The curious incident of the car park and the fake apology
After the fateful field trip, whispered threats were passed down the aisles on the coach back to school. "You're going to die" was one of the most memorable. Of course I knew I'd not think twice about reporting them, being a grass was the least of my concerns by this point. Many teachers had witnessed and duly ignored what went on each and every day in their lessons. A bullying policy is just that - a policy. Words on paper. Not a practical, actionable, tangible, solid thing capable of giving teachers the tools to re-engineer the dynamics of teenage hierarchies. Many victims of bullying would perhaps choose a scenario where no adults ever get involved, and I understand that. I, however, would've welcomed any intervention at all. It only served as reinforcement of my lack of self-esteem that so many of them saw and heard things happening, yet never did anything about it. They never even pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted help; nobody ever asked if I was ok. Having been briefly in teaching myself, I saw situations that brought those experiences flooding back to me, and I sure as hell did ask after the students involved. I've never been someone who can walk on by and keep quiet, perhaps that was the biggest burden from my formative years.
I lived across the road from school; I could look out of my bedroom window at any time of the day or night and see the scene of so many of my teenage milestones - my first experience of falling in love; where I sang on stage and made people cry; where bullies had destroyed my self-confidence; where I'd shamefully hunched over the steps outside a portakabin, throwing up from alcohol poisoning when I was supposed to be leading a Saturday morning music class. Walking home took me all of 2 minutes, but somehow, that evening I hadn't quite made it across the car park before two cars pulled up and I was summoned to what I assumed was my certain death at the hands of my bully and several older boys who had brought 'props' (baseball bats).
I'm a laugher when I'm scared. I get excited when the adrenaline pumps and my brain tells me to 'go forth and put thyself' in whatever danger may have triggered such a response. Terribly useful. I was mentally preparing myself to either get beaten to a pulp, or to ride on a wave of rage and kill someone with my bare hands. Luckily, neither of these things happened; instead, after a conversation I don't remember the specifics of, I received a rather fake sounding apology, followed by an awkward handshake and "No hard feelings?". I fought the urge to rebuff. I was confused and actually even a little annoyed with myself for accepting an apology I knew to be completely disingenuous.
At school the next day, I was a hero to all my fellow victims - the underdogs who had also endured varying degrees of nonsense from my tormentors. It seems ridiculous now, that such a plastic symbolic show of power had somehow inadvertently propelled me to an elevated status. It didn't last of course, everything went back to the status quo within the week, but I now knew that there was a line that wouldn't be crossed.
There were times I secretly hoped for something awful to happen to them, but the overwhelming feeling was sympathy - I would pass my exams, I had a talent that others seemed to enjoy, and I was destined for university (in the days when that was still reserved for a certain percentage of the best brains). I knew that my bullies probably didn't have perfect lives, that they were likely making up for a lack of control in their own lives by wielding power over me. Maybe that's abnormally insightful for a 14 year old, or maybe it's just another part of the rhetoric we all soak up from people trying to soften the blow. I was also counting on my life being a roaring success as my revenge. Only one of these things turned out to be true.