There are certain days,
like those mornings just after a heavy downpour
where the scent of pollen and damp soil
mix to form that sickly, sweet smell,
and the sun comes out to create mocking shadows –
yes, days like those –
when nostalgia kicks in and I’m thrown
back to primary school,
clutching my satchel and walking into the playground
where all the other kids play without care
or squabble about nothing.
I sit on my own and watch.
Then the whistle blows
and she comes out, asking
us to line up.
A severe face carved
with severe eyes
and an even severer mouth,
but only when her gaze is turned to me.
Everyone else sees the smiling, caring mask
that tricks them into false security.
She speaks to them with soothing words,
but for me?
For me she leans in so that her severe face
is barely an inch from my own terrified one,
releasing the full roar of her lungs
into my ears.
I know she’s watching me,
waiting for me to tell someone about her.
I try to hide it,
but soon the dread consumes me.
I am physically sick at the idea
of facing her again,
seeing the rage build up in her eyes
when I ask even a simple question.
My parents grow concerned.
They talk with her –
she gives them the smiling mask –
and when they leave,
she rounds on me,
until I am no smaller
than a pebble in her wake.
My face is wet.
I can’t see;
I don’t want to see.
A hand gently touches my shoulder:
it’s time to speak up.
what’s really troubling you.
Tell them the truth
Three weeks later,
she is gone.
Never to return.
Her voice is still there
in my mind.
It’s always there,
and so is the fear.
But now I can choose to ignore it.