When you are taller than everyone else and can’t quite coordinate your long limbs, when you have teeth too big for your face, and when you have out-of-control long blonde frizzy hair, you get called names at school. One of those names, for me, was Yeti.
It only lasted a year or two, this name-calling, and it was only from a few kids, but I suspect the effects are still being felt in those moments when I’m feeling far too conspicuous in a crowd – and ugly.
I’ll change the name of the main bully, not to protect them, but because I’ve got it ear-marked for a novel I want to write in the future. The character with his name is vile.
So, let’s call him ‘Dick Bully’ for the purpose of this blog.
Dick Bully, at primary school, lived just up the road from me, which meant we took the same route when walking home. Dick Bully would follow me, occasionally spitting at me, sometimes pushing me, but always calling me names. He was a year older than me and, whilst not taller (no-one was), he was bigger and stronger.
Dick Bully called me Goofy, Bugs, Monster, but he called me Yeti the most. I turned round and tried to fight him once. He legged me over and wouldn’t let me get off the ground. I remember him pushing me down onto the muddy grass verge by the road, him and his mate, and laughing at me. I had to wait for them to get bored and walk away before I got up and made my way home. Mum asked what had happened after seeing the state of me, and I told her that I’d fallen over.
I had respite when Dick Bully went on to the local Intermediate school. In that year, I suspect some physical changes took place for both of us. When I got to Intermediate, his reaction was very different and so was his bullying.
It must have been during the first or second term when it happened.
I remember bending over and rummaging in my school bag for some reason in the cloakroom, a space full of benches and coat hooks off the main corridor of the school. Dick Bully came up behind me and grabbed my bum and hips, making obscene noises and rubbed himself against my bottom, while his mates looked on laughing. This, remember, is the guy who thought I looked like a yeti and had spat at me, calling me all kinds of ugly only a year before.
My reaction was pure instinct. As I stood up, my fist was ready and the punch turned into a blow with motion and more power than I realized I was capable of. I caught Dick Bully on the chin, knocking his head back and he stumbled against the wall. In my memory, the back of his head hit a coat hook, but as I write I can’t see how that’s possible. He was hospitalized though. I gave him a concussion that kept him in overnight and caused a problem with the parents and the school.
I know that punching Dick Bully and putting him in hospital was wrong and that violence is never the way to deal with what life throws at us. I know that.
But, oh my goodness, it felt fantastic.