Give a cheer for all the broken

**TW/CW: Discussion of depression, bullying, suicidal ideation/suicide

*Originally published in 13th Floor, spring 2014

Hold on. And you don’t know what you’re waiting for, but you don’t want to know more. Hold on.

From Hold On by Good Charlotte

Slipping into the forgotten, hearing only the silence, too many seek the solace of whispered graves. We see you, we know you, but ignorance is our bliss as another percentage piles at our feet.

The band leads with a tune slightly off key. A melody with no harmony begins the black parade.

Echoes of introspection radiate on faces of a studio audience as Madonna speaks against bullying on TV. She shames with her speech about acceptance.

I shutter remembering a face full of pain, hoping only for a friend. A little girl, innocent and sweet, who braved school despite the mocking jeers of classmates; her tear-stained face pops into my head. My memory forges up the day I pricked her with a needle, and we laughed as tears rimmed her eyes.

Cut my life into pieces

This is my last resort

Suffocation, No breathing

Don’t give a fuck if I cut my arm bleeding

Do you even care if I die bleeding?

Acceptance means following the crowd. As a group, we don’t feel the sting of loneliness.

Eventually I stepped out of this role, but an isolation replaced acceptance. I walked the halls and knew the cruelty of adolescence. The pain of being different is not easy to bear.

The bell rang for recess, and Mrs. Petat’s second-grade class came to attention. Each child sat still, but our pent-up energy raced around our features. A hushed frenzy waiting to explode.

We rushed in lines of order as our teacher released the class. The barrel of balls and jump ropes emptied in a succinct fashion. Reaching the door to the playground, our line of whispered buzzing erupted into shouts and giggles as we stormed the yard.

Sarah tossed me the end of a long red jump rope, and we started the ancient swing known to children world-round.

Laurie jumped in first as the chant began. Soon I rolled into a well-oiled maneuver. The motion of the swing remained steady while Laurie and I jumped in unison.

I jumped in and out never skipping a beat. We laughed and shouted as each girl took her turn, and our chant mingled through the noisy playground.

Laurie and Chandra replaced Sarah and I as we kept the motion, never skipping a beat. Sarah and I danced to the back of the line, catching our breath through bursts of giggles.

The rhythm of the chant reverberated through my body, tingling. My long ponytail whipped around my body as I spun on my heel, ready to enter the arching rope spinning round and round.

Giddiness prickled my skin as an effortless leap slid my skinny body into the winding motion of the game. I smiled, but something had changed. The chant was different.

“Di, di, di, Bridgit is diabetic—she is gonna’ die-die-die.”

I glanced at Laurie and Chandra still whipping the rope around. Their faces concentrated on the task at hand, but their mouths wiggled with escaped laughter through the chant.

“Di, di, di, Bridgit is diabetic—she is gonna’ die-die-die.”

My feet scratched against the cement jumping backwards out of the motion. Facing the line of jumpers, their expressions seemed mocking. The chant halted as kids around the playground pointed. A laugh thundered through the yard. Tears nipped my eyes.

A group of boys corralled nearby, snickered. “The DIE-abetic’s gonna’ cry.”

My mouth opened, but words seemed like the enemy at the moment. Holding my breath, trying not to cry, my feet trudged to the edge of the playground. Leaning against the red brick of the school, my body took on the stillness of the stone pricking my back.

A stony isolation left me at the edge, unsure how to find my way back.

Phoebe Prince understood isolation. She took it with her to the grave. In high school, playground politics grow deadly.

A heart pierced with pain, Phoebe gasped for air.

Who knew being beautiful would cost you your life? Jealousy placed the rope around your delicate neck.

Stylish clothes, popular pursuits, they do not bring immediate inclusion. We spent years perfecting the art of judgment and acceptance; now we wonder why bullying has grown, too big to be contained.

E’s Fashion Police blares on the t. vTV. I laugh as Joan Rivers mocks the latest attempt of Milie Cyrus to fit in. Joan’s biting commentary dare anyone to face the world in any garb other than the accepted mode as prescribed by an elite few.

Every day is so wonderful

Then suddenly, it’s hard to breathe

Now and then, I get insecure

From all the pain, I’m so ashamed

We breathe in acceptance and breathe out cruelty. The pumping of our pulse leaps with joy to mock.

Cut- cut down- cut it out- cut to bleed, to feel.

When you grow up,

will you be the savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned?

Will you defeat them,

Your demons, and all the non-believers

The plans that they have made?

Matthew Shepard understood isolation. By birth, he fell to this earth, contaminated with isolation.

Dreams and hopes filled Matthew’s mind, but the intolerance stifled his voice. Shameful and wicked, that is what they told you.

A boy, shameful and wicked, not fit for this world. Shameful and wicked shadowed your every move. Shameful and wicked, your existence was disgusting—you must go.

Was it goodness and purity that stranded you, tied naked to a fence pole?

They took your light allowing ignorance to guide.

I wear purple today in recognition of Stop Bullying Gays day. Purple sweater, purple boots, purple jewelry.

God did not create people only to have them destroyed by hate.

Who are precious in His sight? Love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek and hate the gays. This is the message spread to the ends of the earth.

Molded, shaped and formed, our concepts of Adam and Eve are constructed out of rigid, immoveable material.

Life it seems, will fade away

Drifting further every day

Getting lost within myself

Nothing matters, no one else

I have lost the will to live

Simply nothing more to give

There is nothing more for me

I need the end to set me free

Curled up in a corner on my bed, I sobbed, my head resting on my knees. Screams hovered in my throat. No one to talk to, to cleanse the poison from my soul.

Swollen eyes searched my room for any remnant of hope. I wanted something to tie me to this world, an anchor that made me one of them.

Happiness seemed easy for some. Inclusion was my goal, to be normal. Too much weighed me down; tThese jagged thoughts pierced me to the ground, unable to join the world.

Cruel words piled up like dirt–    Slut, whore, tramp– it did not matter that I was a virgin; the gospel of rumors is truth.

Pink-handled scissors whispered tantalizing possibilities. Suffocating, unable to move, death was inviting. Escaping this enclosure was the relief I sought.

Consumed by emptiness, you sought a final solitude. Unaware of the future, you saw only today. Unable to dry the flow of tears, you stopped the flow of blood. Your enemy’s words were endless, but you deafened the sound with a blow.

The television guides us as Chelsea Handler spews comments searing like acid. Derisive laughter accompanies the jokes made at the expense of others.

We are taught to mock, caring only for our pleasure. We have learned well—grasshoppers , now go forth and spread this message of hate to all who will listen.

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous

Here we are now, entertain us

I feel stupid and contagious

Here we are now, entertain us

I turn the TVt. v. off in disgust. I feel heavy with the guilt of the countless souls I heaped more pain on to. My own past misery, a shared experience, has taught me nothing.

The guys living upstairs sat on their balcony, one crying, one consoling.

Giggles escaped me as I strained to hear what absurdity made a grown man cry into his beer.

“What a wuss,” I said.

“It’s not funny,” Ross, my husband, said.

I turned around to stare at him. “Are you serious?”

“You don’t know what’s wrong, it could be serious.”

“He’s crying like a drunken baby.” I giggled again.

“That’s really insensitive. I’ve been there.”

My giggles cut short. “Like I don’t know hurt and pain?”

“You’re the one laughing.” He walked away.

I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend

You could cut ties with all the lies, that you’ve been living in

And if you do not want to see me again

I would understand

These are the thoughts I ponder. I still fight to accept myself, thrashing my spirit about, but I can no longer live among my own intolerance.

Ripped to tattered pieces, many find no solace. The pain of difference cost much, and many run dry trying to balance the debt.

Hushed for now, wipe the stains from your eyes. Flesh broken and bruised, but alive just the same. Sticks and stones will break my bones, and words will lead to the grave.

Hands will lift you. Rest, but only rest. Walk in the light breaking free of the shadows. Blessed are those who undo the ties that bind.

I unfurl my body out of my downy bed. Limbs stiff, brain roiling in a foggy haze. My body no longer flows from transition-to-transition. It also refuses to slip into size fours with room to move. Blind eyes, stiff muscles, painful joints– my body telling a story. Despite—in spite—I never know—I feel the strength inside.

I’m beautiful in my way

‘Cause God makes no mistakes

I’m on the right track, Baby

I was born this way

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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