I remember staring at him once while he sat picking away at some scab on his knee. Red and raised like an angry spider posed to take flight it sat on his knee and threatened to grow bigger every time he dug his dirty fingers into it.
“Doesn’t it bother you that no one wants to be your friend?” I blurted out.
He hadn’t said much to me all week except the odd grunt now and then but this time his pale blue eyes sized me up. I guess he was trying to find out whether I was like all the rest. Did I care or was I just trying to glean some information that I could carry to the rest and have a laugh at his expense in a bid to get them to like me?
He shrugged. “Not any more. What about you?”
I shrugged as well.
We sat in silence for a few seconds as we watched our mates tear across the playground. Neither of us wanted to join them because we were trying hard to avoid our tormentors. So we started having our lunch breaks in the classroom. Mrs H had shrugged and said that it was OK with her if it was OK with us.
It was OK with us.
He looked at me and smiled and suddenly he was no longer this subhuman everyone loathed. He was just a kid nobody liked. Just like me.
“Why do you smell?”
Another shrug “Because my step dad says it’s a waste of time bathing me because I’m just a fat smelly slob and he’s always right.”
I fell silent again as I really didn’t know what to say. I was only eight at the time and had little knowledge of a world where adults could treat children like that. I knew our problems kept us apart from the rest of the kids and that way we were both victims of something that was too big for us too understand. We weren’t going to bond together to fight the ills of society but in that split second I caught a glimpse of myself in him. Different colour but consigned to the same social strata of persona non grata. We were seldom going to get invited to anyone’s birthday party, be named the most popular boy or girl in the class or get crowned May Queen or King.
Then Peter turned back to his knee and resumed picking and I wondered why I had ever thought he was human.
One week of the wee, the stink and the bogies and I summoned up courage and begged Mrs H to let me go back to my former seat. She didn’t. I sat it out till the end of term and Pete left the school. Someone said his parents had gone to Australia and some said his Dad had gone to Prison and the family had gone up North. Nobody really cared but sometimes I like to think that a six foot tall good looking guy will bump into one of those tormentors from 3A and say – Hi! Remember me. You used to make my life hell you little piece of nonentity and they will shrivel up in shock. If there’s any justice in this world these people will be grow up to be ugly, fat in receipt of social security living on some crime ridden estate.