The bully wore spectacles. He was big and fat, by far the biggest boy, with hangers-on behind him. They followed him everywhere, mimicking his lumbering walk. They surrounded a small boy at the far end of the playground. Other children nearby scuttled away. I didn’t see what happened next. The bell rang for class, and it was my first day at that primary school.
Next day, and for weeks afterwards, I stood near the teachers on playground duty, just outside my classroom door. It was a safe place to be, from where I could watch. There were incidents every day in the other half of the playground, in which the bully reinforced his dominance with a push, a spit, or a kick. He particularly liked pulling a girl’s hair, or snatching a possession and throwing it to the ground for his tribe to kick around.
The teachers on playground duty, and there were usually two of them, were oblivious, engrossed in their own conversation. Their attention only switched to the playground when the bell rang and they organised the children into lines outside their classrooms. None of the children complained. They were too intimidated.
My hate for that boy and his followers grew by the day, filling every moment of my time in the playground. I watched his every move as he swaggered about looking over the top of his spectacles, making up his mind what to do next. He had a habit of pushing his spectacles back up to the top his nose just before he picked on someone.
Inevitably, the day came when his eyes locked with mine. We stared into each other’s souls. His face curled with frustration because I was standing near the teachers, and out of his reach. He raised a fist and spat in my direction before turning to his tribe, then pointing me out to them. I was on his list – he had made that crystal clear.
The worst happened soon after, on a day when for some reason or another, there were no teachers in the playground. The bully saw me standing in my usual place, with my back against the school wall, and he made a beeline for me. As he approached he pushed his spectacles up to the top of his nose. It was my trigger. I flew off the wall with my fists flailing. His spectacles broke, and then broke again. There was blood from his eyes. He fell on his back screaming, me on top of him, pounding his hands as they tried to shield his eyes, hitting his mouth, his chin, and any part of his head I could see.
Teachers arrived, pulled me off, and one of them dragged me away into the school hall. The teacher holding me wanted to know what had happened, but I was still in such a rage that I couldn’t speak. Later, I heard a teacher say that an ambulance had taken the bully away.
I was kept in the hall until my mother came to pick up me from school, and the teachers took us to see the headmaster. It was then that I told my story. My mother took my side, and there was an argument. Afterwards, my mother told me that I wouldn’t be going to the school for much longer, because we were moving away to a new flat in a completely different area. I was enrolled into a new school shortly afterwards, where there was no other child with a seriously mean streak.
Except, perhaps, for a new boy who could be seen during playtime standing with his back to the wall....