Off Track

8th June 2001, 1:00am
Razeena Nadeem


Off Track
By Razeena Nadeem, 14, Renfrew high school, Renfrewshire

As a child, I was taught the difference between right and wrong. What compelled me to behave in the vile way that I did? The scaly, hissing serpent I sometimes feel twining round my heart, squeezing all the love and caring out of it. Jealousy!

My brain rewinds through the timeline of my life, to when I was in Primary 4 at school. I never had many friends, although I did have one companion, Zaina. My mother was delighted that I was acquainted with an Asian girl. "It's good to have Asian friends as well as your others," she would point out, although why this should make any difference mystified me.

When with my friend, power surged through me, like a train. The train would thunder through me, and remain in my body during the time I spent with her, but when I was with other people, it embarked on another journey, carrying the power away.

I became so used to ruling over Zaina. I was a "somebody" with her and a "nobody", an insignificant speck, with others. It never occurred to me that she might have other friends.

"I'm going out somewhere with my friends today," she chirped, the words bouncing out of the receiver.

"Oh," I replied, "Who are they?", the stream of words in my head drying to a trickle. I felt like an ant with a human hunched menacingly over it.

Later, at school, I was icy towards Zaina and barely spoke to her. An evil plan pieced together in my brain. I'd turn everyone against Zaina and send her to Coventry. She'd soon return, begging for forgiveness.

Before the break, I shared my plan with a few girls. I anticipated their reaction, convinced that they'd join my conspiracy. They looked at each other, brows furrowed, then sidled away to whisper amongst another huddle of girls.

Everyone filed out eagerly as the bell rang to signify the beginning of break-time. I was last to enter the fiery-coloured outdoors and immediately sensed that something wasn't right. Hostile, laser beam stares penetrated my skin. They came from a large flock of gils gathered around Zaina. Hatred emanated from each one, and charged towards me in a black cloud, sending a tickle down my spine.

I saw Zaina buried in amongst the flock and caught a glimpse of her face, striped with tear trails. I stumbled backwards into the wall and cowered into it, wishing I could become one of its white pebbles. A sponge filled my throat soaking up the oxygen travelling to my empty lungs. My brain shivered in panic.

Home-time finally arrived, on a snail's back, and I gathered my belongings together hurriedly. For the past hour, my heart had been sitting beneath my stomach.

"Razeena, hold on a minute. I'd like to speak to you about something."

I turned, and inched back to my teacher. I felt her eyes on my dropped head.

"Razeena," she said, slowly and full of disappointment. That word said it all, saturated with shame, surprise and curiosity at why a child like me would do such a thing.

She never uttered another word. She knew exactly how I felt, and that was enough.

I wasn't strong enough to fight the malevolent serpent, although in a way my weakness was good as our friendship was shattered before it became too poisoned. I didn't want to be a loner at school, so I used Zaina to mask my insecurity. In the end, I let my insecurity and jealousy win.

Razeena says the piece was not difficult to write. She remembers this incident, which happened when she was about nine, clearly because it was an unusual one for her. "I went back to my normal self afterwards," she says. Razeena enjoys playing the flute and is in two bands, one in school and one outside it. Eventually, she says, she would like to go into graphic design or architecture.

Felicity Jackson, Razeena's teacher, says the Write Away booklet is good to have because personal writing is "what children do best". She had been discussing Willis Hall's play The Long and the Short and the Tall with her students, "doing the right things for the wrong reasons and vice versa" and this fitted in with using the Write Away 4 booklet.

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