I’m Edgar Gierbolini and I’m from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
I remember the beginning of high school – it was ninth grade – and going from elementary school, middle school to high school, it was such a huge, different world. We went to a big high school and we had to big quad where everyone had to cross across this, like, park/garden area to get to everyone’s classes. There was this group of folks we always – we called “The Kickers” because of the cowboy boots that they wore. They huddled, kind of in a corner, and every time people would pass through the quad, they would just catcall people and especially me, either because I swished or I walked a little bit or I talked a bit with a lisp.
But I remember one in particular, this guy he would catcall me and he would be like, “Hey, faggot!” Or he would start doing kissing noises to me. “Hey. [Kissing noises]. Come over here.” I always felt so cold and angry and I wasn’t sure why. It just, it drove me crazy. I would tell my friends and I really wasn’t sure what to do about it. I lived in kind of this weird fear and shame because of it. So me and my little core group of friends, we would chat about it and we knew it was an issue. And he bullied other people and did the same thing to them.
I remember it was Environmental Science class, not the most exciting class ever. And there in class, my friend Erica, she whispered to me, you know, next to the chair, and she was like “Hey” and out of her bag she pulls like the biggest roll of duct tape you’ve ever seen.
And I was like, “What is that for?”
She goes, “Get a hall pass and meet me outside.”
So I get a hall pass and I meet her outside and she goes, “Follow me.” We ended up at his locker and she pulled out the tape. She says, “We’re going to tape up his locker.” So we started taping up his lock, on the lock, and by the time we were done – and it took both of us, so there’s always – one of us was watching the hallway while the other one kept wrapping his lock. By the time we were done, there was this huge ball around, surrounding this lock.
So she’s like, “I think that’s good enough,” and we went back to class. The bell rang, class changed, and we found a spot that where we could look overlook the quad and also see his locker. So Erica and I stood up there and we kept watch and sure enough, he gets to his locker and he had this – his normally ruddy cheeks turn blanched, you know, completely white. He started jumping up and down like a little leprechaun, totally ticked off, like “What happened?” and “Who did this?”
And his little cronies that always bullied other people with, he kept on messing with them, like “Did you do this? Who did this?” And somebody gave him like some kind of blade and he still couldn’t cut open because it was too big. So he couldn’t change out his books for the next class. And Erica and I are laughing from the top watching this. And I remember feeling relieved and also empowered. It was the first time in my life I had taken a stand against someone that had done something against me.
He never bullied anybody else after that. He would look at me and either he found out that I was a part of what happened to his locker, but he would look away. He would be a lot quieter. The catcalling stopped in the quad and nobody else got bullied by him and his group.
I think everyone has a bullying story, especially in our community, and I think it’s important for those people that are just now facing bullying to understand that, unfortunately, it’s a universal problem. Everyone faces that. It’s all about what your reaction to the action is. And to this day I can’t see a roll of duct tape without smiling and laughing and thinking it’s kind of a symbol of my own empowerment.