Home » Pride and Pants

When I was about 10 I had my pants pulled down at school. I was mortified not just by what happened but by my over the top reaction to it. Since I still remember it more than 30 years later I thought it was worth a poem.

So there I am
A Wednesday afternoon
Standing in the playground
With my friends at school
We’re playing football
The american kind
At this point the dinner
Ladies don’t seem to mind
That the game terrorises
The entire school
We’re just being boys
Just breaking some rules

The game is even
Half way through break
When I see an opportunity
That I can take
I make a run
Into the endzone
Reach the end of the playground
All on my own

And the long pass loops
in my direction
I know I’m gonna score
This will be perfection
I reach my arms up
To catch the ball
Confident, athletic
Standing tall

Proud of what I am
About to achieve
The respect from my team
I will surely receive

I grab the ball
I take my chance

And that’s the moment
Lee pulls down my pants

Slow motion
Immediately cuts in
Panic rises up
Blood pulses to my skin
And the faces turn
Like at a tennis match
Both my arms are in the air
Still holding on to the catch
And the site that they see
Is hilarious
A lanky kid
Balancing precariously
Arms aloft
In a moment of joy
With the shocked expression
Of an embarrassed boy
Who has just realised
That he really looks silly
With a hundred other kids
Staring at his willy

And that’s when pride
And dignity collide
And smash in to a million
Pieces in my mind
And I pull my pants up
And I run from the field
And the world swirls around me
Like none of this is real
But it is. I feel such a fool
As I run up the steps
Back into the school
Straight into the bathroom
To hide and cry
The embarrassment
So strong I feel like I could die
But I don’t
Eventually I dry my eyes
And feel like me
So I step outside

And there is Lee

Just Lee, standing there
Nobody around
And before I can think
I’ve pushed him to the ground
Anger fills me up
Like a red balloon
Growing with every breathe
Until it fills the room
I want to hurt him
I want to make him pay
The fury inside me
Isn’t going away
So I swing back my leg
Like some feral creature
And that’s when I hear
The voice of my teacher…

‘What’s going on?’

Slow motion again
There’s no way to hide
That I’m trying to cause pain
Because of my hurt pride
As I stand over Lee
With my foot raised high
And the red balloon bursts
And I realise that I
Am the one in the wrong
And I’ve lost control
And I can’t take it back
And it crushes my soul
To think my mum and my dad
Will find out what I’ve done
The vengeful misdeeds
Of their violent son

But then Lee lifts up his head
and I hear him saying
“It’s really nothing at all
We were only playing”
And he gets to his feet
And takes me by the arm
Mumbling something about
“Not doing any harm”
And we beat a retreat
Back into the bathroom
Where we both have a slice
of humble pie to consume
And so he says
“I’m sorry for what I did”
And I already know that
He really is
And I tell him “sorry too”
And I say “thank you
For saving me just now”
And in the end somehow
We leave the bathroom as friends
And that’s the story
That’s how it all ends

I could have taken the joke
Seen the funny side
He could have left me alone
And not hurt my pride
In the end we decided
To forgive each other
To stand side by side
As friends with one another
But I’ve remembered
That day since I was ten
It has flashed through my mind
Again and again

What happens if the teacher doesn’t step in
To the animal lying under my skin
Under a civilised layer
Stretched so thin

And so I work on the thickness of my skin
On the strength and resilience within
And I try hard to smile instead of frown
When I think of that kid with his pants pulled down

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