The White Room: The Color of Bullying

white roomWhat is the color of cruelty? Is there a hue to spite? Has unkindness a flavor, an aura?

Bullying is more than hits to the psyche, far more than pricks to fragile egos. It is abuse, at a systemic level that touches on the metaphysical.

Bullying has a physicality that is difficult to explain, it’s a crushing weight, an affirmation of being unworthy. It informs the unfinished clay of maturation, easing in distortions and untruths and dislocations that allow slippage along fault lines whose stresses build and build and build until nothing, and no one, can gainsay the pressure.

Bullying builds on a foundation of dysfunction, on differences, on power … on who has it and who doesn’t. It creates helplessness where none exists, it is leadership through vindictiveness, enabling and propagating a culture of exclusion. It is class warfare on a primal level we can barely fathom as adults.

It is like being locked in a white room with no exit, no windows, no doors, suspended in an eternity of agony.

 I know this. I was bullied, mercilessly, in a time when it was an acceptable rite of passage, its delivery unsophisticated by today’s standards, yet just as crushing, as damaging as anything inflicted by the herd dynamics of modern techno-bullies.

aloneThe note was passed, hand-to-hand, on the offside of the line of desks, the teacher cater-corner to the rows, under the tall windows with the late sun slanting in.

Soft titterings wavered in the still air, heads dutifully bent over the assignment, a simple number substitution, so easy as to be of no consequence.

My penance was patience. I’d completed all the end-of-chapter assignments within three weeks so I sat with hands folded, staring out the window, daydreaming.

As long as I did nothing to disrupt whatever the teacher did during those quiet times, he cared little. He knew about the note, his eyes betraying his interest.

It’s odd what you remember … not her name, but her long blond hair, dazzling in curls and barrettes, swishing side-to-side in front of me. Glancing back she smirked and handed the scrap of paper into my willing hands, a link in a chain gang of mischief. I passed it on the boy behind me.

We were stacked by height, short to tall, bodies shuffled to distribute the troublemakers evenly about the room, as if that dissemination of evil would even remotely impede its execution.

Even today I feel the twitch of muscle, his forefinger jamming my shoulder, the paper fluttering by my elbow.

It was for me.

At fourteen tears come easily. But not when every head in the room turns, when every eye glints with impatience to see a reaction.

 I-survivedThey shut me in that white room, the glare of spotlights illuminating every deficiency, real and imagined.

I colored those walls with the crimson haze of rage, the amethyst of despair, the ginger of madness and the saccharine pale hues of becoming.

I survived.

If I’d chosen the way of so many other young men and women subjected to this form of social torture, I would not have been missed. I’d already been judged and found wanting.

Because, back then, no one spoke for the helpless, no one stood for them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We have the tools, the mechanism, to put a stop to this disease that ravishes our schools and neighborhoods, that stalks the young, the old, the lonely cocooned behind screens that savage rather than protect.

images (3)We need to teach our youngsters about consequences.

Because if we do nothing, the next child who succumbs to the terrorism of bullying might be yours.

It’s time to paint that white room with the color of hope.

Author: Nya Rawlyns

Crossing boundaries, taking no prisoners. Write what’s in your soul. It’s the bass beat, the heartbeat, the lyrics rude and true. Nya Rawlyns cut her teeth on sports-themed romantic comedies and historical romances before finding her true calling in the wilderness areas she has visited but calls “home” in that place that counts the most: the heart. She has lived in the country and on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, earned more than 1000 miles in competitive trail and endurance racing, taught Political Science to unwilling freshmen, and found an avocation in materials science. When she isn’t tending to her garden or the horses, the cats, or three pervert parakeets, she can be found day dreaming and listening to the voices in her head.

Share This Post On


  1. I am beyond glad you did not give in – that you were stronger, prouder, better than all of them that day and every day after. What I don’t understand about today’s bullying is that it seems no different from what you, or I, or anyone suffered during our own school days (no matter how distant they may seem now, those memories are still as painful as they were then, still as brightly etched, never to fade from our consciousness) and yet … it IS different, because children are choosing to end their own lives rather than face it. I suppose it’s because of the idea that whatever ‘fault’ it is for which the person is being judged, it does not stay within that circle of evil. It gets spread out, via cell phone cameras and social network posts, and I suppose – though I cannot say with any certainty – that would have made my own shame too much to bear. Maybe.

    I was there more than once on that edge, though I only attempted the deed once. Most often during my childhood, I would stare accusingly at the spires of whatever church was attached to my parochial school at the time, and demand to know why I wasn’t being allowed to die, as my twin had. That God, to whom we were supposed to open our hearts (and yet, at the same time, also fear, for was He not, in Catholic teachings at least, painted as the ultimate bully, who knew all of our filthy little secrets, and could send us to burn in Hell for eternity if we were found wanting?) took her protection away from me, and yet had seen fit to allow my younger siblings (also twins) to retain theirs. Why wouldn’t he let me die? Why wouldn’t he make it stop?

    I know why now, of course. It took me sixteen years to find out, maybe eight of which was spent actually looking, and I am luckier than most in that regard.

    But I didn’t know, then. I didn’t know when it would ease (because it hasn’t stopped; it’s just grown easier to ignore, even though they’ve moved on, have the bullies of the world, from making fun of my appearance to attacking my sexuality) and all I wanted was to find the end.

    Those poor children who have taken their own lives thought there would BE no end. I wish I could go to all of them, right before they cement that decision in their minds, and whisper that there IS an end, that there will BE protection from the hate and the hurt – just hold your hands out, and mine will be there. Because I wished someone would have done that for me when I needed it most, I wish I could do it for them. For all of them, both living and gone.

    Maybe this rise of social media has its good side. While it has definitely contributed to the rise of shame until it is, for some, too high to bear, it has also contributed to awareness. We are more aware now (because everything is in our faces, for good and bad, all the time) of the secret notes, full of pain, and the intimidation. Maybe, in time, we can stop it.

    Maybe. I hope so.

    Post a Reply
  2. A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. I was bullied too, not so directly but in pervasive and heartbreaking ways.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eleven − 7 =