vrijdag 28 november 2014

War on the Playground

It had been a great relief to have moved to the south. As long as I remembered I had been very careful going outdoors and always very keen on ways of escaping from being beaten up.
I was 7 years of age now and we lived at the edge of a forest in a part of an ancient villa. So instead of seeing the sombre little houses with their small gardens filled with tiles or gravel I now saw trees wherever I looked. The villas were at a very quiet road with a disturbing name: Road of Death.
Later I understood that this name was given because of the two cemeteries at the end.

To go to school we had to walk to the nearest city, a walk of almost thirty minutes.
In school the children from the villas were left in peace, they were hard to understand by the others because of the dialect they were speaking. Big sister was very anxious to adjust herself to this new world and I went along with this. Even at home we tried to speak in what was considered to be quite a posh manner.

The school was not really peaceful at all; sometimes ambulances appeared in front of the school. Normal things were children who got hurt while having gymnastic lessons, but once in a while we heard stories about the oldest children.

The tallest boy in school was Ricardo. Not even his first name sounded foreign, his last name was like that too. But he spoke very much in the local dialect. I was a bit impressed by this red haired boy. He already had acne and missed one of his front teeth. On his forehead he had a large vertical scar. Story went that this was caused by a teacher. The man had literally kicked him out of class. The boy had landed with his head on the hook of a coat-rack.

He was the leader of his own gang and it was easy to see who was his adjudant. That was the boy who got a piece of his red pepper once in a while. We all doubted if he really enjoyed this treat.
There was another gang: the leader’s name was not known by me. Everybody called him Fat Boy. He was from Asian origin, had raven black hair and already a vague beginning of a moustache.

Normally the gangs tried to stay away from each other. Sometimes there were incidents; the leaders would both chose a boy to fight their fight. One would win and that would end the problems.
This time it seemed to be different, Fat Boy had insulted Ricardo in a terrible way. So this should be straightened out. The leaders chose a total war, what meant that every gang member would take part in the fight. Ricardo was one man short, so he walked up to me. I was announced a member, refusing was not a possibility I felt. Ricardo pointed at a boy who was almost as tiny and skinny as I was. “You take care of him!” He spat some pepper seeds on the ground.

Suddenly the fight had started; everywhere around me boys were hitting each other. The little boy attacked me. I stretched my left leg between his legs and made him fall. Some instinct told me I had to jump on top of him. So my legs were on top of his and I held both his arms on the floor. Somehow I forgot everything around me. I was in total control, I won! Somebody shouted at my ear that I should hit him. I had no idea how that should be done, I only had two arms and they were busy. The little boy started to cry, his eyes filled with tears and snot ran from his nose. I was totally in confusion, never I had made a person cry before. I had very mixed feelings: I pitied the boy but also wondered if this was my revenge for all the times I had been beaten up.

I woke up from a sort of trance because I felt a big hand in my neck. I looked up and it was the head teacher. He pulled me of the boy and together with the other boys I was sent into the school. We all got punished, had to stay part of the normally free afternoon in school. The leaders were taken apart from the rest. The next day we would see them again. It was a few months later that Ricardo got expelled from school after a fight with a teacher.

When I walked home I felt like an unbeatable fighter, felt myself walking proud and straight. At home nobody asked why I was late. Mother just send me back to the city to get some groceries.
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