I don’t like thinking about the past. It makes me irksome. But, when I do think of the past I picture a murky, grey pool. It’s grimy, unclear and sometimes- just sometimes- you can make out things underneath.
This new series of mine, The Grey Pool, deals with the past. Particularly my time at school. I’m going to tell as many stories as I can remember, as accurately as I remember. I do this because I think every story has a moral or influence upon my world view. Plus, this is cheaper than therapy. Let’s begin.
I woke up for secondary school at about seven o’clock in the morning each and every weekday. Every morning was a chaotic rush. I was always tired, I’d eat quick, get ready quicker and then be out the door.
My house is in the middle of the Irish countryside. The land it rests on used to be a field, but the soil is too acidic to grow anything and its so close to the river that it was prone to floods- which while every field in Ireland is soaking wet all the time, it was a bit too much for most farmers to bare.
My Da bought the field, put a good few layers of rock underneath to get it high enough away from the river- flattened the rocks out as much as possible and then built a house on it- correction, two houses. He fucked up the first one- it’s a two storey house with only three rooms.
He piled excess dirt on the remaining patches of field surrounding the house into these two big, ugly hills. The whole goddamn place looks like a swamp with a white house stuck in it.
I climb up the lane on these jagged ass rocks that you never quite get used to walking on. Bus comes straight up outside the lane, onto the main road. I stand here in the rain, snow, wind and heat. Sometimes the bus is late, sometimes early, sometimes it doesn’t show up at all.
When you get on from my end, it takes about forty five odd minutes to get to Maghera- where I go to school. To get there you need to head down this country road, straight through the town of Dungiven and then climb over a goddamn mountain range- the Glenshane, a road that connects Derry City to Belfast.
The Glenshane is in the heart of the Sperrin mountains. I’ve talked to people who’ve crossed it a few times and they expressed how feared they were of, y’know, accidents. Honestly it’s a sound road, unless it’s Winter.
I was in second or third year, I was a fat weak blob who had yet to learn the craic. I didn’t really have any friends, which was understandable because I was incredibly annoying and weird. Most of the friends I did have were just guys I went to Primary School with who just tolerated me being around them.
Here’s a quick tip; never stay anywhere when your presence is tolerated. Toleration leads to abuse.
A month or two into second year, these new boys start getting our bus- Dungiven Cunts. Now, I’ve no problem with Dungiven- outside of their shitty secondary school and the production of a good few rat bastards. Anyone with a lick of sense would rather overdose on Elephant Tranquilliser than to go to school in Dungiven. That’s why you had two double deckers taking kids out to Maghera.
Plenty of room on those buses too. Which is why the presence of these Dungiven Cunts, who were only really there to hang out with their friend.
Right off the bat they caused trouble. Only people supposed to be getting this bus were either from Feeny or Park- sixty odd people at most. The school talks to Translink before every year to get suitable buses for each route- this was the best they could get. A skinny, pencil dick of a bus. Because of these pricks, the bus was overcrowded.
They were wasters. Cheeky wee cunts with no futures, no discernible influence or positive impact on society. The best they could hope for is to get a shitty job, live in a shitty house, impregnate some poor doll and raise even worse kids. They were loud, brash and annoying. They were cunts from Dungiven.
Everyone on the bus hated them. I was deemed alright for like, a split second, cause I used to spitball some of these cunts now and again. One of them tried to square up afterwards but my year group had my back. Felt class, having an entire people to hate.
There was an unspoken hierarchy on the bus. Everyone sat in the order of their year group. First years in the front, sixth form in the back. Those who didn’t sit in this pattern were typically outcasts. We were segregated by age and it worked great. But these cunts didn’t even understand that. They tried sitting where they wanted. But obviously that didn’t last long. Even a Dungiven Cunt will catch on eventually.
A few months pass by and their shit stirring began to die down, mostly. Everyone still fucking hated them but school drags you down so much you just begin to lose concern for everything.
At some point during this year we began to pick up this girl from the Benedy, a wee village outside of Dungiven- straight on the Glenshane. She was fifth year, seemed nice. These Dungiven Cunts didn’t like her- not one bit. They started making fun of her. She had to pass them every morning to get to her seat, the first thing she saw every day was those swarmy little racist cunts jeering at her.
She was tough though. Never even looked at them. Every snide remark they lay her way she’d tell them to fuck off, or something to that effect. I can’t remember anything they said to her, but I remember one thing she said to them in this fierce, low voice; “I’m hardly getting bullied by first years.”
I don’t know what she felt like. I don’t know what effect these sadistic little morning rituals had on her. But I think she hated it.
In school you’re brought up in a hierarchy, age and social status act as ranks. Every year group hates the year group below them and has either a disdain, fear or indifference to the ones above them. When a person from a year group below you acts the lad, their behaviour is somehow more insufferable than it would be from someone in your own year or above.
You may be old and grey. You may have trouble understanding the seemingly banal and stupid trends of young people. You may have a distaste for us, may even say you hate us. But I tell you this; nobody- and I mean nobody– hates young people more than young people.
This goes on for a few weeks. Her brother was in my year, a sound guy, got his own bus. He was a great example of the type of lads Dungiven could produce. Another boy in my year who got my bus started telling him the things these Dungiven Cunts would say to her, he was an informant.
Every morning me, the Feeny guys and some Dungiven one’s would meet up to…I don’t know, sit about- there isn’t a lot you can do in school outside of sit or walk about. They’d talk the shit, tolerate my existence. At some point her brother would always go up to the informant and ask about what they said to her today. I can’t mind exactly what they said, but I do remember the look on his face as he gently brushed his fist against the wall as he listened. Rage fermenting, the unsettling heat before a thunderstorm. I knew rightly what was going to happen next, everyone with a lick of sense did.
A week or two later, when your woman got on the bus in the morning- these Dungiven Cunts said nothing. Barely even looked at her. They had a bitter face on them, some had the hints of bruises. They never bothered her again.
Her brother left school after that year, think he transferred to Dungiven or went off to America. Pretty sure she left that school after fifth year.Either went to tech, transferred or just got a job. The Dungiven Cunts got our bus for the remainder of their time at school, which was as brief as humanely possible. After a few years their behaviour mellowed, we tolerated them like a cancerous mole that would eventually fall off on its own.
You’re probably wondering right about now about the title of this particularly entry. Cowardice? Who’s the coward? Ooh. It was the Dungiven Cunts, wasn’t it? Because bullying is like, the ultimate form of cowardice, right?
Possibly, but I’m not calling these boys cowards. They’re just cunts.
No, the real coward of this story is me and every single useless sack of shit on this bus that stood by and did nothing while all this shit was going on. Had to wait til her god damn brother had to do the thing we were too feared to.
Even the guy who told the brother the shit going on isn’t exempt. But he did more than the rest.
I’d end this little tirade by quoting “oh, the only thing it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” bullshit like a goddamn hack. But in all honesty there were no good people in this scenario. There were monsters and there were cowards, and if you learn anything from this story it’s that it is better to be a monster than a coward. For while a monster hurts others, a coward will let it.