You Don‘t Need a Hero if You Have Friends
So that’s him, the worst thug of the grade. He doesn’t look that dangerous. My throat tightens anyway when I see Marc heading in his direction. Marc is the head of the mobbing trio that made my life hell the past two years. I couldn’t take a single step without being bombarded with insults, without clenching my fists in my pockets, without helpless fury. And now this.
As soon as the trio is dispersed, Robin shows up. Always involved in fistfights. Last year he even broke a fellow student’s nose. If he joins up with Marc, I’m history; I won’t just be insulted, but beat up as well.
“You’re no victim,” my parents told me. “What they say are lies. You’re a great guy, just the way you are.” I want to believe that. I don’t want to listen to Marc and feel worthless. I want to stand up for myself! How often did I wish some super hero would zoom in and take that mobbing trio apart?
Never happened, though.
“Yo, nose breaker, if you try that on me, I’ll fix you!” I hear Marc yell. He’s laughing stupidly and showing Robin the finger. I break out in a cold sweat and start to tremble. Get out of here. The fight is going to start any second. But my feet are glued to the spot. I stand motionless and stare at Robin, wait for his reaction. He doesn’t start hitting right away. Instead, he’s grinding his teeth. His eyes are swimming. His fingers grab the strap of his school bag so tightly that his knuckles turn white. He shakes his head imperceptibly. And suddenly I know it. He doesn’t want this. He’s no fighter. Marc continues to provoke him, laughs at him, insults him. It’s not fair to pick on someone
until he freaks out, only to say he’s dangerous! I get angry. Before I know what I’m doing I’m standing between Robin and Marc.
“Leave him alone,” I say.
“What do you want, nobody? No one cares what you think!” The words pierce me searingly, but I don’t want to believe them anymore. It’s enough now. I push Marc away.
“Leave him alone,” I repeat and notice how hot I get with nerves. Marc freaks out. He wants to hit me, but I keep him at arm’s length. It drives him crazy that he’s shorter than I and can’t reach me.
He insults me again and I lose control. I hit him. When a teacher shows up, Marc is on the floor, howling. He’s a lot better at dishing out than receiving. Robin tells what happened. The teacher looks at me in surprise. I feel his respect because I stood up for my fellow student. I get a punishment, anyway. Marc does, too. Fighting is no solution. I agree. I didn’t want this. But I’m no victim. Nobody is. While I scrub the hallway after school, I’m kind of proud of myself. Now Robin knows he’s got a friend in his class, someone who will stand up for him. Am I his hero? I chuckle.
No, you don’t need a hero if you have friends.
Annette Spratte lives in Altenkirchen, Germany, with her husband and two sons. She is an author and translator and usually hides in her house for the duration of the Karneval season every year, although she enjoyed it as a child. The forced hilarity combined with excessive drinking really puts her off. And the music is simply insufferable. For the rest of the year, Germans are very nice people, though.