I were some kind of monster, as if I were a creature from outer space.
I couldn’t stand it. Being timid and apprehensive, I disliked being the centre of attention, especially in such a daunting and awkward situation. I remembered my Mother packing lunch earlier that same morning…
“Make sure you eat up all your lunch and don’t be fearful of the funny looks you might get when you enter the classroom, darling”
I was expecting an eyeball or two, but never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate such a harsh, disapproving “welcome” from my peers.
I looked up at the old, wooden clock hanging from the lifeless, monotone wall. It was 9:56am. I gazed through one of the small, square classroom windows and realised I had only been seated for six dreadful minutes and the directed stares had not ceased. After what felt like an eternity, the 10:00am bell finally rang. A tall and strong, yet smart looking figure entered through a rusty metal door, the only entrance to the large hall-like classroom, designed to seat students of all year levels. The entire school stood except for me. The glare I was receiving earlier returned as I fumbled with my Year 7 Text books whilst abruptly trying to stand.
“Good morning Sir” the students said in unison.
“Sit!” he replied sharply, “We have a new school member, Keegan, please welcome him to Year 7”
A long, unpleasant silence ensued, to be interrupted only by the screeching of chalk against board as the tall, nameless figure scrappily wrote up some work for the respective year levels to complete. With the exception of pen against paper and the flipping of pages, not a sound was to be heard. I looked around and realised just how different I was. Skin colour, hair colour, clothing, the lot, I was the odd one out. I opened up my text books, but my mind was racing, I couldn’t think straight, I had never been to a school like this one, I just wanted to go home.
At long last, it was lunchtime. The entire school, including the nameless figure, which I assumed to be the one and only teacher, poured out of the classroom in a frenzied blur, squinting at the sight of the blazing sunshine. I carried my lunchbox to a distant school fence to a large, dying Eucalypt tree in a poor attempt to isolate myself from the divergent and unwelcoming crowd. I slumped against the smooth buttress roots of the tree and closed my eyes. Finally, I had some solitude and peace of mind.
Startled by the tugging of my white collared shirt, I awoke as two large, dominant figures picked me up. Anxiously looking around, the larger one smacked me in the face as a combination of blood and saliva spewed from my mouth.
Congregating in what seemed to be a circular fashion, the entire school chanted “Fight, fight, fight…” whilst the teacher amusedly looked on.
Again I was pummelled, this time causing my nose to bleed like a tap without a faucet. Searing with pain, I didn’t bother to call for help. There wasn’t a single individual on campus that would want to, let alone have the guts to lend a hand. Thrown to the ground, the smaller figure snatched my lunchbox, yanked out the contents and squashed it against the dry, moisture lacking soil.
The school cheered for more. As if responding to the roar, the larger boy picked me up and threw me against the Eucalypt tree like I was a rag doll. Tasting my own blood, I lay there in crumpled up heap, crying tears of pain and misery.
I slowly looked up. The silhouette of both figures remained as they directed the same loathing stare I had experienced when I first entered the classroom. I looked over to see the entire school watching in glee as the smaller figure threw my empty lunchbox down at my face before the two figures proudly strode away.
Flashbacks of similar events at my former school filled my mind, tormenting me and disfiguring my already blurred train of thought. I recalled fights based purely on belief, based purely on religion. Now it was based on colour.
Managing to open only one eye, I turned my head towards the classroom. Not a soul in sight, class had started and I had been left outside like yesterday’s garbage. I cried for what seemed like at least an hour. Slowly, I managed to sit up. Again, I leaned back against the Eucalypt tree. I reached into my top pocket and pulled out a note handed to me by my Mother earlier that morning. I read it out aloud…
“Don’t worry darling, the Aboriginals will take good care of you”, and they sure did.