Islander the Gold Fish
“Here he comes!!!” Erik shouted excitedly as he rushed to our spot. I could not help but notice the craftiness in his remarkably wide eyes. His energetic aura was highly contagious and so the whole gang picked up the same sort of elation. We were all there, the four of us: myself, Erik, Roger, and Will. We chose to ignore breakfast and focused on our daily routine instead – to pick on our neighbor, Sam.
Sam was fat and greasy and slow and dark skinned and with all the awful attributes one could think of. He was a freak. An outsider. The odd one. I’d rather pretend flipping through my school notes than play with him. For me and my buddies, he just don’t belong.
That morning, the prank kicked off when Roger started imitating a pig’s grunt. “Oink!” he cried. Mimicking him, we arrogantly laughed while looking at each other’s faces. The sounds grew louder as the freak approached us. He stopped a few meters away and made face hesitantly. We sure were anticipating that and his action just confirmed how sorry of a kid he were.
Bored of the verbal exploitation, I advanced and lightly punched Sam’s chest. I gave him the “What now?” look, expecting him to cry as a sign of surrender. He always did. But something’s changed that time. His tears did build up but there was fire in his eyes. It screamed refusal.
The firmness of his resolve made my blood boiled so hot that I had to push him really hard. He fell on the ground and I saw his fiery eyes subdued. Of course! How dare he stood up to me even for a few breathing?! I knew I had to do more so I grabbed his slippers and ran away like a jackal. I had to be pretty slow at times so he could catch up until it would almost look like he could get a hold of my tee. Then, I would speed up again. Oh, for Pete’s sake! No one knows how much fun I had.
I eventually got tired and decided so to climb a steep tree. It’s given that “fatty” could not come up my spot. The gang soon joined me up while Sam begged and waited repeatedly. That bored me a bit. I asked him to go near the base of the tree so I could return his footwear. Looking up with swollen eyes, he did. At that moment, I could not think of any special finish to the prank but to hurl the slippers straight to his expecting face. A perfect ending to the scene. Sam ran home crying while my gang savored the taste of victory.
Half an hour passed and a neighbor came looking for me. I thought my aunt found out about the mischief but it was actually Sam’s mom who summoned. That’s worse, I guess. I haven’t met the woman and had no idea how to speak out. Rather, I couldn’t come up with an excuse to avoid getting blamed.
We reached the residence and stopped at the door. Our neighbor pushed me lightly. I think he was making sure that I don’t run away. He rang the bell. My senses were alert. My throat was dry. I could hear my heartbeat in sync with the sound of footsteps at the other side. Slow and heavy steps. The door knob turned and the door opened.
Right before me, she appeared. Her smile was sweet and her voice sounded friendly, “Are you Romeo?”
“Er, yes ma’am”, I softly replied.
She paused for a moment but it felt a lot longer. I was expecting a look of hurt. Even disdain. But it was neither. That was something else. Something new to me. Something I never felt from others before.
Out of thousands of negatives she could bestow. But why?
I didn’t have the liberty to ponder further for she called Sam to the door. Still with swollen eyes, he came. He was carrying something. A fish in a bowl. A gold fish. He stopped beside his mom and looked into her eyes for confirmation. Then, he carefully extended his arms to me.
“Sam wants you to have it”, his mom said.
Confusion. Mixed feelings. What?! Were they being sarcastic? Clearly, she didn’t understand, right? Or did she?
“Keep it as a sign of friendship with my son, Romeo.”
My heart melted right there and then. My mind could not fathom what was happening. I knew I had to think of an explanation for such but nothing came out. My mind was clouded but my heart had spoken on behalf of it.
That was kindness at its best in the hardest possible time to offer. That time, being given to someone unworthy.
I didn’t know that I could utter those words. While looking at Sam then at his mom, I accepted the gift. They both smiled and closed the door slowly.
Trudging along the path to our house, I kept on looking at the fish. It’s very rarely that I receive presents even during my birthdays. I felt undeserving.
The fish kept on swimming actively without stopping. And then it hit. It was like me – bursting with energy, oblivious of the surroundings. Alone in a cage of glass. That moment, it changed something inside of me. I kept on looking at the fish and thought of something fun. I named it “Islander”, after the make of Sam’s footwear.
A week after, I have learned that Sam’s family had moved. I didn’t know any other information about them. I did not get the chance to apologize or make up for the bullying. Up to this day, I never got to say sorry.
To me, Islander the Gold Fish will ever be a reminder of the Golden Rule. I guess that’s the message Sam’s mom wanted to impart. She had thousands of choices and in fact had every right to scold, hurt or embarrass me. But she chose the most powerful of all. By showing kindness in the most impossible time.
This undeniable experience had polished my perception of humanity. That there is no such person as freak or odd. That nobody has the right to claim one’s happiness, peace, or body. That we are all worthy to live a happy and fruitful life.
And finally, that we all deserved to be understood, forgiven and loved.