Abstract: Autobiography or confessional? The title is not plagiarised from the literary offering by a certain Mr. Tim Griggs, but that of a short story that has been languishing in my archives for over ten years, an ironic comment on the requirement in modern Western society for a female to be attached and the difficulties in attaining this state of “bliss”.

Thursday, 10 June 2004

Hundreds and Thousands

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:34 pm

Passing the Welshman’s office I noticed the window was open, so leaned through to greet him, which left him somewhat startled. We chatted idly. In the midst of a complaint about the massive workload at the end of the year he was distracted by the spectacle of a lissom blonde in her mid-twenties limbering up before taking part in the football tournament. Stretching her arms down to her ankles she bent double. Naturally I could not let this straying of attention go unremarked.
„You’ve turned a lovely shade of purple!”
„It’s my heart”.
„Your heart?” a hint of doubt in my voice.
„After days of assessing papers, can you blame me?”
I could not.

The primary school teacher for my final two years was a paedophile. Not that I possessed either the conceptual framework or the vocabulary at the time to articulate this fact, but there was something wrong about the way he trembled when he stood close to me (in much the same way as I sensed there was something vaguely wrong with the way my friend from a few doors down S.G. kept nagging me to play doctors with her, insisting that we go upstairs to my bedroom, lock the door and close the curtains. She would strip bare and lie down on the bedspread, her white, hairless body exposed to my impassive gaze. The examinations I performed began with a massage of her stomach. „Lower,” she would inevitably beg, „lower”). I did have a crush on him, mostly because he listened to whatever I had to say. Instead of knitting I was permitted to take part in the woodwork classes (my loathing of the feminine arts of knitting, sewing, crocheting and embroidery had been instilled during my first year at school when Mrs. Clucky, a grey-haired, wizened specimen exuding mean-spiritedness from every pore rapped my knuckles with a wooden ruler class after class for not being quick enough. Corporal punishment was common in the days of my youth, the Lochgelly, a leather strap used to belt outstretched hands, or legs if the teacher’s mood happened to be particularly foul. The ultimate deterrent to silence a restive class, it was usually enough to remove it from the drawer, displaying it on the desk). He encouraged my whims, such as observing cloud formations several times a day, entering the results on a chart and I adored him for it.
Not that this was my sole encounter with illicit male desire. On the afternoon that the Wombles (then at the height of their popularity, topping the hit parade) flew in by helicopter to my home town my parents let me go to the park alone. Having arrived fairly early, I was resting on a bench drinking orange juice when a man sat beside me. Although I had no wish whatsoever to engage in casual conversation with this stranger he would not leave me alone. My discomfort increased as the minutes passed and I thought to make my escape. He followed me, however and when we reached the large oak in the centre of the green, he grabbed me, holding me close to his bulge, kissing me. I have no recollection of his face, only his smell. Alcohol, tobacco, cheap aftershave, sweat and what I now know to be arousal. During his onslaught I entered into a state of paralysis, wishing desparately that a dog-walker, any passer-by would intervene. To no avail. Afterwards, when my limbs regained their normal function, I wandered around stunned. Terrified that he would come back and equally unable to make my way home I headed over to the assembled crowd, the celebrity visit nothing more than a blur.
A hand touching my shoulder brought me back to the sun, the throng, the hotdogs.
„Are you the little girl who was interfered with this morning?” a middle-aged woman enquired.
I nodded and she explained that what he had done was wrong, that she wanted me to tell her where I lived, to take the bus home and she would call the police.
I burst through the front door and ran to my room, flinging myself on to the bed and sobbing bitterly. My parents were naturally worried, even more so once two uniformed officers rang the doorbell, yet I shut them out, unable to tell them anything about the experience until years later.
One constable was carrying a massive tome with thousands of photographs. He gently asked me to look through the pictures and let him know whether I recognised anyone. Page after page of black and white, passport-photo sized images, some of the men depicted more threatening in appearance than others. Once I understood that they were keen for me to point at least one out, I complied, although he wasn’t there. Then came the questions: where did he put his hands? Did he take my clothes off? Did I struggle? It seemed interminable and it left me feeling more and more soiled. It is impossible for a child of the age I was then to undergo a trauma such as this invasion of the body, involve the police and then expect the victim to grasp that she is not somehow at fault. In the mind of a not-yet adolescent, the upholders of law and order are equated with wrongdoing, with blame.

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