"When I'm online, I can be anyone I want to be, I don't have to be me." The psychiatrist scratched into his notepad for a few seconds, and then looked up at me. The look on his face showed that this wasn't new to him; he obviously heard it all the time. He clears his throat, and looks me dead in the eye, evidently trying to seize me up. "Alright then Anthony, can you please start at the beginning again please? I need to collect my thoughts." I swallow, and try and send my mind back to the events of the past few years:
My name is Anthony Wandin, I am 15 years of age and for the past three months I've been visiting hell, daily. Hell, also known as Jamestown Boys College. Prior to my arrival at Jamestown, I'd had a fairly average life; I went to primary school, was close to my family, had a few good friends and so on. I was happy. Things changed though, when I was one of the 'lucky' few that was bright enough to get a scholarship to Jamestown. I had been excited, I would be going to a private school, in which I could study into my interests (computers) and my talents would be 'nurtured'. These positive feelings were soon obliterated, my first day of school was one of the worst days of my life. I had never heard the word 'nigger' before that day, but by the end of it I'd heard it more times than I could count. I didn't get it, I hadn't done anything to them, I came to school on the first day ,just the same as them but apparently my skin tone immediately made me different. And of course, difference was wrong. I...
All of a sudden words just stop coming out of my mouth. I look up at the psychiatrist, who is furiously scratching into his notebook, and when he is finished, he looks up at me.
" That's fine Anthony, I think I understand what you're saying. Now, sorry to push you, but I need to know more about the actual problem at hand here, would you mind telling me about that?" I look at him and slowly start again.
As I said, school is hell for me. I constantly hear whispers behind my back, laughter and half-concealed slurs. In class, even if I know the answer, I can never raise my hand; I'm too scared to find out the consequences. On top of this, I can't do anything extra-curricular. I can't get into any sports teams, any clubs, even the performing arts program won't have me. Because of all this, I have no friends to hang out with during my spare time. So, I spend my time on my computer. I can talk to people on forums and chat rooms, I can actually have conversations with them! When I play games, no one thinks I'm bad because of my skin. The internet is my safe haven.
" Yes, but it's not healthy Anthony," he says to me, his face hard, but I can see sympathy in his eyes.
"But there's nothing else I can do," I say, feeling helpless," you can't take my computer away! It's my freedom..."
"Anthony..." he begins, but chokes on his words. He sighs, " Look, I won't take it away, but seriously, your parents are worried for you. Try speaking out a bit more, people can't be that bad."
I stare at him
" Uh, that'll do for today, we'll meet again next week."
I look up at him, and walk out, saying nothing
1 week later.
The look of shock on the psychiatrist's face tells me that my face looks no better than it did this morning.
" Oh god Anthony, what happened?"
" I took your advice," I say grimly.
" I am so sorry, please, I never thought..."
" It's fine," I sit down, " I won't hold it against you. Before it happened I thought you were right, that I was overreacting. I guess now we know..."
" I don't know what to say..." he still appeared stunned, " can we not tell anyone about this?
" I'm too scared to talk out; you know how it is with snitches."
" Well, how about we have a little chat, and see where that takes us?"
We talk, about nothing in particular, but the topic keeps coming back to my life, and the ideas of racism in general. We speak until my time is just about up, when he puts down his notebook.
" Look, Anthony, I know we're taking this lightly, but this is serious. Keep your head down for this next week, use your computer as your escape again if you can, but just...don't get yourself into any more trouble. I'll see what I can do."
"Yes sir, thank you." I nod and briskly leave the room
Another week passes
When I enter the room after another week, it's like no time has passed. We sit down and just start talking.
I tell him about my week, I'd laid low and nothing too much had happened. From there we talk about things so insignificant, but they obviously mean something, because he notes them down as always. As our talk begins to thin, I hear a soft knocking on the door. The psychiatrist gets up and opens the door. In walks a girl. She's small, but not childlike. I judge her to be about my age, maybe a little younger. She has straight black hair and a slightly delicate look about her. She smiles a small smile when she sees me
" Anthony, this is Maya, she is another patient of mine, and she lives in the area. She's in a similar boat to you, and whilst she hasn't been physically hurt, she's not in a good place. I thought the two of could chat." He smiles at both of us.
I look at her, and... don't really know what to say. She saves me though.
"So Anthony, what are you into?"
It's just one simple question but in the spectrum of my life, it means a lot.
We start to talk, first about ourselves (I spend a good while gushing about computers!) but then about our problems. We end up talking for hours about what it's like at school, and life in general. Before I know it, my time 'with the psychiatrist' is over.
"I'll see you again next week Anthony" he says to me.
" Me too, hopefully," Maya says quietly.
A week passes
Another week, I lie low and stay out of trouble. The time seems to drag, the next session can't come quickly enough. I arrive, and have my weekly chat with the psychiatrist, and then Maya comes in. This time, we get straight into our conversation, it feels like we've known each other forever. With 10 minutes until the end of my session, the psychiatrist speaks up.
" It seems like I've done my job," he says with a smile on his face.
We both look at him, questioning.
" I feel like we're all done here, you don't need any more sessions with me. If you ever need someone else to chat with, you know my number."
He smiles, shakes my hand, hugs Maya and leaves us.
2 months later
I haven't seen the psychiatrist since that day, though I have spoken to him a few times via email. School is still a pain, but I soldier through it. The other boys have more or less stopped with the harassment; they got bored of it when I stopped reacting to it. I've just learned to turn away from it, I now understand that people are idiots, and I can't stop that. One person has helped me realise this. Maya is my best friend, we speak almost every day and catch up in any spare moment we can. We still feel the effects of racism every now and then, and we hear about reports of it on the news, it sickens us but together we manage to fight through it. The world isn't going to change easily, but if we are together we can try and make a small difference. We can change our little part of the world for the better.