I had not seen him approaching.
The first I knew was when he pushed me on my back and I landed on the ground, grazing my right knee.
He was stronger than me so resistance seemed futile.
I turned around to see what I was dealing with and there was my tormentor. This was a guy I had come across a couple of times and who got his kicks out of calling me names, words that were designed to hurt.
It wasn’t hard, all he had to say was something derogatory about my face and the tears would rise to the surface, although I stopped myself crying. I got used to being abused by him, but up to then he hadn’t come physically close to me. Now here he was, his face smiling with evil intent, and there was nothing I could do.
Then the insults started, every one prefaced by the F word. “You should be in a f… zoo”, “you’re a stupid f… monkey”, and so on. You get the drift.
I was 10 years old and wanted to be anywhere but on that ground, but it was a lonely spot, close to houses, but also an area unlikely to be frequented.
He put his knees on my arms and sat on my chest, and I felt real pain. And fear. This guy wasn’t going to leave me go until he was finished. He started slapping my face, not hard, but painful all the same. He gave me a few digs on the side, called me “ugly” and spat at my face.
His hand patted my chin as if seeing it for the first time, and then his face changed, his nose and eyes suddenly contorted in rage. He grabbed my chin, pinched it hard, and started insulting me again. I tried to shove him off, but it was useless. He seemed more enraged and then grabbed my chin roughly, so much so that I thought he was trying to pull it off. Still the expletives flowed. He was smiling now, enjoying himself.
Me? I just wanted my ordeal to end, for that guy to get off me and leave me alone. I started crying – maybe I had been for a while – pleading with him to leave me, but he wasn’t finished yet. My nose was bleeding and between that and the tears, my rage and my impotence I was beginning to forget about the physical pain. I was humiliated, scared. Most of all I hated my face.
Just when I was losing all hope he got up, gave me one hard look, kicked me in the side and left. I couldn’t believe my luck and as I slowly stood up and gathered my thoughts I knew there was only one response – I ran home, looking over my shoulder every now and then to see was I being followed.
I never met my attacker again, and have no idea where he went. But I can see his face now clearly as if he was standing in front of me. I knew that day my face was radically different – much more so than I already guessed – that the disfigurement could frighten others.
What I didn’t know was that ridicule, humiliation and loneliness lay ahead and that I wasn’t well equipped to deflect the negative attention I drew.