The Fat Kid

The Fat Kid

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future

The Fat Kid

If we really want to love, we must learn to forgive.

~Mother Teresa

“Recess!” one boy yelled. Lines formed quickly, but I stayed at the end. Looking down, hands in my pockets, I kicked rocks across the blacktop. I watched the boys play basketball as the girls looked on. They did not know who I was. I wondered whether I should ask to play, but just then Joe hit the ground. He limped to the side of the court with help from a teammate.

“Hey, you want to play?” asked John, his team now short a man. John was a tall, skinny boy everyone liked. He was one of the most athletic kids in my grade.

“Umm, I’ll play the next game,” I said as I sat watching. That’s all I ever did — watch.

The next day, science, math, social studies, and English passed as usual, and I sat with friends eating lunch.

“Are you going to play basketball with us today?” asked John. “Joe is still hurt.”

“Yeah, I’ll try it today,” I said nervously, knowing what would happen.

Lunch ended, and the lines to go outside formed even faster than the day before. John called me to the hoop, and I walked over slowly, peering out of the corner of my eye at the girls watching. I saw one of them point at me, but I kept walking.

The game started, and everything was okay. I made a few baskets, and, as one of the tallest kids, I got a lot of rebounds. Although this was only recess basketball, I felt like I could play for the New York Knicks. The day was perfect, and after watching for all those hours, I was glad to finally play.

The girls came over. I tried not to make eye contact, but it was difficult not to. A group of them chanted “Fat @$$” and “Lard @$$,” but I kept playing.

During the next period, I sat with my head on the desk. I didn’t want those girls to know they’d gotten to me. I would laugh at anything just to put it out of my head. I kept hearing their words, though, and felt myself shatter completely.

I went home on the bus that day with my head leaning against the window. My mom was waiting at my stop. I walked to her and gave her a hug, sobbing. I told her they’d made fun of me again. I told her I wished I was thin, and that kids weren’t so mean to me. Even though I did have friends, I felt like I didn’t and never would because people saw me as fat before they got to know me.

I fell asleep that night wondering what it would be like if I were a skinny, handsome boy. I was jealous of all the kids who were never teased and had everything easy. No one I knew got teased the way I did. Maybe it was a good thing. Maybe, I thought, maybe it will make me mellow when I grow up. But now, I was the boy no girls ever looked at.

A few years later, I went to a sports camp with activities every second we were awake. In the beginning, I was the same “fat kid” I was at school. But, week by week, the pounds came off. When my mom visited after five weeks, she couldn’t get over how I looked and told me I must have dropped at least fifteen pounds. I felt great. Three years of camp passed, and I dropped more and more weight. Each summer I came home a different person.

One day at school, I saw an overweight boy walking through the hall with his head down, trying not to make eye contact. I thought that maybe he had been teased like I had been and just couldn’t take it. I wondered if he was crying like I once had.

The next day, I saw him again. “You’re so fat!” yelled a boy. “You’re the fattest kid I’ve ever seen!” taunted another as he shoved him against the locker. My good friends, ones I had known since I was little, were teasing this boy and calling him the same names that had traumatized me through the years. Upset, I went over to them.

“Get away from him!” I screamed. “What did he ever do to you?”

Although they walked away, I didn’t think they got the message that words hurt. The boy looked at me, smiled, and said thanks, and then walked to his next class. He never looked back; he just kept walking through the hallway. This time, though, he walked with his head up.

~David Gelbard

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