Reconnecting recently with an old friend whom I've known since we were both in primary school has brought some childhood memories flooding back. I hated school - but I hated high school more than primary. Teenage girls can be bitches; in primary school the teasing or bullying wasn't so nasty (apart from one of the teachers!).
I had been sent to kindergarten with the firm instruction to Do What I Was Told. Being an only child and not having gone to pre-school, I was a bit under-socialised with other kids apart from the neighbours' kids and my older cousins. Mum feared I might get a bit stroppy with the teachers too I think.
I took this directive very seriously.
So seriously in fact that when a little monster called Mark told me to put coal in my underpants one lunchtime, I did.
Mark was the sort of kid who'd play Fathers and Mothers and try to do the deed. Like many small boys he was intrigued in the differences between boys and girls. I suspect he took me to the coal heap and watched my pull down my panties and load them with coal to see if he could get a glimpse of what they'd been covering up. The coal heap was behind two of the buildings, out of sight; I'm not sure what the coal was used for but there was plenty of it, black and shiny and sharp.
Back in class Mrs B noticed me wriggling awkwardly on my seat and may have even heard crunchy noises. You can imagine her thought: If this kid has crapped in her pants what the hell has she been eating?
She drew me aside and asked a few questions. I don't know how she kept a straight face when I told her that Mark had made me put coal in my panties. I bet she roared with laughter once we kids had gone home and probably had hysterical giggling fits with her husband that night.
I don't remember what punishment Mark got, but I know Mrs B told my Mum what had happened when she came to collect me that afternoon. Mum then revised her instructions, realising I had taken them very literally: Do What The Teachers Tell You To Do, Not What Anyone Else Tells You.
It was some time later - that year? the year after? - when Mark bailed me up outside the loos, a stinky little block for the kids up to age 8. It was never really clean as little kids peed on the floor or missed the bowl completely, and I sometimes used to hang on all day rather than go in there to pee.
Mark proudly unzipped his fly and showed me his willy. I had never seen one before. I didn't gasp with horror or shock, or show amazement or delight. I didn't give him any reaction he wanted. I laughed. I know now with hindsight he'd been circumcised, but his willy looked for all the world like a pencil with an rubber (eraser) on top, one of those rubbers that were popular at the time, little pyramids with a round top. It was even much the same colour. His willy was a pencil with a rubber. I pointed and laughed.
These days I would probably have received counselling had I told anyone, and Mark would have been monitored for signs of sexualisation and therefore perhaps sexual abuse. His parents would have received A Visit From The Authorities.
Instead Mark crossly zipped himself up and didn't, that I recall, speak to me again unless the teacher made us work together. He did yell taunts at me a couple of years later when I started riding my bicycle to school and made fun of me and my purple bike. He made it a point to yell rude comments along the 'Fatso!" lines and jeer at the colour of my bike. I did, I think, try to ride at him once and run him over (as you do when you're 8) but he ran too fast and made more fun of me when I couldn't catch him.
I doubt I was the only girl he tried to expose himself to; most of the girls steered clear of him on reflection.
After I left to go to high school I didn't see him again, except once. I would have been about twenty or so and chatting with a girlfriend beside my car, Herbie. A couple of young guys clattered past in another old VW, this one hand-painted, clumsily, red. "I see red, I see red, I see red!" one of them sang out the window at me - it was a hit by Split Enz at the time. "Ugly car! Paint it red!" he continued. They drove back and forth a couple of times before dak-dakking into the distance, shouting at me about painting my car red and I looked at my friend Sarah, who seemed to know them.
"Who was THAT?"
"Mark W -, I think," she replied.
It made sense. I don't know if he recognised me or was still, frankly, the kid who made girls put coals in their panties and anyone was fair game.
What's he doing these days? No idea, but I suspect his destiny was to be a merchant banker.
Rhyming slang, folks, rhyming slang.