Monday, 1 June 2009

Auctore Deo – A Fragment...

March 2000
Pat carried the nickname ‘Ears’ because of the large stumpy objects that stuck out of his head like a pair of scarlet satellite dishes.
Short and scraggy, he was covered with so many freckles that it looked as if a bucket of sand had been thrown in his face. He rarely washed himself or his clothes, and a foul odour of old cheese and sweat followed him everywhere.
If he hadn’t been sent there for disrupting a class, Pat was frequently found standing outside the deputy head’s office dramatically rubbing his bruised arms and pretending to cry. His favourite activity consisted of provoking older boys to the point of no mercy, and running to teachers the second they retaliated.
If ever he felt his popularity slipping beyond salvage, he tried to win back his antagonist’s affection by engaging in animated arguments with teachers in the middle of lessons, hoping that his witty remarks would provide everyone with a source of entertainment. But they only made him more unpopular, for it was such performances that we frequently landed us in class detentions.
When not occupied by such activities, Pat spent most lessons slicing dead skin from the soles of his feet with a protractor, either pocketing it for light snack later or spitting it at the person sitting opposite.
Pat and I had a strange relationship. Some weeks he latched onto me like a leech, trying to convince me that we were destined allies – that the rest of the class hated us because they were jealous. He mainly resorted to this tactic on the days he needed money for the tuck-shop, or when he had forgotten to revise for a test.
Other days, he loathed me venomously. The class frequently rounded on him when his behaviour landed us in after-school detentions. Even if every individual in the room was heckling him once the teacher left the room, I was the person he cornered afterwards.
It didn’t matter what every else thought of him. To sink lower than the resident ‘gay-lord’ was too much.
One afternoon at registration, he gawfered mockingly across the room at me - “Ya’ gay! Ya’ got no friends!”
Next morning he gave me a novelty sweet tin shaped like a train.
In the afternoon he reported me to the head-of-year for giving him a Christmas card with a picture of Dumbo on the front.
It happened on a Wednesday during form period.
Pat and I sat together at the front of the room, this being one of the days on which were allied. The two boys sitting behind us were pestering him, stabbing him with rulers, flicking his ears and slipping things out of his bag.
Pat wailed defencelessly – “Stop it Matthew and Stephen! I’m trying to read my book of fiction!” – loud enough for Mr. G_____ to hear.
It was a very typical scene until midway into the hour, when Pat suddenly sprang to his feet, his eyes rolling in horror, his pink smudgy hands swiping at the air in front of him.
“Err! Err! Get away from me! Get away from me!”
That scene from Dumbo when Timothy Mouse scares the bullying female elephants springs to mind.
At first, I thought a wasp had landed on his ears. It was just like Pat to put on a performance whenever his life was under threat. Then he stabbed me with an accusing finger and squealed - “Get away from me, ya’ gay-lord!”
There was only one ‘gay-lord’ in the room/
I could only stare as he continued to scream and storm, dancing wildly up and down the aisle of desks. By now all eyes in the room were fixed on him – and every set of those eyes followed the direction of his stabbing finger. Nine years later, I wondered whether this was part of his act, the drama he put on for the rest of the class whenever he needed some favouring votes.
G_____ ordered him to move to a desk at the front of the class.
He snatched his coat away from the seat next to me as if I was going to contaminate it with ‘gayness’ if it remained in my presence any longer. I could only stare blankly at him. But this seemed to fuel his mania.
“Don’t fuckin’ look at me, ya’ gay-lord! Don’t fuckin’ look at me! Err! Err! Err!”
He emphasised his frustrated by showering violent blows on the table and thrashing violently in my direction. G_____ thundered at him to leave and go to the deputy-head’s office.
Pat gathered his property and flounced out of the room. He turned at the threshold and flashed a grimace of pure disgust at me.
"I’m gonna tell 'im we got a gay-lord in our class”, where his final words before the door was slammed shut in his face.
The remainder of the hour passed fleetingly. I couldn’t concentrate on my reading. I had no idea as to what I was
supposed to have done.
The bell sounded for morning break. As we moved to the dining hall, the others asked what had happened. I couldn’t answer.
As I joined my friends in the hall, Pat slithered grandly up to us with newly discovered confidence, as if he had acquired armour that would protect him from the plague I carried. He jammed one oily sausage-roll after another into his mouth as he addressed me, saliva, dead skin and crumbs spraying my face.
"Stiffy-Jiffy! Deputy head’s office – after break!”
When I did not honour him with a response, the satellite dishes turned a deep shade of indignant scarlet.
“Don’t speak me to that way, Stiffy! You’re in for it now, so hold your tongue and come quietly”
Realising that he was flaunting his newly found protection from the deputy-head, I chose to ignore him and continued to talk to my companions. Pat lingered around us all the while, proudly informing the others that he had been sent to prevent my escape. It was not the first time I felt like a quarantined animal during my time at the school – but that was the time I remember clearer than most.
When break ended, Pat marched me to the deputy-head’s office, and once I was invited inside, he sailed back to class, his head expanding by the second.
Mr B_____ read out the statement;
Stanley put his hand on my leg and asked me if he could rub my penis. At break time, he followed me into the toilet, squeezed my bottom and said “I love you Patrick! Will you marry me?”. I was deeply distressed and confused, and contemplated speaking to my form tutor. But I feared what Stanley would do next…
It went on for several pages, I heard no more of it then that. The sound of my angry tears drowned him out. I then had to listen an account of an incident he had dealt with several years previously, involving a pupil who ‘touched’ other boys in showers after Games.
He then said that it was a ‘very serious case of sexual harassment’.
Whilst frantically trying to bat away the rulers and pencils used to prod him from the couple sitting behind us, Pat’s shoe had come off. I had tried to alert him by pointing to the shoe on the floor. My hand happened to come level with his thigh. It was this fleeting act that he interpreted as my attempt to rape him.
But I didn’t tell B_____ that. I was too confused and angry to think rationally. The only thought running through my head was how I would slaughter the delicate little pachyderm when we next met.
I also failed to mention that, only a few weeks before the episode took place, Pat had asked me to fellate him in exchange for a pound in the middle of Geography.
Part of me was convinced that B_____ believed Pat’s lies, that he wouldn’t listen to me even if I told him the simple and ridiculous truth. If I had set aside my insecurities, I may have saved myself from the humiliation of being withdrawn from lessons for an entire day while B_____ undertook his ‘investigation’.
Since I was generally known for being the band geek who never got into trouble, the sight of me standing outside the deputy-head’s office at lunch generated a whirlwind of lashing rumours.
For reasons known only to themselves, some of the boys Bolton interviewed as part of his ‘investigation’ supporting Pat’s statement, despite their loathing of him.
B_____ eventually declared the case inconclusive due to a ‘lack of evidence’. I left his office in silence, unable to look him in the face for the remainder of my days at the school.
His verdict hardly mattered. Despite Pat being hated for his manipulation, his whinging and his lies, he had suffered the one thing they all feared – and for that, they had his sympathy.