His name was Danny.
He was one of the last of a string of bullies I encountered...that far along the rope, in grade ten, I was remarkably nonchalant about being teased, taunted and trodden upon, and so I didn't know--or care to know--anything about him besides his name, face and general whereabouts at any given time so I could avoid him. I only shared two classes with him and so that latter was pretty easy.
It turned out there was a lot to know about Danny, and come February of that school year, we'd all know it.
If everyone who claims to have been there the day Danny's locker was opened and puked into had actually been there, the hallway would have been packed six deep. You'll have to trust me: I was actually there. I was gallivanting off to the bathroom, as it happens, when I couldn't help but notice the janitor striding purposefully down the corridor. I couldn't help but notice the janitor because he was dragging Danny by the ear.
I can hear you 2013 students calling bullshit right along about now.Any janitor doing such a thing would be promptly fired and charged with assault. No bullshit: this was the eighties, and times were different.
Nevertheless, a janitor dragging Danny by the ear was sufficiently out of the ordinary to arouse my curiosity. I slowed my stride, turned around and walked slowly backwards. The janitor arrived in front of what was presumably Danny's locker, released his hold on Danny's ear, and told him to open it up. Danny worked the combination. I'd come to a stop at this point, probably about twenty feet away, and I watched as the lock clicked, the door swung open, a flash of green appeared and the janitor promptly bent over and vomited profusely right into the locker.
My curiosity went from moderate to extreme in a heartbeat, but prudence won out: I figured Danny'd be in even more trouble than he'd evidently been in already, and I didn't want to stand around in case his trouble was contagious. I went to the bathroom. By the time I'd attended to business, the principal and one of the teachers had joined the custodian and Danny. Danny was crying. Well, no...actually he was wailing. I sidled past the locker, huddled against the opposite wall. A wave of stench like nothing I've smelled before or since almost knocked me over, but it was none of my business and I didn't want anyone thinking it was. Back to class I went.
I never saw Danny again.
But I heard his story, circulated piecemeal around with that relativistic speed that gossip attains only in high schools and small towns, and it was tragic (and disgusting) enough that I sought and got confirmation from that teacher I'd seen at Danny's locker.
Danny had lost his mother and father in separate car accidents back in September. Within two weeks of each other. Can you imagine? It really put his bullying into a whole new perspective for me, and it's a big reason why today I don't hate bullies the way someone with my history would be expected to. It's really true: all too often, the bullies are victims themselves. You just never know of what.
Anyway, Danny had gone off to live with an aunt, or a grandma, or somebody--I once knew what relation, but have forgotten that detail. Aunt Grandma had packed Danny his school lunch, every school day from whenever he'd first gone to live with her until he was kicked out of school and into what I imagine was some desperately needed psychiatric care, in mid-February. Aunt Grandma gave Danny egg salad sandwiches. Danny didn't like egg salad sandwiches, and so he deposited them in his locker. Every school day. Until mid-February, when that locker was opened and puked into.
Yes, you could smell it. For a distance on either side of that locker, you could smell it. But you couldn't be expected to guess what it was, and furthermore the smell was so pervasive it was impossible to pin down. It's like how if you take a lobster, say, and unscrew the pillar of somebody's office chair and plop it in. After a while the entire office will reek to high heaven and you won't have the slightest clue where the stink is coming from. (Don't ask me how I know this and I will tell you no lies.) High school being high school, though, somebody had eventually discovered what Danny was growing in his locker and snitched on him.
Why am I telling you this story, besides explaining my absolute hatred of egg salad sandwiches and my unsuspected sympathy for bullies? Because I just learned via an e-friend's tweets last night that...well, I'll let him tell it:
Fucking boomerang lunches. School has hotdog day, so for a fee child gets one hotdog, a juice box and a cookie. Not allowed to throw garbage at school. Must bring it home. So son comes home with hotdog and cookie packaging, leaking juice box, and opened condiment packs So now his back-pack has food garbage all smeared inside it. THANKS WATERLOO REGION SCHOOLBOARD!!!!!”
Some other Facebook friends of mine, equipped with children attending other Waterloo Region school board schools, informed me this policy is in place to encourage reusable containers; also to show parents what their kids are or are not eating. Good intentions, to be sure, but both overbearing and hopelessly naïve. Overbearing because my God, is the Three-R Police Force going to arrest me if I send my kid to school with a peanut butter sandwich in waxed paper, the way I went to school for years? (Don't answer that...hell, these days a peanut butter sandwich would get me and my kid thrown in jail for murder...) And naïve because kids aren't stupid. They'll find ways to get around eating what you pack for them so long as one of their friends has something more tempting. And that food you send with them will get discarded....but since their aren't acceptable receptacles for the purpose, they'll make their own.
They might even use lockers.