Non-School Uniform Day: A Short Story
Here’s a short story I wrote a few years ago, about school. It’s rather angst-ridden, and so my school illustration fits rather well here!
Non-School Uniform Day
Today is non-school uniform day and I am 14. This is a long time ago – this is before Spice Girls but after Take That. Before Oasis, but after Nirvana.
I loved Nirvana, but they don’t arrive in north London. This is a time of block heels, scrunches and big black bomber jackets with orange lining. I am not wearing any of these things.
I wear a baggy black Guns n’ Roses t-shirt logo and over that a red checkered shirt. I have denim cut-off shorts over navy-blue leggings. On my feet I wear Converse-style high tops. My long hair, with its purple streak, almost reaches my waist. I feel ready for high school drama and adventure, with a soundtrack by Simple Minds and Tears for Fears because I have trouble accepting Chaka Demus and Pliers have anything to say about my life.
Before I get to school I know I’ve made a terrible terrible mistake. In our form room, I sit near the front and I keep myself still.
“Oi!” someone says behind me, and a paper ball hits the back of my head. “Oi!” I don’t turn round because I hate confrontation and I’m scared of what they’re going to say. “Oi! Yank!” someone hisses, there’s giggling from the back of the class. I’m assuming they’re talking to me, I get momentarily confused – are they using Yank as an insult? I turn around because it might be easier that way – it’s not.
“Show us your shoes,” Danny says from the back of the class, I stick out one of my legs from behind the desk and wiggle it. Perhaps he likes my shoes? Perhaps he understands? He doesn’t, because at that moment there are fits of giggles again – “What the fuck are those?”, “Is she going to play basket ball?!” These are all whispered and not addressed directly to me, which is even worse than if they’d said it aloud. I’m left, as they talk about me to themselves, with my leg dangling in the isle like a fool.
If I had the guts, I’d ask them if they wanted me to do a little jig as well. But I don’t, so I put my leg back under the table and turn to face the front. I ignore feeling hot and I ignore the embarrassment and blushes and just wait until the bell rings. I am glad that I’m leaving at lunch that day to go to the dentist, because in double maths two girls in front of me sit and giggle and talk about me all though the lesson. I’m sure it’s me; what else would they have to laugh about apart from me and my stupid clothes. One of them, they both look so similar, looks me up and down, “That’s a nice shirt.”
The girl on the right bursts into muffled giggles that she only partly tries to hide, “Did your mum buy that or did you?” She doesn’t wait for an answer but just smirks and turns back to get on with answering the questions from the text book. I wonder what she’s got to laugh about, her eyebrows have been drawn in with pencil and she always looks surprised.
In break, I run and find my friend who is hanging around near the school hall with the drama kids. I hide behind her because three more people have pointed to my shoes and laughed in my face. The halls have been filled with whispers of tramp and spastic and one girl insulted me in back slang, but I could never understand it because no one would ever tell me how to translate it. But I knew she was insulting me.
In double geography, I get warm so I take my shirt off and Sean, who laughed at me in form room, points out my t-shirt. “Oh, she’s one of them!” he says to his friend next to him. “Do you like Iron Maiden and that?” Peter asks me. I nod, even though I don’t like Iron Maiden, but I don’t want to open my mouth and talk to these people and explain it. But I feel slightly relieved that they have finally figured it out so now they will just leave me alone.
“She’s such a div, she’s like an embarrassment to the school,” Sean says to Peter, and Peter laughs and gets on with drawing a relief map of China. At lunch, I walk out of the school where my mother is waiting for me in the car, and we drive the 15 minutes it takes to get to the dentist. “How was your day?” Mother asks, and I reply that it was OK “What movie do you want to rent today?” I’m not sure. I am allowed a treat today, because I’m having a tooth removed.
I am too tired to be nervous, and apart from the initial anesthetising needle, the whole thing is a relief. I relax and the dentist puts the pliers on my tooth, grips hard and pulls. I think about what Sean and Peter said as the dentist has to put one leg up on the chair for extra leverage, because I take after my father and my teeth have really long roots. I think about the stupid back slang girl, and what she might have been saying as I can feel the roots crunching in my gum, and the dentist shifts his grip on my tooth and the pliers. I look at my shoes, my Converse-style high tops, as the tooth is finally pulled free and the dentist puts one of those absorbent crouton things in the resulting hole, and starts sewing the hole up.
I smile a little, as no one questioned the make of my shoes, just the style, and that was just as well as they were from Marks and Spencer, not Converse. “The bleeding will stop soon. Sit here for a while and keep washing your mouth out every few minutes or so,” the dentist says. And as I do, I imagine the numb feeling in my face is where I’ve been punched in the face; where I was in a fight, kicking the crap out of that girl with the pencil-etched eyebrows, and the blood I spit into the sink is where she broke a tooth, but I broke her nose and I won and now everyone respects me.
We go home, and I relax now that no one can see me, and we rent out Heathers and I imagine the whole day again, only differently.