September 1982 ~ Secondary School Cloakroom
*flashback to the odour of sweaty plimsolls, Impulse, and the sound of dripping taps*
I’d just started secondary school. Everything was strange and scary. You know how it is? I was in the cloakroom hanging up my coat when a shadow appeared in my peripheral vision. I looked to see that the shadow had frizzy hair and was the size of a barn door. IT was a grizzly bear in school uniform and IT was looking at me with an expression which I couldn’t accurately place. All I knew was, my stomach was doing somersaults. According to my friend, IT was a couple of years older than us and IT had a reputation for being a cow.
Out of nowhere, IT hit the side of my face with an open-handed smack, leaving a red mark behind.
For a second or two, I was seeing stars, the blow was THAT hard.
IT was towering over me while her cronies stood in the background sniggering like Beavis and Butthead.
‘What did you do that for?’ I asked IT, rubbing my face.
IT bared her teeth and said, ‘I. DIDN’T. LIKE. THE. WAY. YOU. WERE. STARING. AT. ME’.
I couldn’t help but notice that she hadn’t cleaned them..
Staring? It was no more than a glance. You’re not exactly easy on the eyeballs, Mate.
Is what I WISH I’d have said.
Right after I bitch-slapped her face with a size 9 plimsoll. No, make it 10.
Once IT had left the room, my friends suddenly found their voices.
Oh, THERE you are! I thought.
‘I wouldn’t let IT get away with that. You have to tell a teacher!’. They said.
So, I told a teacher, who just happened to be the deputy head. I don’t do things by halves, me. IT was made to apologise to me. Not one to one in the deputy head’s office but in front of EVERY girl in the school. No doubt, Miss felt this necessary but what all it achieved was guaranteed bullying for the foreseeable. Nice job, Miss. *double thumbs up*
I have loads more of these type memories. This is because people mistake sensitivity for weakness. They sense the opportunity to make themselves feel important by making people like me feel inferior. It’s taken me all these years to understand that it’s they who are the weak ones. IT was built like a brick shit-house but did she pick on someone her own build or bigger? No. She picked on an awkward looking first year. Well hard, eh?
Happy and well-balanced people don’t bully others. They are the ones with the problems. As for the ‘victims’. Well, I hate that word for a start because it implies weakness. I never was and never will be, a ‘victim’. The tears might have stung my eyes that day but they never fell. I REFUSED to let them fall and it takes a LOT of willpower to withhold tear flow, trust me.
At home, I cried myself a river. Snot. The lot.
Then I doodled pictures of IT, giving her a MASSIVE perm that took up half a piece of A4.
Then I wrote something like, WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE, YOU GREEN-TEETHED FUZZY-HAIRED COW. MAY ALL YOUR ZITS MORPH INTO FESTERING BOILS THAT REQUIRE LANCING. I. HATE. YOU.
Then I probably comfort ate my way through a six pack of Penguins. And maybe a few packets of crisps.
Via therapy, I have concluded that the problem was never with me but what to do with all these thoughts that are fighting for space in my head?
Actual or imaginary, BALLOONS.
I’m going to need a LOT of balloons…
The memory of IT will go into a beautiful yellow balloon, symbolic of her cowardly act towards little me.
A bully’s ‘power’ always comes at someone else’s expense. They choose someone smaller and more vulnerable than themselves. IT targeted me and having received no physical retaliation, she knew I was fair game for the forseeable. Had I have hit her back that day, I probably wouldn’t have had any more trouble from her. As it was, I didn’t and so she made my life miserable.
Nobody stood up to her for me. My friends looked the other way whenever IT pushed me into the wall or tripped me up. I get why. While she was picking on me, she was leaving them alone. I get that but I resent it. Is that what friendship is? To look the other way when your friend is being hurt? I often wonder if Beavis & Butthead were IT’s friends simply because it ensured that they were never on the receiving end of her fist? Either way. Those f**kers can have a balloon each as well.
No doubt IT has long forgotten about the little girl who’s face she slapped for no reason at all. I wonder how she’d feel now, to know that she is being placed in an imaginary balloon and buggered off into the stratosphere as part of a therapy cleansing exercise? I would be MORTIFIED if I knew that I had done something to warrant such an act. However, this isn’t for IT’s benefit. It’s for mine.
Firstly, I don’t apologise for calling you IT. That September day, you treated me like a sub-human yet it was YOU who acted like one, hence, I am calling you, IT. It’s either that or COW.
I hope you evolved into a better person and that you and yours are happy. If you are alone, maybe you need to work out why that is? We create our own stories but it really is never too late to change the script. I’m changing mine with the help of balloons.
The last time I saw you was in 1986. You got onto my bus outside college. You saw me but pretended you hadn’t. Funny how you weren’t so tough without Beavis & Butthead flanking you. You were just a scowling-faced teenager with a REALLY bad perm.
I’ve been hauling you around in my head all these years but it’s time for you to float off, dear. So without further a do..
I forgive you.
Maybe you were mean because your home life was shit? Maybe your parents didn’t show you enough love? Maybe you were bullied yourself? If any of this applies, I feel for you because I know how it feels to be hurt. However, you always had the choice how to conduct yourself. NOTHING we do or say comes without the freedom of choice. You could have shown me some kindness on my first day in a strange school but you chose to show me the palm of your hand instead with the full force of your weight behind it. While I won’t ever forget what you did, I can release this memory’s hold over me. That’s my choice.
“A young outcast will often feel that there is something wrong with himself, but as he gets older, grows more confident in who he is, he will adapt, he will begin to feel that there is something wrong with everyone else.”~ Criss Jami, Killosophy