10 June, 2018

A Story About A Friend And More

Every year on June 10th, I think about the friend who died at the age of 16. June 10th was her birthday, and all day my family thinks about her. Her name was Amber. That is a reason I don't use the name Amber for any of my books.

I first met her in 4th grade. The very first day, my mother met Amber and her mother. My mother warned me that she may not live long due to how morbidly obese she was.

I think it was pretty sad kind of because everyone in school always picked on her because of her weight. I always felt sorry for her which was why I accepted her. She became obsessed in making friends with the thin, pretty, popular girls. She would try to hang out with them, and did everything they told her to do in order to be friends with them. However, I would overhear the girls talking about her. Of course, it was how fat she was.

The girls would tell her to stop talking to me because they didn't like foreigners. Everyone like today, always assumed I was a foreigner because apparently I behave more like a foreigner than an American. My mother and sister looks foreign as well. This made me a target for racist bullying. It was where girls, and also boys even bullied girls. I was bullied by many boys, even physical bullying. The schools I attended had no diversity at all. It made you feel uncomfortable because all non-Whites and foreigners were subjected to severe bullying and biasness even from teachers.

Before going back to Amber, I must share about the students who were nice to me. They happened to have been foreigners. The closest one was a girl from Somalia. I had the greatest times with her. We joked, we laughed, we had fun and we did almost everything together. Unfortunately, she moved out of the town after a girl pulled off her hijab in class. At the time, there were no Muslims in the town or attending the schools. I was very sad when she moved.

I met a girl from India, but she only lasted a few weeks there. She also moved after a girl bullied her because of her tan skin. She wasn't even that dark, but this girl hated people with any colour to their skin. Like I remember how she often talked to me, but one day the girl explained how she hated dark skinned people. She then told me that she liked me however because I was pale and looked White even though I didn't have a White mother.

I remember a boy and his female cousin from Bosnia. Even though they were European, students still hated them because they were foreigners. The boy took majority of the bullying, who befriended me more than his cousin. Almost everyday, he would be fought. The teachers all pretended not to have seen anything. They would even punish him for the fights even though the other boys started it. I liked his personality, and actually I named a character after him. I did this since I already started a book with Bosnian main characters.

I also named a manga character after a girl from China. I remember her being very quiet and shy. Since I was the same as her, quiet and shy, we really didn't know how to start conversations. Yet, she seemed depressed about being in the school because the students did not like Chinese people.

The one I spent the most time with was with a boy from Mexico and his younger brother. He came over my house almost everyday playing video games, watching movies and tv shows and sitting in the yard. He was very mellow, calm and fun loving. I do remember him also teaching me Spanish. It was very sad, because I found out he lived in an empty house, and his parents neglected him and his brother. That's why he never wanted me to visit his house. I wasn't for sure if he was being abused as well. Well, he said alarming things and I noticed he hated going back home. I wasn't allowed to have boys as friends, but he was really the only boy I was allowed to talk to. I mean I did understand my mother was concerned for my safety.

Back to Amber, I questioned if she was a good friend, because she did things so that the other girls would accept her. Like even though she knew I was allergic to blueberries, she would try to tell me to eat a blueberry muffin. She also did other things. Anyway, despite this, I knew she was lost and tried to fit in. Still, this was when I stopped hanging out with her. Pretty soon, her birthday came up and she invited me to her birthday party. I decided to go and found out I was the only one there. That's when I properly met her step-father and sister. She really didn't want to do anything but just sit around and eat all day. I did also feel awkward whenever she would yell at her mother. Yes, she often did that to her mother. I cannot fairly comment because I didn't know what went on in her house. Anyway, we went to a pizza joint, where they sat all day eating pizzas. I don't eat much, especially like this, so the entire day for her birthday, I just sat there and watched her eat pizza. I remember one day Amber also visited my house, my mother spent 700$ on fast food for Amber only in a few hours.

I will fast forward it to the day I found out she died. My family found out through the newspaper. Her obesity was a contributing factor to her death. Her Facebook account became her memorial page. When reading her old posts, she would share how she always hated herself, she wished she was dead, and she hated being fat. She always mentioned how she wanted to just be with her grandma who was dead, and she no longer wanted to live. On her wall, students would apologize for fighting her and for being mean. It was too late then. Why say it when she is dead? My mother and my step-grandma went to her funeral. I was too upset to go.

I remember her step-father thanking me for being Amber's friend, because he knew that I was the only friend that she had, and I was the only person who was nice to her. Her step-father admitted Amber never had any friends. He apologized for Amber not being a friend she should have been to me. All of those things that she did were pushed aside. I mean, you don't think about those things during that time, especially in that situation. Anyway, he was grateful to have known me.

That was the song posted on her memorial page and also played for her funeral. Although it has been years, those are things you just don't forget or get over. After that funeral, we never saw Amber's mother, step-father or sister again, even though we were good friends. I think they moved away. 

I think her story is an eye opener about the obesity epidemic in America. That's why my mother and I share her story. We share it to bring awareness to obesity, unhealthy eating, over eating, inactivity and most importantly child obesity. It's a serious problem how so many children are obese today. This story helps bring awareness to the dangers of children being obese, and how in the new study, it shows children are actually dying before their parents. 

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