Everyone else around the table snickered in agreement.
“Here comes the trainwreck,” the girl sitting across from me blurted, this time a little more loudly and slightly more obnoxiously so that more people would stop what they were doing and stare.
Again, everyone in the group chuckled.
Now all eyes turned toward me. It was apparently my turn to spout an insult.
I glanced down at my feet, not wanting the others to see the uneasiness that was surely displayed on my face.
“Retard,” I finally managed to spit out, just loud enough so that the girls on either side of me would be able to hear. My voice quivered as I uttered the last syllable. It didn’t matter; thankfully no one was able to detect the hesitancy in voice. The girls cackled instantly, as if on cue.
I gazed as the girl we had been bashing quickly got up from the table behind us and walked across the cafeteria and out the door, her chin down, eyes glued to the floor, and hands stuffed in the pockets of her jacket. Even with the deafening sound of chatter and numerous conversions (the typical chaos of fifth period lunch) going on all around me, I was able to hone in on the sound of her progressively rapid footsteps as she walked away.
Every bone in my body ached with guilt.
Every neuron in my brain and every impulse in my body were telling me to jump up and run after that girl, to see if she was okay and to apologize profusely, regardless of whether or not she had heard my remark.
Courage doesn’t always roar. It isn’t always the loudest, most defiant voice. Sometimes courage manifests as a mere thought, a lone voice amongst a legion of opposing ones, urging you to do the right thing. Sometimes this lone voice of reasoning and righteousness is engaged in a battle with those contradictory: those voicing coercing you to stand down and stand back, to stay comfortable, and to take the easy way out. But only when you choose to ignore these voices and instead listen to that one sole voice of defiance do you truly display courage.