so what is to say today about that part of the past that, at current maths, took up just more than a seventh of my life?
immediately i think about chris boffey's incredible 1st year blushing episodes, rare tho spectacular, turning his face into a shuddering strawberry topped by bright blonde hair. this happened once in the playground when i suggested he fancied maria povey, a girl in the year below. he couldnt speak. chris and girls was not a connection that was ever usually considered. he was quiet, incredibly shy.
i mentioned maria. he just stood there and went red. literally. it was and has remained a memorable image. as memorable as the strong but fair sliding tackle he made on me on the football pitch one time. he was being competetive. and assertive. it was unexpected. like a secret he kept for the pitch where people who made fun of him could be held at bay or shown there was more than one place for a person to be.
by the time of 6th form chris was part of the gamma quadrant in the common room, the alcove to the side of the main room which wasnt of interest to the showboating alphas and betas, the jocks, the more attractive girls and the cooler nerds, who preferred the seats in the bigger room. it never perturbed me at the time that this was how the place was divided - every day the same people in the same seats - and maybe my greek understanding of the situation, which implies some kind of hierarchy, is a thing that wasnt felt by other people at the time. but that isd how it seems to me now. the guffawing jock john denison in one corner, the shy and again shy ruth wilkes in another.
i was a beta cool nerd having come out of my shy and again shy self immediately 5th form was over. the bullying chavs were gone, i had nothing to fear. in practice, and over the 2 years, this meant coming into school in a red beret worn parachute regiment style and an orange wool jacket out of a foggitt wardrobe which he gave me as a dare tho he didnt say as much. i got a mohican and had it cropped off with nail scissors on the back step of sarah scott baker's house before they sold it for bankruptcy reasons, before i could get suspended from school. my mother had already blurted 'how could you do this to me and your father' as i introduced the cut to her as she watered the plants. certainly i remember her being very near my dad's geranium collection and it was sunny. maybe the watering is an embellishement...
so i became visually extravagant compared to my peers. it was a kind of rebellion against the uniform tyranny i associated with school - at some point i provoked french martin into a rage because i was wearing a waistcoat which he knew i knew to be against school rules. for those of us that had dealings with him, french martin's rages were common enough but they were always surprisingly violent in one way or another. this time his face exploded in a frenzy of syllables that were just not doing justice to the speed of his brain. he was seated at the time at the desk in his office on the ground floor.
i once saw him stride quickly acrioss the length of the entrance hall and shove a 2nd year full in the chest with both hands so the kid went sprawling on the floor. he'd obviously seen something i hadnt that justified this. he had a french wife who wore long leather gloves and was reserved.
so what of all this uninteresting stuff? i suppose by 6th form i already felt defeated, that this kind of laughter driven life, this in thrall to venus bullshit was really another kind of prison that i would never get out of. and that it would only briefly make me happy. the rest of the time i would be chasing happy and i would not be succeeding.
jim foggitt told me casually one day that the love of my life had given her virginity to someone else. a rather quaint way of putting it. i was never the same after that. broken. shattered into so many pieces i couldnt find them let alone put them back together, fumbling in the dark on the floor, desperately trying to find what i'd lost. alone. shattered. shattered some more.
that terminalness affects me even now. i cant change what she did or how i remember feeling about it. and with remembering the emotions come alive and it is like i am that person again, i suffer it again.
i cant eradicate this cycle because i am always first drawn in by beautiful memories of loving her. there is no grief here. yet. i have not remembered it yet. then foggitt's face or the back of her boyfriend's head rise from the depths and i am broken again. it is something that, if i had choice over, i wd consign to oblivion - the whole loving / losing chain of events. i would start over, go back before i knew what such everlasting pain meant or something of this kind. what that decision says is that the love was not worth the pain and the love was indeed total.
i have a son now and a partner and i would give up neither for what i had. but still i remember, i remember that love and it will not go away. her golden hair by the window, her smile, her confidence and confidences, her quirky dress sense, the sun on her hair by the window as she sent me a furtive note for the first time in history class. smiling. laughing really.
i am trusting that that is what death is. the erasure of pain. and going thro this cycle is pain. it is an injustice to my family that i am burdened with this kind of memory. it's not wallowing. i have no volition. my thought processes follow paths and sooner or later i am back at the familiar tree lined drive of BP and all that that then opens up. i walked that drive in great fear many times. perhaps that has something to do with all this as well.
richard brown once bared his teeth and snarled at me on an otherwise empty stairwell for innocently calling him 'huggy'. i'd heard others say it and wanted to be friendly to the black boy. i saw his freakishly large biceps and felt afraid. at 11 he was working out. i thought later about wearing a scuba knife strrapped to my calf. i had one. i couldnt see how i'd use it and never got that far. but you can see how it works for smaller kids, afraid kids who just dont have the aggression and the poundage. and who have no protection.
schools are criminal in this respect, leaving children open to violence in the most casually negligent way. one teacher patrolling at lunchtime, walking round the island school, not seeing half the pupils for 10 minutes at a stretch, 15 minutes if they got chatting, enough time for blood, someone's agony by the portakabins. i watched all this and lived in fear. standing in a huddle of nerds, wanting no one to notice we were there. 'andy firth wants to fight you nick', 'richard hammond wants to fight you nick', richard brown threatens violence to you with his snarling teeth and biceps nick, carl greaves will ambush you at the bottom of the stairs out of sight nick. his older friend will punch you when you are in a headlock and give you a fat lip nick.
you will live in fear for 5 more years nick until the red beret comes out.
i remember standing in the coach park sometime during the 1st year thinking, '5 more years of this' and it felt like a prison sentence. up to that point i had grown up in fields of long grass with mud and frogspawn and fire. crash came the bulldozer. everything was taken away. i lived in fear. no one knew... i lived in fear...