I didn’t want to move from the bench. If I moved from the bench I would have to open my eyes to prevent myself from walking into things. If I opened my eyes then I would see someone from school, didn’t matter who, they’d all know by now. I didn’t want to see a single person, not one knowing glance, not one pretending not to notice it was me or pretend that they’d seen me but it was just another day. So, although it was only 11 in the morning I decided to stay on the bench, with my eyes closed and head down until it was dark. When it was dark I could walk out of there and if I was extremely lucky, not see a single person.

Once I was home I could barricade myself into the apartment and it would be OK, for  a while. I didn’t care that I couldn’t stay there for ever or that I would eventually need food or that someone was bound to call my Mum or the police or try and break in eventually and then I’d have to see there face, all their faces and I’d know that they knew and they’d know I knew they knew and that would be it.

Maybe, I could go home in the dark, pack my things, just the essentials, take my passport and move over to somewhere obscure, a small war-torn African country where even though it was much more dangerous, physically and I didn’t know anyone and I would feel homesick and I hated being on my home at the best of time s and I’d never left the country before and I would probably cry myself to sleep for the first few weeks and I had no particular skills or job experience or means of earning money and would probably risk starvation, at least when I saw people, when they looked me in the eye, they wouldn’t know, and I wouldn’t know they knew so it would be better.

I’d already heard the usual jeers, people walking on the other side of the field that hadn’t bothered to cross over but had jeered.

‘There he is, there’s McClintock. Hey McClintock, we see you there.’

So I knew they knew already, but it was the eyes, I couldn’t bear to look them in the eyes. Hearing their bullshit was OK, well it was humiliating and degrading and I wished I could disappear, but at least I didn’t see them and they didn’t see me seeing them.

I couldn’t face that sense of shame.

Mum had said, I should go to school had made me go, had driven me in and left me on this fucking bench, waited with me not letting me leave until she knew there were people about and I couldn’t avoid them

You have t face it son, there’s only one way to do this, face it, now, get it over with and then it’ll get easier ever day.

Easy for her to say, she’d never been in this position, well she’d done some pretty humiliating stuff of course, like the time she woke up in the shopping centre with no clothes on and it was closed and she had to wait until the staff came in and found her and called the police and they marched her down the high street with nothing on and took her to the cells and left her there naked and covered in her own shit until the next day, there was that. Plus, she knew I knew about it because I, at the tender age of 11 had to go and collect her, bring some clothes along, get her home, help her into the bath, all covered in shit still and then phone her boss and tell him she wouldn’t be in, again, and try to convince him that this time it was a real emergency, and he shouldn’t fire her and if they fired her it would be terrible for me and her.

They didn’t listen though

So she had a few things to base her plan on, she had to go back to that shopping centre every week, it was the only place to go in this dump, she saw the shop assistants who’d found her and she looked them in the eye and after that, it was less bad.

Good luck to you Mum, but it wasn’t this bad, was it, I’d said to her, and she didn’t answer me, wouldn’t look me in the eye, just wandered off, leaving me on this stupid bench

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