An addendum of sorts
Probably no surprise to find out I was the target of bullying in high school. I have a broken nose from a fight in a classroom where I was told in no uncertain terms by the authority figures of my school that it was my fault for being different. I was also told it was my bad for getting mixed up with the child of one of the richer benefactors that the school had at the time.
My story is slightly different though. Mine’s not about my own survival*
My story is about the other guy. Back in grade 9, there was the class clown who was also the class bully. He believed he was perfection, and that all around him should follow his lead. I didn’t care for the guy, and didn’t follow. What I noticed though, was that more and more frequently, when he’d engage in either his class clown or class bully performance, he’d turn to look at me. He was looking for me to give some sign of approval, endorsement or compliance. I never did. Over time, this was clearly getting to him, and he was increasingly aggravated by my non-compliance. He was king, and I wasn’t paying due respect. Things escalated at one point in the class room, and we got into a shoving match. I remember turning and walking away from him, and then getting hit from behind with a fist that felt like steel**. The punch broke my nose, and within seconds I was streaming blood and violent cursing sounds. I remember swearing excessively, and I remember bleeding all over the school floor ***
But that’s the precursor to the fate that befell the other guy. He’d been the bully, the known ringleader and trouble maker, and the school looked away time and time again, because I was the relatively cheap, comparatively poor and, given a choice between me and the son-of-the-money, they’d chose against me. When he attacked me from behind, he lost the credibility of the pack for violating one of the unwritten rules. The pack turned on him, and the school continued to turn a blind eye. A few weeks later, and well before my bruising had healed, he spent the lunch break getting a systematically delivered beating from several of the school seniors. I bled and I swore when I had received my beatdown. He spent the afternoon under my baleful gaze (I didn’t exactly like the guy who smashed my nose), whimpering, shuddering and crying.
The pack sensed weakness, and went to destroy him. Between that moment, and his eventual departure from the school before the middle of grade 10, he spent the time with increasingly more obvious in retrospect cries for help – suspended from class, suspended from school, randomly shaved head, and probably a bunch of stuff I didn’t know, see or recognise at the time.
Nobody stepped up to save him. Certainly not the system, and certainly not his former friends, and allies. One ill considered moment, and his frail world collapsed on him, and his descent was assured.
* I’m an emotional tank. Seriously, I can absorb a lot of damage before I sort of look up at the target and ask “Did you want my attention?”.
** I’m a former tae kwon do student, scrappy high school fighter and soccer player. I’ve been knocked out at least twice on the sports field, and hit more than a few times in the face and head by elbows, headbutts and fists. This punch lingers in the memory as the most powerful hit I’ve taken.
*** Before I left the school, I went back to the floor. It could’ve been my imagination talking, but I swear my blood stains were in the old wood floors that day. They’ve renovated the place since I graduated.