When I was 17 and in my second year at sixth form I decided to skip school, not the whole day, just the dreaded first period physics lesson. My wonderful, lovely physics teacher of the previous year had been replaced with a miserable woman from New Zealand who instead of championing the only two girls taking A-level physics, seemed to go out of her way to give us a hard time. That morning I couldn’t be dealing with her so for the first and last time, I bunked off.
An hour later than usual I headed out on the same route I had been taking for the previous 6 years, Walkman at my hip, pounding the pavement to my favourite grungy mixed tape. As I got about halfway to school a man walking towards me got my attention, I slipped my headphones out and he asked me if I knew where a certain road was. It didn’t ring any bells but as I turned off not far from there I suggested it could further up the hill where I was less familiar with the street names. He thanked me and turned to walk back the way he’d come from. I popped my headphones back in and carried on walking, still trying to think if I had seen the road he was looking for. He was a few paces ahead of me as I crossed the road but as I reached the pavement he turned towards me and before I knew what was happened he grabbed my breast.
I pushed him away as I shouted and swore at him, fury my instant reaction. I immediately turned to continue my walk, extra stomp in every step, when something clicked in my brain and I pulled my headphones from ears. He was following me, I turned to look behind me and there he was a few steps behind, smiling while shouting abuse at me. My fury turned to fear, I was still a good 10 minutes from school and I knew there was an alleyway coming up and I had visions of him dragging me down there.
As I followed the bend in the road a man appeared pushing a pram and thankfully it must have been enough to spook the guy behind me as the next time I looked around he had vanished. I didn’t stop to ask for help, I’m not sure why but instead I rushed up the hill, desperate to get inside the school gates, knowing only then would I feel safe.
I remember walking through the doors of the common room and my friend spotting me, that was the moment I broke. Tears streaming, I became squivering wreck and it took a while for me to compose myself enough to explain what had happened.
The school as a whole were brilliant, the scary deputy headmistress arrived while I was waiting for my mum and the police and was incredibly sweet to me, encouraging me to take the rest of the week off while I tried to pretend I was okay. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for the head of sixth form who summoned me to her office the following week when I returned to school. After briefly checking that I was alright she proceeded to try and advise me to think about how I dress!
It’s been over 20 years since this happened and there are ways that it still affects me. I love walking and I love music but I have never managed to reunite the two. I’ve tried many times, even just having one headphone in, but I can’t relax. and I still can’t do it without being taken over by the fear that someone is behind me.
I know in the grand scheme of things it could have turned out much worse than it did but I hate that I lost a simple pleasure that day.