Going to a secondary school is scary for any child. I had to wear the school tie and dark blue uniform with the largely light blue school emblem on the jacket’s breast pocket. Individuality was not allowed. It was all scary and unsettling. In the beginning of my first year I remember feeling lost during lunch hours. I didn't know anyone except Baza. So we kept each other company.
I found the basement sports charging rooms, which were empty during lunch. So I sat there in the unlit basements, eating the sandwiches my Mum had made for me, and talking to Baza.
Did anyone overhear me talking to Baza in that basement? I don't think so but I didn't care.
I did make eventually settle and friends. Baza pointed out three lads, I knew from my junior school, which had also come to this secondary school.
(Yeah, it was a single sex school.)
One of them, Irwin, I often had lunch with alongside other students at one of the long lunch tables. He boasted he’d found out his blood group was very rare. I immediately replied I hoped my blood groups was very common if I ever needed a blood transfusion. He was taken aback and spoke no further.
(Later I found out various blood groups could be used in transfusions. He would’ve easily been helped if he needed a blood transfusion.)
For some reason Baza used to point out to me, “Oh look – Irwin’s having his mashed potato sandwiches again. Want to try it?”
For only the second time I publically replied to him, “Not particularly.”
I had a lad sitting by me frown and ask me, “What was that you said?”
I glanced at him, shocked by the fact he’d overheard me. I nervously shrugged. “Oh nothing.” I shook my head. “Nothing at all.”
It was only later I heard from Baza who’d been closely listening to the lad talking to other classmates he’d been talking about me, calling me a weirdo. It wasn’t the only time I was called names at that school. But it probably was the first.
My first and second years weren’t terribly memorable, which I suppose is good thing. For some reason, I seem to remember not doing very well at maths.
(Didn’t matter because by the time I was in the fourth year I took the final final maths exam a year early from the other major exams and got an A.)
However, lots of things started happening in my third year. All the classes were changed so the friends I’d made were no longer in the same class. And puberty was really kicking into gear. That was so confusing. There I was starting to lust for women. I’d never felt lust for anything before.
(I remember around that time avidly watching a Marilyn Monroe movie on TV – I now know it was called ‘Bus Stop’ – with her dancing on a stage and needed to do something but I didn’t know what.)
This school was also very keen on sports – not something I was repeatedly bothered about largely because of my hearing and eyesight difficulties. So I wasn’t in the clique of several ‘major’ students. And those ‘major’ students were often the ones who were appointed to pick team members for playing rugby, football, or cricket. Yeah, not surprisingly I was one of the last ones picked for any team.
What was really fascinating then was it the first time in years I saw my ‘im’ tiger/cat – Hekate. Generally she was just wandering around on the playing fields as a cat and just casually looking at some of the other students. Hekate would occasionally change into her tiger form to irritably roar at some of the students, especially if they came too close to her or even those she didn’t like (usually the ones in the student clique). Sometimes she would actually swipe at them but, of course, they weren’t aware they were standing close to a tiger snarling at them.
(At that time I wished they were aware.)
I have one fond memory of the time Hekate was actually helping me during a rugby match. I was in the team playing again a team captained by the school Head Boy. (He was the leader of the school clique as well not surprisingly.) At one point, he’d got the ball and was running to score a try against my team. Several on my team were chasing after him. I ran close behind this team captain and I was aware Hekate, as a tiger, was running by me as well. It was a meeting of minds (if you can call it that) between her and I as we both dived at him together. I followed the exact rules of how to properly tackle someone with the ball as I (and Hekate) leapt at his legs. I made contact with them and held them together so he was stunned when he unexpectedly fell, dropping the ball. At the point one of my other team members immediately picked up the ball and ran in the opposite direction with it towards that captain’s team try line. I do remember, Hekate roaring at the captain as I let go of his legs. I briefly glanced at her who looked to me as she panted. She then smiled at me, echoing my feelings. I don’t recollect anything about that match afterwards but that time always sticks in my mind.
What I do remember around that time is developing horrible acne covering nearly all my face. I ended up needing to go to hospital for treatment. The doctors gave me experimental drugs and special skin cream. My Dad did special facial cleansing on me as well. I so hated mirrors. Baza never spoke to me about my skin but he always warned me when classmates were saying nasty things about me.
Furthermore, during this period, I had another problem. I started regularly seeing a second ‘im’ person but he harshly spoke to me. He made me feel more insecure than I already was. I remember the first time I saw him. I was at my home when my parents were at work. It was end of term for the school I had got out of my bed and noticed my pet dog happily greeting me. She was in the house because I was in and my parents were at work. So I went into the kitchen and began sorting out my breakfast. I’d decided to have sugared-corn flakes. As I started pouring milk on them I heard a dark threatening voice, “You are nothing. No one will ever want you. You are useless.” My dog started wining.
I sharply looked around and saw my dog backing away, shaking her head. My eyes widened with fear and confusion. I heard laughing.
Deep slow victorious laughing at me.
I could feel the front of my jeans getting wet. I’d poured only part of the milk onto my cereal. As I twisted I was pouring it on the front of my trousers. The milk soaked in and began started trickling down my jeans.
I shook my head and put the cereal bowl on the table surface next to the sink. I dampened the cleaning cloth and mopped the front of my trousers. Again I heard the voice, “You’re useless. It looks like you’ve wet yourself. You can’t do anything right.”
I desperately scanned around and noticed a shadow slowly coming from the dining room into the kitchen. As it moved it became clearer and more solid. It became a slim young man with a similar hair type to me. However, he had a cruel harsh stare that seemed to melt my feelings inside of me.
I shook my head and gasped, “Leave me alone. Just go away.”
Tugging on my wet jeans to stop them dragging on the dining room carpet, I ran past him and limped to the bathroom. There I pulled down my trousers and noticed the milk had soaked my underpants as well. I shook my head, trying to block out his voice and how his words hurt. I could feel doubts in my head. I thought, (Useless. Useless.) Then I shook my head and whispered, “No, I'm not.”
I pulled off my wet underpants and felt that strong sexual need again. Marilyn Monroe dancing entered my mind. I shook my head and looked at the bathroom door. (He’s still out there.) My groin became placid again. I sighed and grabbed my wet trousers and underpants. I reached over and grasped the door handle. I sighed and opened it.
There he was close to the door with that mocking evil smile. He chuckled and spoke, “Aw, you're naked carrying your spoilt clothes.” He paused, looking at my face. “Naked with spots. How can any woman like you?”
I stared at him unsure of how to answer. Then I heard another voice - a distant moaning voice. It came from behind him. I also noticed for an instant of this ‘im’ man being uncertain.
I quickly pulled on my trousers as he looked over his shoulder. As he looked back I was buttoning up my jeans. He snarled as I ran past him towards the sound of the groaning. As I neared the front, door I could hear the groaning from the cupboard door next to it.
The intimidating ‘im’ man snarled as I twisted the handle and pulled the cupboard door open. Inside Baza was painfully crouched. Gasping, he looked up at me with pain and sorrow in his eyes. He opened his eyes and struggled to speak, “His-” He twisted his face as the other ‘im’ man approached and snarled. Baza moaned as he struggled to finish his sentence, “His name is,” He shook his head and gasped his words, “He’s called Domen.”
Domen angrily shook his head and spoke to me, “He won’t always be around, and I’ll be waiting.” He slowly began to fade as he laughed.
I turned to Baza and asked, “Who is he? Why is he here?” I paused and pointed to the cupboard. “And why were you in there?”
He struggled to stand straight and answered, “He trapped me in there.”
I frowned. “Why? How?”
Baza looked at the windows by the front door as he spoke, “He can do that to me.” He looked directly at me. “Don’t trust him. Don’t believe him. And don’t believe the others at school.”
So I dived into reading books at the school and having private chats with Baza. This is going to change when I developed friends thanks to him.
I remember, early in my third year, sitting at a desk in the form classroom and reading a book during morning break. I can’t remember what book it was - doesn’t matter. I ignored everyone around me. I didn’t know them and I didn’t want to know them.
But Michael did. (Yeah, he didn’t like his name shortening.) He sat by me and kept talking. He wouldn’t stop talking to me. Baza smiled and whispered to me, “He wants to be your friend. He’s just as lonely as you are.”
I sighed. I couldn’t say anything to Baza not whilst Michael was sitting next to me. So I smiled at Baza, put down the book, and turned to Michael. And from that point, just there, a friendship developed that lasted years. Baza was always there, listening and smiling.
Through Michael I came to know James, Neil, and Neerav. As puberty started to really shape our lives, we used to invite each other to our parents houses when they were away for the weekend. Whoever was hosting the ‘party’ rented porno videos. Yeah, I know it was a bit dodgy but we were randy teenagers so what can you say? We didn’t actually find the videos stimulating. We actually found them funny. They were so badly made. So there we were laughing at these bad porn videos and getting drunk. (For one ‘party’ my Dad gave me a full bottle of Cinzano. I was the only one who drank it that weekend. I finished it off for my Dad. Now I hate that drink.) Plus Neil and I had become fans of smoking as well.
I have to say Baza also tried smoking. Yeah I know it does sound strange an ‘im’ friend smoking an imaginary cigarette. But he tried them. He didn’t enjoy it - loudly coughing, gasping, and staring at me. I shrugged. He should have had menthol cigarettes. You see - I was trying to be a rebel.
(Yeah I was sometimes being a dickhead but they’re you go-)
I do have several childhood memories of socialising with Michael. One made Baza scared. (Even though he couldn’t get physically hurt by anything Michael did.) I’d gone over to his house around late October and Michael wanted to show off lighting his little fireworks about 4 inches long.
We walked into in a dense forest area close to his parents’ house. There was a very small clearing in the middle of the forest.
And he started repeatedly lighting one of them and throwing it up in the sky to watch it detonate. I joined in throwing one up and we watched them explode.
But then Michael threw a lit one up. It reached the peak of his throw and started to fall back down. No bang just falling.
As it got fell closer we all dived for cover (including Baza).
We watched it as it came down and then as it fell to head height-
Baza wouldn’t have been harmed by it but his alarmed face looking at me echoed my feelings.
Michael and I didn’t throw any more fireworks.
The ‘fireworks’, in our pubescent minds from lusting after women, became ever more intense. At a single sex school that was difficult. We kept insular at that school anyway. My friends and I were often bullied or just ignored. This was due to us being outsiders in sport because none of us were part of the clique that some other kids were. I came to realise Baza had the same problems.
I was having a private chat with Baza in the school’s basement during the lunch hour. I knew we were unlikely to be disturbed but I still spoke quietly to him, “I didn’t realise we had imaginary bullies at this school.”
Baza tiredly nodded and whispered, “They just think they’re better than anyone who’s not part of their,” He paused, “special group.” He leaned forward and expressed his opinions with a darting finger, “You know that guy who’s really good at cricket?” I cynically nodded. “Well, he’s got an imaginary friend as well. That one thinks nobody’s better than him. To be honest, I don’t think that cricket guy is actually aware of his imaginary friend. Well, not these days anyway.”
“You mean the cricketer or the imaginary friend thinks nobody’s better than him?”
Baza shrugged. “Well both actually.”
(Well, in actual fact, the guy Baza was referring to became a professional cricket player but then I guess it doesn’t necessarily mean he was a nice guy.)
I watched Baza look insecure. I slightly lent forward. “So tell me about this,” I hesitated, “imaginary guy.”
Baza gazed down at his feet as he answered, “He’s rude to me, and he likes mocking you.”
I looked away and jadedly answered, “Sounds familiar. I try hard but because I’m not one of the chosen ones,” I sighed, “I’m always one of the last ones picked to be in a team, playing rugby, cricket or whatever.”
(I didn’t know at that time I had eyesight problems not to mention hearing difficulties and they were why I wasn’t better at these games.)
Baza nodded. “When you’ve been laughed at and mocked, I was being goaded by those bullies’ imaginary friends. But we’re better than they are.”
I nodded but still felt sad. Every day I went to that school I was mocked and secretly ridiculed.
One guy liked to chew up paper and spit it onto my back when I wasn’t looking. He was racist as well, mocking Indian students by trying to bizarrely speak in a Jamaican accent.
I also knew some of my things were secretly damaged or stolen as well.
Then some of them realised while I had a long fuse I had a violent temper.
I remember chatting with a friend whilst sat at desk before a lesson. Another boy distracted me. As he walked passed, he made some kind of spiteful comment about my looks. I glanced up, saw Baza’s shocked face looking at this boy, and sharply swung my clenched fist at the boy’s face. I know I hit him but he didn’t respond. From that point on he avoided me.
In another class I sat next to a lad who was known as a tearaway. He had made several nasty remarks about my face. One time he pushed me too far and, standing up, I raised my fist, preparing to hit him. He could see I wasn’t afraid of him and would’ve hit him had he not defused this situation. He could see my anger was decreasing (largely because Baza stood behind him shaking his head at me) and, trying to regain assertion, he demanded I lower my arm. I glared at him and slowly lowered my fist. He knew from that moment he and his clique friends would be taking risks if they pushed me. So they bullied some of my other friends.
(Remember this was at a ‘posh’ grammar school my parents paid for - even when my Dad was made redundant. That redundancy led to him setting up his own business. I didn’t realise that at the time but Baza did. He told me years later when he knew I was happier.)
I wonder what happened to that tearaway. He and the main bully left the school before they did ‘A’ levels. Baza and I saw him through the upstairs windows of a bus we were on. He waved to me but I ignored him. He represented a time of my life I wanted to forget.