My summer of ‘79

“I told him to fuck off”

“Why?”, my brother asks shocked.

“He wouldn’t let me go”

It’s only a few blocks from our school to our house. We’re walking back home from another summer camp day. Summer camps at the school are fun. Crafts, sports and no math. The programs are run by student teachers that need practicum hours. That’s what I’m told. They look too young to be teachers, but what do I know. I’m just a kid.

I know I shouldn’t have said the ‘f’ word. I’m surprised I didn’t get in trouble, but it just came out.

Class is over. I’m gathering my things. Everyone has left. It’s just me and the teacher. He’s a good teacher. Everyone likes him. He’s funny. He makes us laugh. He’s more like a friend’s big brother.

And then he’s the scariest person I know.

The guy I thought was so cool has me trapped. I’m caught between his outstretched arms. I can feel him staring at me. Smiling. His teeth and breath are coffee stained. The smell of adulthood. He’s waiting for me to move. Moving means touching him. That’s what he wants. How do I know what he wants? I shouldn’t know this. I’m too young to know this. I’m nine. And now my nine year old brain is wondering…did I do this? I want to cry.

Time passes slowly as if to make sure every detail of this moment is forever kept for some other time when I can process better. I need to get away. My fear gives me the tiniest bit of confidence. My tiny voice shrieks FUCK OFF, and my feet finally move. I’m trying not to run. I don’t want anyone to know what I just did. I can’t get away fast enough.

His laughter follows me down the empty corridor.

“You did what?”

My father fumes slamming his fist on the table. Utensils and food jump from their plates.

“Pappy”, my mother says to quiet him. It doesn’t work.

I look at my brother. He is seven. He knows nothing of keeping secrets or loyalty. Still, I am mad at him for telling.

My attempts at explaining are useless. My father can only see my actions as disrespect towards an adult. I am fully responsible for what has happened. I need to be punished. I am grounded.

The next day I am escorted to school. My mother apologizes profusely for my behaviour. I am forced to apologize too. He accepts. Of course. It’s unnecessary he claims. Just a misunderstanding. He is staring at me again. Smiling. My mother doesn’t notice.

We walk silently back through the halls. This place will never feel the same again. I will never feel the same again. I will never forget this place. My elementary school. The place where some of my innocence was lost.

And when I remember, many years from now, I will still hear him laughing.

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