‘Hey, Beautiful.’ I ignored him.
The words helicoptered in the air.
The other boys smirked, waiting to see what would happen. The older boy – a good four years older – said those terrible words again, machine-gunning me into an anxious sweat.
I stared into my food. I knew he would not stop.
I was now boarding at the high school. My parents had moved – once again – and I was completing my term where I had just started six weeks before.
‘Hey, Beautiful,’ he baited.
The dining room swayed to the soundtrack of cutlery on crockery and all sizes of boys’ voices. I felt sick to the stomach. No one was going to rescue me from this. The teachers smoked at the top table.
I felt the dam was about to break and I would be drowned in the torrent. I clung on in the wave of panic. Once I let go, I knew, I would be easy-pickings.
‘Are you speaking to me?’ I responded.
He had won and went on an orgy of lugging shells of shame and there was no trench to hide in.
‘Look at him. He thinks he is beautiful. No, I’m not talking to you, fuck-face.’
Of course, everyone knew that he had been.
The conspiracy hung in the air like an unexploded grenade.
The reprise of ‘Hey, Beautiful’ every lunch-time played out in the same ritual of humiliation until the end of term. And every day, I had knots in my stomach that could only be washed away by the thought that this would not last forever.
And yet, it has never gone away and remains lodged deep within. It is an unexploded grenade.
I wish I had never given in.
Originally published in 2013 – placesthatsing