My American friend

When I first saw him, he was so shy. Confused and lost, I immediately knew how he felt for I was in the same position just last year. Same as him, I couldn’t understand nor speak a word of French. Sadly for my new friend, he would suffer the same fate as I was facing at the time. Our bond was close sadly to the fact we were both forced to face our teacher’s wrath.

He was the person I have been waiting for, a friendship like no other. We were so similar which strengthened our bond further ; he was African American, I was African European, we were both coloured and quite simply foreigners in Switzerland. Our only difference was our personality: I was quite tough, he was shy, I was a tomboy, he was sweet and lovely. We were such polar opposite which is why our friendship was strong as we completed each other. I learned that his parents moved from America to work for the UN in Geneva. I also found out Geneva was the home of many international organisations.

As mentioned previously, I got on with boys better so I was the perfect friend for my new American friend. He was so different to the other boys for he wasn’t rough, wasn’t interested in rough games. Instead, he was so polite in other words the perfect gentleman. The funny thing is he was the way I should be really considering I was a girl, I am sure the way my teacher and nuns wanted me to be instead of being troublesome. I just enjoyed his company so much as he was an angel.

My French was getting better and stronger but I still struggled in class. I still faced bad treatment from the teacher. I started to get used to it somehow. However my friend didn’t. He equally was struggling in class too. The language was such a barrier for him. In a sad way, I was glad to share my misfortune with someone. I wasn’t alone anymore. The great thing in our friendship, I used to stand up for him, I was there for him. Sadly not in class. I was powerless against the teacher. In class, we were simply on the same level than in the playground. I never liked to see him cry when the teacher started to mistreat him too which happened often. He was an easy prey for the teacher to draw her claws on. What an awful sight for all to see. Sadly for him, and me the worst was still to come.

During the Escalade party, an annual celebration in Geneva in December, as we were all dressed up in costumes and about to celebrate, we had to all sit down in a circle as the teacher gave us our report cards. I wasn’t expecting much since I was the weakest in the whole class each time my report card was coldly given to me. Her way to hand it to us was to call out the strongest in the class to the weakest. She used to give so much praise to the fortunate pupils who always exceed expectations. Oddly, she would give words of encouragements for those to do better. To me, only disappointment in her eyes which spoke volumes. To pupils like me, we represented embarrassment simply because we were not performing well academically. I was not even given an eye contact at times. The worst also was being ignored in class. In a way I preferred when she shouted at me rather than being brushed aside like a rotten fruit. So, as per usual, she gave the report cards from the strongest to weakest with either words of praise or encouragement. Once everyone received their report card with either comments , it was left with me and my American friend. We anxiously looked at each other gulping so loud I was sure everyone could hear. My heart was beating so fast it could burst at any given moment. Then the demon looked at us, her eyes fixated to us like bullets ready to shoot us. She called out our names sharply and ferociously. Hesitantly, we got up slowly as if it took us hours to do so. As we were nervously walking towards her, it felt like we were walking the plank. I could feel everyone’s eyes on us, staring at us. The silence in the room was so deafening. At one point, I forgot about my report card and seemed we were getting punished after being caught doing something very bad. What happened next was something that up to now never happened to me before, the most degrading treatment I could ever receive. It was not to be the last.

The teacher without a word, threw our report cards on the floor. She didn’t even bother giving us eye contact for comfort. The rest of the class still seated like an audience were whispering. I could hear some of them mocking us. Swiftly, I quickly grabbed my report card from the floor and went back to my spot. The pupils slowly removed themselves next to me as if I was contaminated. My report card seemed to be the contamination as everyone looked at it, with the result clearly displayed at the front. At that moment, I looked up and felt all eyes on me again. I wish for a moment I was someone else. Someone who was praised or encouraged and not treated like dirt. I returned my eyes on the floor as the humiliation gripped my whole body. I heard sobbing and my attention turned to my American friend. He was kneeling in front of his report card, unable to control his despair. The teacher stood up and left him there and asked us all to go and resume the celebration of the Escalade where the eldest and youngest in the class break a chocolate pot. As the eldest in the class, I was never able to do so because of my poor achievement in class. I knew what happened last time when I tried to point that fact out and was immediately not considered again. As everyone gathered in front of the table, I looked back at my friend, still kneeling and crying in front of his report card. I really wanted to be there for him, like I do when we are in the playground when others try to tease him but don’t dare because I always had his back. The difference in class, I was used to this type of humiliation that seems to always be lurking in class. He clearly wasn’t and it was clear for all to see. He was murmuring and calling out for his mum. My heart broke and yet I was so powerless to do anything as I knew my teacher so well. She would use any excuse to humiliate me or shout at me. I hated that I was frozen and not in control of my movement. Fear blocked my feet to even consider walking towards my distraught friend. I wish I consoled him at least. Yet again, fear blocked my voice. I wish our friendship was telepathic where I could communicate with my mind so I could have been there for him. Other pupils were now pointing at him and laughing to the amusement of my teacher. She made no effort in hiding it. Her amused smile was clearly displayed like a poster. I wasn’t laughing nor pointing, I was sad and soon my sadness turned to anger. My hand turned into a ball of fist. He was facing his back to us and he was still calling for his mum while covering his face with his hands. His tears marking the floor. Then, he was rocking back and forth non stop. No one had the guts to console him. I was the biggest coward of all. Tough outside in the playground yet chicken in class. Everyone knew that.Today I deeply regret my actions as I should or could have done more for him.

When it was time to go home, the cold air rampaged through the classroom and making us shiver reminding me of the horrible day I ever had so far in Geneva. Winters in Geneva were always so cold anyway. I was always the last to leave as my mum worked in the school. I sat quietly waiting for her staring at my report card. I knew she would be disappointed too. My friend was still upset and his eyes were so red and swollen it was a painful sight. We were both staring at each other when everyone left the classroom. Our stare spoke a thousand words. I saw disappointment in his eyes too. I wasn’t sure if it was towards me or himself. Suddenly, his mum came rushing. She was so elegant. Immediately, when he saw his mum, my friend rushed to his mum and cried his eyes out again. His mum got down on her knees to console him, something I wish I did. Questions and worries appeared on her confused face. Looking for answers, the teacher simply looked unimpressed without saying a word and returned to her desk. As my friend and his mum left, my mum came to pick me up. The teacher dismissed me with a smile like nothing happened. I took her rare smile like a comfort and words of encouragement while reminding myself I should to better. My mum saw my report card and obviously was disappointed but encouraged me as always. I wish I could do better. I wanted to forget that day badly, sadly what happened that day would be the talk of the school as the very next day, all hell will break loose.

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