44: Bullies – Stamping

I am nine, and I am sitting in the back of the Ford Anglia. I have been sitting in the back of the Ford Anglia for years and years, for my whole life, dreading the terminus of this short journey, for my mother is taking me to that terrible, terrifying school where I must subject myself to endless, cruel humiliations and beatings. Much of the time I walk to school, but when my mother has time, or when she has a trip planned to travel on, to go to the shops, or visit her parents, she takes me to school, on her way. And now the car is just turning into the street where another quarter of a mile further on, that place of torture awaits, all white­washed and Victorian, with thick gloss paint on all the doors, and the smell of soap in the air as thick as soup. Because I am new, on my own, starting here mid-term alone and alien in this different culture, I am an easy and obvious target for boys who thrive on violence, who learnt it, I later wonder, from their fathers (and uncles and older brothers) at home.

Ford_Anglia_1958_Castle_Hedingham_2008 photo by Charles01 wiki

I will not want to vacate the car. I will say I feel unwell and want to be taken home again, but my mother will make me get out, and propel me, her hand in the small of my back, through the school gates into a world of abuse and violence.

If not on this day, then on one close by, the boys will notice my new shoes, and enviously wish to convert them into the worn and used up wrecks they wear themselves, as well as hurt me, so they gather round too closely and then start stamping, stamping on my new shoes, trying to scuff and split them, trying to break my toes. It is not the pain of this attack that particularly worries me. No, I am more concerned with how my mother will react later, at home, when she sees the appalling state of my new shoes, for she will blame me and say it is my fault, and doubt my account of the bullies.[1] When the attack is over, and my toes feel wet, I go inside to use a piece of paper towel to wipe away the mud and grime, and later, back home, in a moment of uncharacteristic slyness, I quickly apply boot polish to fill in the scratches, and my shoes do not look too bad, considering the ferocity of that attack, and my mother in days to come will raise no query.

Forever I sit in the back of the Ford Anglia, forever on my way to my horrid doom, and I so wish, so wish to be taken somewhere else, to a sunny garden, a bright, open park, or to go back home, not to our new house here, but back to my great grandmother’s house where I might ride my tricycle up and down the garden path, even though now my tricycle is, of course, much too small for me, and must have been donated to a jumble sale or given to another child who I hope so much treasured it as much as I did, and maybe they too will all their lives remember the circum­stances of its coming to them, perhaps brought by a grand­mother sitting constrained in the front of a little car.

[1] In later years, it was suggested to me that my mother’s habit of rejecting my account of things, of holding me a liar, can be explained by the likely possibility that she was the liar, glid­ing through life on the efforts of others, manipu­lating and cajoling with false flattery and lies, such second nature to her, that she assumed that every­one else too was a liar, that this was just how peo­ple are.

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