His name was Tahir and his ability was his disability. I only knew him for a few years, from grades 4 to 7.

Freshly out of primary school and thrown into high school, my classmates were impressionable and anxious. On the first day, my teacher introduced the new boy, Tahir, to the class. Immediately it was easy for us to see that he wasn’t like the rest of us. He was older and had weird eyes. He also blinked uncontrollably and had a stutter. It took a whole 20 seconds for him to say his name, it was only two syllables. Everyone in class laughed at him then my stomach felt as if it had been turned upside down. This was cruel. For it is much easier to tear someone down rather than build them up.

I gave him a reassuring nod that he could come sit next to me. Soon we started talking and became the best of friends. He was an interesting person, with big ideas and a desire to improving the world. Tahir was crafty and had the skill to write elegantly, he did so effortlessly -which you wouldn’t believe if you saw him.

He wasn’t stupid, he just learned at a different pace and that was perfectly fine with me.

However, not everyone saw it that way. They would whisper loudly about him saying, “Why is he even here? He should be in a special school with his own kind. He’s so creepy. I bet he lives on the street. Why can’t he ever stay still?” It would be foolish of anyone to assume that he couldn’t hear or, at the very least, guess what they were saying about him. But he never allowed it to deter him.

He was like a flower that grew in the cracks of a pavement, fighting to blossom. How to fight or blossom with everyone around him breaking him down piece by piece. Then came speech day, which was a nightmare for him. We each had a turn to stand in front of the whole class and read a speech we had written. It took Tahir ages to get through his speech, but he took it in stride. He stood up when the teacher called him to the front. But every time he had to read his speech, the kids would always make fun of him even though the content of his speech was beautiful.

I blamed the teacher for calling him to the front and subjecting him to that kind of ridicule. I knew she was only doing her job, but couldn’t she make an exception? One day, I advised Tahir to ask the teacher if he could do his speech during the break, when everyone was out of the class. He laughed at me and refused. He said that he wouldn’t do such a thing, especially when all he wanted to do was be treated equally. His morals were consistent. He couldn’t argue against being treated like everyone else or ask for exceptions.

“How can you be so optimistic when everyone’s so awful?” I would always ask him. I can still remember what he’d say.

“They only make me stronger. I’m like Goku’s spirit bomb. I absorb their energy and grow.”

I always recite that myself whenever I’m going through a difficult time. Not just because I love Dragon Ball Z, but because it reminds me that every hardship we face will shape us and make us enduring. We’re all metaphorical spirit bombs and Tahir helped me see that.

I regret losing contact with him when he moved away – and we went to separate high schools. But wherever he is, I have faith that he has now blossomed into a beautiful flower, no longer affected by the hail.