Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
This story has been inspired by the style of short stories written in the book ‘Here I Stand: Stories That Speak for Freedom’ (by Amnesty International).
This short piece was written with the help of the boy whose story follows.
[All names have been changed]
Although this is a true story the names of all involved have been changed and a certain amount of creative licence has been used. The truth is, that, no matter what angle you take on the following story what happened is shockingly brutal and I hope that you take time to learn from these words. People still live in horrendous poverty even in the developed world.
I rolled over in my grimy, dirt ridden bed. I really should wash it but there’s no time. There’s never any time. I roll over again and clasp my clammy forehead, yesterday’s bruises still fresh on my mind. What am I doing with my life? No time to think now.
I stand up, Stretch and yawn.
Mum’s still out on the Sofa. She will be for another day or so, I think. Her hand lies limp by her side, the needle still clutched tightly in her yellowed fingers. Carefully, I remove it. If the police were to find her now, in such a state… I dread to think what would happen.
I take the needle, tip the sofa forwards and lift up the loose floorboard. There’s a box under there and I know where to put it. I wish I didn’t have too. But I don’t have a choice.
Last night’s cigarette fumes rise from the ashtray in grey, snake like, coils. We’re lucky it hasn’t set of the fire alarm. I can’t risk anyone else entering the flat.
It’s time for Sammie and Zack to wake up. Age six and three, they don’t deserve this shit-hole of a childhood. Sammie wakes first. It’s a mad rush to get her ready for school and dressed. She says she’ll make sure Zack gets to day care on time. I kiss her forehead. Mum was blessed with a daughter as sweet as her. I just wish I could say that she was blessed with Mum. She gives Zack a little talking to as I help him on with his boots. He got in a fight at school recently. Called some other guy a ‘dick’. He’s only three for god’s sake? Where the fuck did he learn a word like that.
Zack and Sammie have left the house now, since their schools further away. It’s eerily quiet. I grab my homework jotter for French. I’ll have to do it at break time. I need to go now.
I swing my backpack round and make my way out of the front door. I don’t technically need to leave now but I don’t want to spend any more time at 'home' than I have to.
I round the corner between my block of flats and the next grey concrete rat infested clone. I freeze. Standing, not a metre away, is the Doctor.
Dr Dum we used to call him. I pull up my hood to cover my bruise. I can’t risk him seeing.
He lives in one of those fancy four bedroom new builds along the road. He smiles at me and I glare back. Neither of us speak, there isn’t anything to be said.
Dr Dum climbs into his fancy new Toyota and drives off.
I’m only a block away from the high school now. I’m very early. Maybe I’ll just wait outside until someone I know turns up? There doesn’t appear to be anyone around.
Just across the road from me a boy steps out from his fancy-four-bedroom-new-build-home. I watch as a beautiful middle aged woman reaches out to kiss his forehead tenderly. She’s wearing a lovely flowing dress that sweeps around her as she kisses her son goodbye.
He’s one of those kids. The kids from the privileged families with the ironed shirt collar and tie right up to the top. He’s wearing a blazer and his uniform is pristine. Definitely a middle class snob.
I shove my hands in my pockets and pull my hood forward. I’ll never be like him.
He’s crossing the road.
He walks past me. Well, strides. No swaggers. Posho.
When he’s in front of me he glares into the dark depths of my hood and shouts something at me.
Why did he call me that? I want to turn around and tell him that I don’t know a single person who’s ever lived in Pakistan. I think it’s because my father was Indian. How dare he call me something like that? Who does he think he is?
Obviously I don’t speak to him simply. Why would I tell him he’s wrong when I could simply turn around and tell the bastard to eff-off? So that’s what I do.
‘Fuck off.’ I scream.
I’ve arrived at school after hanging back from the posh kid. I know that if anyone else had been nearby then I’d be dead. I shrug it off. He’s just a middle class jerk. He’s probably only thirteen or something.
The bars of our ominous school gates loom before me. It’s still closed but somehow four-bedroom-new-build has managed to sneak through. It’s like watching a rat through the bars of a cage.
Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with school. Why I don’t just stay at home with my mum, knocked out, cold, on the sofa. Needle never far from my side. I wonder why I don’t just leave this wretched country, move to India. That’s where my Gran lives. I haven’t seen her since I was Sammie’s age. Since my dad…
The boy is speaking to a teacher now, Mrs Weston, I think? He’s gesturing in my direction.
That probably means trouble. I pull my hood up even further and shove my hands as deeply into my jeans pockets as they can go.
She’s coming over now.
The head teacher’s office seems much bigger and imposing from inside. I guess, I’m used to it now though.
“That’s the third time this week you’ve been in here with me, Alex.” Mrs Weston booms. Technically she’s not the head teacher, more of a ‘stand in’. But she acts like she owns the place anyway.
I’m sitting next to Mr four-bedroom-new-build. He says I highly insulted him on his way to school this morning, told him to eff-off. That’s not entirely false. But it’s not all of the story.
I tell Mrs Weston what he called me and it’s posho’s turn to look terrified.
“Don’t you dare use language like that in here.” And then she’s shouting at me. I can see the anger behind her eyes. I watch it bubble and froth. She looks like she might explode. I just pull the lip of my hood further up over my face and make sure the bruise is still covered.
It’s almost time for school to start. Peter, that turns out to be the snobs name, has gone away to cry in some bathroom. Apparently I punched him. I don’t exactly remember what happened. I remember Mrs Weston telling him off for his inappropriate language. I remember the blood boiling beneath my skin as he got up to leave the room with no more punishment than saying the simple word ‘sorry’. I remember how he got to leave with nothing more than a simple smirk while I had to stay seated so that she could give me the dates of my detention.
That’s when I punched him. Simple as that. Quick flick of the wrist and, bang. That’s me in detention for at least a week.
Mrs Weston is reaching out towards the phone at the back of the office. She’s still smiling at me. I wish she wouldn’t. I wish she’s just swear and scream and curse and tell me how much of a fucked up dickhead I am. But she still doesn’t. She just smiles sweetly and reaches for the phone.
“Hello?” She’s speaking down that telephone now. “Hello? Is that Alex’s mum?”
She’s probably still unconscious on the couch. Even if she is awake there’s no way she’ll be in any state to answer the phone.
“She’s out.” I say, shaking. (It’s not entirely false?)
“At work?” Mrs Weston asks. She’s doing that horrible sweet smile of hers that looks like she’s talking down to me. I want to puke.
I can’t think of anything else to say other than ‘yes’, even though it’s a lie.
I’m shaking violently now. It’s just one of those things I do when I can feel my life falling around me. No wonder my dad…
Suddenly, the pressures of this morning all flood out and I can’t make sense of my own words as the tumble and spin from my mouth. My hood’s crumpled back but I don’t care. The bruise stands tall and proud upon my forehead. It’s telling me, you’re mum deserves to die.
And then I’m thinking of my mum in her general half-awake state, nails digging deep into my shoulders as she throws me into the wall, again and again and again. All of those times I’ve held her arm still while she presses the needle tip deep into her skin. I think of the time she threw Zack across the room when he was a baby. I think of how I had to pretend that he’d fallen down the stairs. The covers I never washed. The box beneath the sofa. The job as a Lawyer I’ll never have.
And I’m thinking of the Father I never knew. The father who couldn’t live with himself anymore than I can now. The Indian man who moved across half of the world to be with the woman he loved only to discover that she’d found something she’d rather have. And, in my mind’s eye, I watch him tumble off that bridge, relief upon his face.
And I’m thinking of Peter and all of the other people who constantly throw me down just because I’m different. Just because I live in a flat with dirty bedsheets and a constant lack of food.
And then, as suddenly as it began, it’s over.
I wipe the tears from my bloodshot eyes and calm my shaking hands with one final gulp of air.
Mrs Weston’s staring at me, just staring, phone still in hand.
I’m in the social workers car.
He says I don’t need to worry anymore, that it’s all going to be okay.
He’s going to find me foster parents.
I don’t know anymore.
When we leave I wonder what’s going to happen to my brother and sister;
Aged six and three.
Somewhere down the road we pass the Doctor in his car. He smiles at me and I glare. We say nothing.
There is nothing to be said.
Two years later the boy still hasn't heard from his siblings. He was moved to a town over fifty miles away from the city he was born in. Although he has been back to the city, he is not allowed any contact with his mother. He has no clue whether his sister and brother are still living with her and he is not allowed to find out until he turns eighteen.