On the mornings when I actually get out of the house early enough to take the bus, I try to avoid sitting towards the back. Or, if I do, I try to make sure I’ve brought my headphones so I can blare out the pack of high school boys that are there every morning. They’re teenage boys, so the back of the bus is filled with their cacophony of bragging, jokes, cursing, and heavy-handed application of cologne. But that’s not the reason I try to tune them out. The reason is Jose.
Jose is the only one whose name I know, because everyday I hear, “Damn Jose, you are so fucking stupid”; “Wait, wait…Jose tell them what you just told me, you guys have to hear this, it’s so dumb”; “Shut up Jose, I’m not talking to you.” It’s excruciating to hear a group pick on one of their own. It’s also incredibly familiar, those vicious dynamics of adolescence, when pecking orders are being established and people are beginning to see just how much they can get away with. I was once Jose and I was once part of the group. And at times, I still feel like I’m both, despite being within viewing distance of 30.
I want to tell the boys to cut it out, that tearing another down doesn’t make them any better. I want to tell Jose to stand up for himself, to tell his friends to fuck off, hop off that bus and go find people who don’t treat him like a punchline. But I know how that will end. “Dude, did you guys see that? Jose had to have some woman fight for him. Not just a woman, a nerd.”
And really, it’s not the boys or Jose who needs to hear it. It’s me. I’ve been pulled into those types of friendships – the kind where you bond over gossiping about another, knowing deep down they‘re gossiping about you when you’re out of the room. Being the person who takes everyone else’s shit and keeping quiet, in the name of friendship, not knowing when to tell them to fuck off. And what’s worse, I know better. While Jose and his friends have their youth as an excuse, I do not. And there comes a point where you have to choose what you’ll accept in life and what you won’t.
Now is that point for me. I’m hopping off the bus.