Someone is pulling me by my earlobe. It is Lubabalo. I get up, dust myself off, and pick up my bag. Lubabalo stands in front of me. “If you know what is good for you you will not report this to the principal. There is no way of stopping Busisiwe. She will always come back for you,” he speaks, keeping his distance.

“I hear you buti, I am not supposed to be seen with you either so please leave.”

“I bet you want me now, ha,” he laughs hysterically. I don’t say anything. I just walk past him to class. Our Life Orientation teacher keeps asking why everyone keeps looking at me. I have been warned, so I do not say anything.

After class, as I rush downstairs, a water bomb lands in front of me and wets my shoes. Looking closely I see it is a condom. As I look up to see who threw it, another one lands on my face. My vest under my shirt is wet. Ok, I get the message. I think of a teacher intervention. There hasn’t been one in my struggle. But now I have been warned about reporting. What do I do?

I walk on – right out of the school gates. As I reach the street somebody taps me on my shoulder. I drop my bag and make fists. I am ready to fight, though I do not know how many people are behind me. I turn, ready. A tall figure stands in front of me. It is buti Ncedile, our school caretaker. He has a smile on his face. His smile does not reach me though. I hate and I hate.

“Please allow me to drive you home if you must go home now,” he makes an offer. I hesitate. My father told me I must never take lifts from other people without telling him. What is the worst thing that could happen to me though?

On our way home buti Ncedile talks to me about fighting back with words. He speaks of how weak and vulnerable the space is where hatred resides. He tells me how small I am to try and take on everyone against me at school, physically. He says they will most likely come out victorious. He wants to know how else I have been affected by what has been happening to me at school. I tell him that my marks have dropped. He asks me what standard I am in. “Grade eleven,” I tell him. He jokingly asks what standard that is, telling me he is from ‘that’ generation. We laugh. At the gate when I get out he says, “Nokuzola, prepare that fight with words and do it for yourself and those that will be bullied after you.”

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