Late August in North Carolina. I’m standing outside alone waiting on the school bus. The sun hasn’t even completely came up, and there is a cool breeze: this old lady kept coming out on her front porch to stare at me. If I stay here too much longer she’s going to call the police. I was on my way to Riverside Highscool. It’s a really old school that has always been a juvenile detention center school. Which means, all the kids that got into trouble in regular school too many times got sent there. Now Riverside is supposedly a regular high school. They told my mom that it will be smaller classes, which would give teachers more one on one time with students. They also told her it was going to be a regular high school like any other, just smaller classes. As I stood there waiting, I began thinking about how I didn’t know anything about this school. I didn’t know anyone that went there. I didn’t do any kind of orientation. I honestly didn’t even know where it was, other than it was on a side of town I never go.
I was looking at a car passing by with music so loud it seemed to shake the street. It’s way too early for that. I turn around and the old lady who’s house I’m standing in front of was back outside staring at me. Where is this bus! My mom told me be at the bus stop by 7AM and the bus would be here at 7:15am, its 8am! I know the bus drivers name is supposed to be Charlie. Where is Charlie?
I didn’t know what else to do so I went back home and called my mom. About 30 minutes later I’m with my mom on my way to school. It was a quiet ride, its not going to be quiet for the person that made my mom have to leave work.
As we pull up to the building. My first thoughts were, this is a old building. It looks like something from the 1950s. Probably because it is from the 1950s. Also there was no grass but they had a big lawn of dirt. I thanked my mom and began my journey.
My first stop was the office to find out where to go. The office was so small and the office staff looked like students. “What you need?” That’s what the lady behind the counter asked me kind of aggressively. “What you need?” Is that how the staff talks in high school. ” The school bus never came to pick me up and I need to know where my first class is”. She went to her computer and kind of yelled ” Name, age and grade baby!”.
After I finally got done with the outstanding office staff I had to find my class. The building was so small it was hard to get lost. Room 201 is where I was headed. The school had these tight staircases on both ends of the building. The stairs had fence lining the stairs which made it look like a big cage.
I get to room 201 and when I walked in class was in session. I was completely shocked at what I saw. The students in this class looked at least ten years older than me. Not just one or two of them, all of them. I mean these were grown men. As I settled in my seat, I looked out the window and noticed there were bars on the windows. I remembered the school was a juvenile detention center school, where the kids escaping out of the windows.
This was supposed to be ninth grade Economics class. This looks like a adult Alcohols Anonymous Class. Luckily none of them paid attention to me. Classes are two hours! What!
After two hours of trying to be invisible I was on my way to gym class. I get to the middle of of the caged staircase and a apple flys straight down in front of me and explodes at my feet. One inch to the left or right I’d probably be knocked out cold. I look up to the top of the staircase in anger prepared to say something. Biggie Smalls? I promise I look up and it’s this big man that was the spitting image of Biggie Smalls the Rapper. When I realized how big the guy was who threw it I just kept on moving .
Gym class! Have you ever seen the movie”One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest “? That’s exactly how I felt. I’m looking around trying to take it all in. It’s a guy with what looked like two broken arms that made him look like a praying mantis. One guy had on a big snow jacket zipped up to his neck,its like 90 degrees outside and he’s smiling like a clown. Another guy looks like he’s a ex NFL player that got kicked out for steroids. Then there was a guy that was so skinny I honestly thought he had only a few more days to live. All these guys looked like they were in their late twenties to me. I just turned 13. The coach was this old white man that looked exactly like what you thought a old gym teacher would look like. He had a bullhorn and a walkie talkie.
The coach had us outside playing softball on the first day. It was hot outside and this is when I really realized where the school was. It was I the hood! Now I lived in a bad neighborhood myself but I was familiar with that neighborhood, this was unfamiliar territory. The softball field was more like the schools backyard. It literally was surrounded on all sides by housing projects.
Its lunchtime. Lunch time was when I found out that some of these people were 20 years old ! No wonder they looked so big. All the rest had been at the school when it was a juvenile detention center school, they just got t ok stay because they were of high school age. Before the school at every grade. I thought I was going to “Bayside High” it turned out to be ” Eastside High”. I didn’t even eat I just stood outside alone waiting for my last class.
Time to play ball! So I didn’t realize until I got to school some very important things that if I had known I would have never came here. One was that I’m the one and only freshman in the entire school. Two the school had only African American students other than one white student so far, but there was open enrollment for anyone. I’m black so that’s not the issue, it just through me off. I was used to going to school with all races all my life, but it made me no difference at the moment it just seemed odd to me. Now we’re in the middle of a highly intense game of softball on our raggedy field with old tires and stuff everywhere when, the only white student starts to act odd. The skinny guy I thought was dying was the pitcher, his name was “Blue”. A guy named ” Phyco” was at bat and the only white student was the catcher. The catcher started talking trash ” Hit him with the ball pitcher! Hit him!”. You would think that you shouldn’t talk trash to a guy named ” Psycho ” but he didn’t get the memo. Phyco turned around and said very calmly ” If he hit me with that ball I’m gonna wear yo ass out with this bat”. The pitcher Blue just loved to instigate and be silly all the time, so as soon as he heard him say that,he hit him with the ball. Phyco being a man of his word and apparently his name, turned around and gave the catcher a beat down. Then he ran off into one of the surrounding housing projects. The coach got on his walkie talkie screaming ” CODE RED , CODE RED,MAN DOWN 343, 576!” The police, ambulance and child services came out after that. This is only my second class!
Last class was English. My teacher looked like a loving sitcom mom. She acted like one to. She was one of those ladies that always was laughing as they talked. Everyone liked her and showed her respect. This was one class that the students paid attention and worked.
Last bell! So I’m walking out of class and I hear someone yell “Yo!” I turned just in time to see a water bottle flying at my face. I was always clumsy but I have fast reflexes. I ducked just in time. When I ducked it missed me and hit the librarian right in the lower leg. It seemed like it swept her off her feet. The guy that threw it realized what he did and ran. The librarian was still on the floor as I walked away. When I get outside the guy that threw the bottle comes up to me and says, “my fault dog”. He had turned his coat inside out like that was some kind of disguise from the librarian he hit. I said ” its ok”. What else could I say, this guy was 100 plus pounds more than me and he knows how to throw stuff with extreme force.
My mom picked me up from school after that, she asked me about my day. I didn’t say anything about anything. I just told her it was ok. Why? I thought the school was interesting and I knew she would worry. That was the first day.