[This is a fiction I co-authored with Louise Norlie. I will be publishing the story in serial installments, every Monday for the next little while. Stay tuned.]
School? I hear the questions coming: whether I had friends, or not? Whether I liked school? Whether I got good grades? No, I was never able to “fit in” with people. My very first day of school: the “cool kids” took me to play with them during lunchtime. We went to the washroom. Or should I say I was escorted to the lavatory?
In any case, six boys took turns urinating on me, spitting on me, making me swallow toilet water out of surprisingly clean, sparkling toilets. One boy – and I remember this because it still causes me problems when I defecate – stuck his snack – a large, cold, peeled carrot – up my rectum. They told me that if I ever told anyone, they would kill me. Fool that I was, I believed them.
I went home and tried to act like nothing happened. I covered up the bruises on my arms.
When my parents asked me what was wrong, why I had “trouble going poo” and sitting down, I told them that I fell at school then started to cry. I knew this would make them angry and impatient. They did not like the noise of my crying. I cried louder. They approached me as I lay on the sofa, face down. They tried to pull down my pants to see what was wrong. I screamed at them not to touch me.
Eventually they took me to a doctor and he found pieces of the carrot lodged deep within my bowels and asked, smiling all the while, “Now, how did these get here?”
I told him I had no idea.
The classroom was, and still is, unless drastic changes have taken place within our educational system that I am not aware of, a place of utter tyranny and authoritarianism. My teachers were idiotic parrots that, having failed to attain their hedonistic dreams, turned to teaching as a last resort in order to “live for the weekend.”
They took sides, never mine; they picked favorites, never me; they seized every opportunity to expose weakness instead of build strength, to reward stupidity and punish any who challenged their own imagined grandiosity. Others would speak during quiet time, and I would be told to “be quiet.” Others would copy my work, and I would be accused of “cheating.” I would show up to class with bruises on my arms after lunch, and somehow I was the “bully.”
Despite all this, I succeeded at playing the school game; I was at or near the top of my class in all the years I spent being “educated.” This did not matter though; this only made them despise me more.
School taught me most of all to mistrust everything and everyone, students and teachers, librarians and janitors – random people I encountered walking back and forth from home to school and back again. They all had their own agendas against me, their own ideas about me. To avoid the hell of the lunchroom where I was poked and prodded, where my food was stolen, I began returning home, in secret, for lunch. I would leave the back door open and unpack the lunches that my mother had carefully arranged and put together for me. I would carefully tuck the wrappers and garbage at the very bottom of the trash can so my mother would not know that I was ever there.
I never knew where my mother was during this time. But one day she came home unexpectedly.
She found me and asked me, surprised, “What are you doing home? Is something wrong?”
I could hear a tender quiver in her voice. I could not answer her; I began to tremble. I did not know if this was really her voice, her true tenderness, or whether it was all an act, like the act she put on in the religious service with the women. Or maybe that was the “real” her, and only I brought out the “other” her.
“What’s the matter, sweetie? You can tell mommy. What’s wrong?” I looked at her face for clues. Did she want me to tell her?
No, she did not. When I did not answer right away, I saw her face becoming tense. I did not answer fast enough. She hated me. I was an exile from the sweet tremor in her voice.
“Nothing,” I managed to sniffle. I told her I forgot my homework and came home to get it. I brought my lunch because it was lunchtime.
This satisfied her, although from my stammer she should have known I was lying.
I walked back to school and did not go home for lunch anymore. I once again joined the crowds in the packed lunchroom where I would avoid contact with everything, thinking about how much nicer lunch was at home alone.
And so the years passed.