Today I will not be interviewing authors, but instead, the three main characters in the MORIUM trilogy. I will talk to them about what it’s like to be bullied, how they deal with it, and how it affects them emotionally.
I sat down with Lexi and Nathan first. I met them in their hometown of Westview, Illinois, which is nested a little more than an hour’s drive from St. Louis. This is what you would consider to be the perfect small town U.S.A. It has your typical main street filled with small family owned shops, a movie theater that has only one screen, and a family restaurant owned by Nathan’s parents. Two subdivisions of homes while the rest of the houses are scattered around the town. It’s a middle-class town where most of the residents make the hour drive into St. Louis to work and support their families.
Westview prides itself on its High School football team; the Wildcats. The players are treated with such high respect, almost to the point of obsession. Their fellow students look up to them, treat them as royalty and follow their lead.
I met the close friends in a small coffee shop amply called, The Coffee Shop. It was unusually quiet for this Sunday afternoon with only a few older residents filling the seats. I could tell the difference in their attitudes and feelings right away without them saying a word. Nathan appeared to be anxious; nervous. His left leg bounced and you can see anger in his eyes. He talked in a frustrating tone, while at times looking back over his shoulder, as if he was waiting for something to happen. Lexi kept her head down, her black hair covered the right side of her face as she stared fixedly at her hands. Only a few times would she brush her hair behind her ear and look at me while we talked. She was very soft spoken and shy.
You were bullied by some of your schoolmates. Why didn’t you tell anyone about it?
Lexi: “What difference would it make?
Nathan: “Yeah, it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference. Who would they believe? The jerks who cannot do anything wrong in their eyes, or us? Besides, if we said anything, they would only act out worse against us and honestly, I’ll have brain damage for having my head slammed into lockers before they’d do anything.
Lexi: “You know, you can only be called useless and a piece of crap for so long before you give up and start believing that it may be true. You lose hope that anyone can do anything to make it stop.”
Nathan: “You know you’re not Lex. This town treats these assholes like they were Kings and Queens. They can never do no wrong. If they only knew how bad they were, everybody may look at them differently, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”
Lexi: “We are almost done with High School. After that, we don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Have you ever tried to fight back and defend yourself?
Lexi: “No. I don’t want any more thrown back at me. I just want to be left alone.”
Nathan: “I would get my ass beaten if I tried. If I had the strength to stand up for the two of us? I wouldn’t think twice about giving them what they deserve.”
I know being bullied is hard… How has it affected your life?
Nathan: “I get frustrated. Angry. Why me? I did nothing to them to deserve the shit I get almost every day. As if that’s not enough, I have nobody at home to talk to because my parents are always at work. I just let it sit inside me, you know. What else can I do?”
Lexi: “I get really depressed about it and at times I just hate myself. I would talk to my dad, but he’s been going through a lot and I don’t want to burden him with my problems. My mom died a year ago, so he has his own stuff to deal with.
How do you cope with the endless humiliation in school?
Nathan: “I just take it all in. There’s nothing I can do. I try to get through the day the best I can. I get anxious, my nerves get out of control and I count the hours…. no… down to the minutes until the final bell rings.”
Lexi: “I have my own way of dealing with it.” (Lexi rubs her upper arm)
If you can do it all over again, would you have reacted differently to the bullies?
Lexi: “I don’t think about it. This is reality now and it’s too late to do anything, so why look at the past?”
Nathan: “Really Lex? You don’t think about what you could have done differently?”
Lexi: “No. What difference would it make to think about something that cannot change?”
Nathan: “Well I do. I would have stood up for myself. Once they knew they could mess with me and get away with it, I was fair game.”
If your parents knew, how do you think they’ll react?
Lexi: “Dad would be upset, no, pissed. Maybe someday in the future when things are better for us, I will let him know what I went through. Until then, it’s something I have to hide.”
Nathan: “I don’t know honestly. Sometimes I don’t even know who they are.”
Are you two in love with each other? Are you dating?
Nathan: “Do you want to answer that one Lex?”
Lexi: “No, I’ll let you.”
Nathan: “We dated a few years back. We’ve been good friends for so long that we found dating a little… odd.”
Lexi: “Is that how you describe it?” (Laughing)
Nathan: “How else would you put it?”
Lexi: “When we kissed, didn’t it seem weird?”
Nathan: “Yeah, I guess.” (Fake smile from him)
If you had the means of getting back to these bullies, will you take revenge?
Lexi: “What would getting back at them accomplish? I would be no better than they are.”
Nathan: “Maybe that is what they need. To have thrown back at them. To see how they like it.”
Do you have any advice for teenagers who are in the same situation as you?
Nathan: “Don’t let them get the better of you. Stand up for yourself. Don’t let them control your lives cause once you give in, you’re at their mercy.”
Lexi: “I agree with what Nathan said. It’s tough, it can be demeaning. Don’t let it get as bad as it is now for us. Tell somebody. Your parents. Your teachers. It has caused the two of us to become shells of our former selves.”
Stacy Bishop was the complete opposite of her two friends. Transferring to Westview High over a year ago, Stacy had the big city attitude. She was fun to talk to, often veering away from the discussion to chat about something completely unrelated. She spoke her mind no matter how vulgar it may be.
How did you become friends with Lexi and Nathan?
“I moved to Westview a year ago. I was the odd one out, just look at me. (She stands up, showing off her torn jeans, British flag t-shirt, and her wrist covered with different colored bracelets.) I saw Lexi sitting alone in the corner of one of my classes and she looked so helpless. I knew what she was going through, so I told her to text me one day. She was very quiet at first, only saying a few words while I spouted off. After a while she opened up and we became close friends. She is such a beautiful person, and it breaks my heart to see what she goes through
Nathan, well, he came as a package deal with Lexi, LOL. He’s a great guy, though he’s like a scared little mouse when he’s around me.”
Did you experience being bullied too?
“Yeah, but I’ve learned to deal with it in my own way. I don’t give the bitches the satisfaction of knowing that their words do hurt. I’ll give them shit right back, I don’t give a damn. I always stick up for Lexi since she doesn’t have the courage to do it. I love that girl and I would take the blunt of her abuse if could.”
Are you a Lesbian like they say?
“Did somebody ask you to say that? Do I look like a lesbo? Maddie and Tiffany always say that Lexi and I are a couple. Just because I think highly of Lexi doesn’t mean that I am in love with her. I mean, shit, I do love her, but in a friend kind of way, you know? But what if I was in love with her? Would that make me a bad person? My parents have always been afraid I was one of them, like it was some kind of freakin’ curse, or sick disease. Love is love right?”
What do you think about these school bullies?
“They’re messed up. They get their sick kicks by making others feel bad. They hide their own screwed up life by making others more miserable than they are.”
Your friends Lexi and Nathan seemed to have had a terrible time in school. If they did something to avenge themselves, how would you react?
***Laughing. “I don’t think they have it in them, especially Lexi. If they did, they would need some kind of superhero powers. I just can’t imagine it. I think Nathan would be the one to strike back and kick their asses, and I wouldn’t mind being there when he did.”
What advice do you have for teenagers who are being victimized by bullies?
Stand up for yourselves. You don’t have to take it until you can’t anymore. Don’t be afraid to seek help no matter what. Do something before it’s too late.
Driving out of Westview, I looked out at the endless countryside, my thoughts drifting to the three close friends I had the pleasure of talking to. My heart went out to them, for one can see the emotional damage inflicted on these teenagers at such a young age. The fear, the distrust and sorrow broke my heart the more they spoke. They wanted a better life. They dreamt of a world where they could have gone to school without torment; without humiliation. Most teenagers don’t even concern themselves with these problems. Yet to Lexi, Nathan and Stacy, victims of bullying, the lasting effects of their experience will be issues that they’d have to deal with for the rest of their life.