Bogey Man Hides

Solitary. Survival. Substitute .

Popped into metal tubes with wings  

And waved off by parents who worked overseas

We were delivered from all over the world 

Entrusted to strangers

as we stepped from one life to another

Georgian doors …

… are imposing to a solitary young girl

Enormous handle right in my face …

Fistful of brass saying “don’t mess with me”

Miss J, our Jamaican matron looms in the doorway

The shelf of her bosom so large that on rainy days her brood of boarding school chicks could neatly tuck underneath for shelter

My possessions amounted to what could fit in a tin trunk

  • A pillow, duvet and soft toy for comfort
  • Scratchy, designer uniform from Harrods
  • A few casual clothes
  • Letter writing gear

On opening the lid all my insecurities tumble out

“What are you doing here?” I hiss

“Thought I’d join you” said he

“It’s an all girls school, you can’t stay”, I admonish

“Why are you such a chicken?”, he teases

And so Bogeyman remains – hidden under my bed

I was grateful for the survival skills he’d taught me so far 

Starting this, my fifth new school in as many years, was terrifying

But I’d learned not to show a skerrick of fear 

To tiptoe quietly around already established friendships

And never to open my beak about my past

 

A hymn. A Bible reading. A prayer.

We had daily chapel services

Polishing of my halo began

Not by God though, by golly no! 

But by the knowledge that misbehaviours had to be confessed to the entire school at assembly

Plus my earthly father would fly over, grab me by the collar and demand:

“What do we need to do now to sort you out?”

Our vicar counselled “You must be born again”

… take solace with another invisible parent God

And be transformed

Weary already of life changes

All I wanted was my mummy

Bogeyman witnessed lighter moments too 

It wasn’t all just dust bunnies …

And nighttime sobs from missing home

  • He saw me lazily wipe my shoes on the back of my socks instead of getting the shoe cleaning kit out
  • Heard shrieks of laughter from apple pie beds
  • Read the raunchy books shoved under the mattress
  • Perused gifts secreted away for birthdays
  • Resisted helping himself to the upside down hats, full of treats, waiting for midnight
  • And was transfixed by the flakes puddled on the floor after my first snow fall. When class was cancelled and we tobogganed down the slopes on baking trays.
  • Then there was the weird thwack, thwack sound of a ball of socks being batted back and forth as T and I played ‘slipper cricket’ while sitting in opposing beds
  • Most poignant of all was listening to the 1978 Clout song “I’ll be your substitute” and observing girls parenting each other: cheering through the good and consoling through the bad

Bogeyman softened

But eventually he tired of being confined 

And wanted to go home 

Plot 148 – page 152

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