I’m not the kind of guy that goes around picking fights and I never have been. Sure, I’ve had a few, but most have been either in self-defence or in defence of someone else. One of these occasions ended up getting me expelled from perhaps the best school I could ever have hoped to go to.
I never really wanted to go to a public school. All my friends from primary were going to the local comprehensive but my parents could see that going there would give me far less opportunities in life. We couldn’t afford to pay the fees so I had to take an entrance exam in order to win a scholarship.
When I started there the vast majority of the other kids were all from rich families and many wouldn’t even talk to me because they thought I had no right to be there. It wasn’t long before I started playing up and getting into trouble. I started stealing and selling my wares on the playground and I made a few enemies in the process.
The only person who treated me like an equal was a girl who used to get the same bus as me. For me it was the bus to the run down neighbourhood where I lived. For her it was the bus to the hospital where her mother worked as a consultant. That girl became one of my very first crushes and, even though we were just friends, I became really protective of her in the same way as I’ve always been protective of those who show me loyalty, and still am.
After getting into trouble again and spending two weeks off school on suspension I was due to go back for the very last day of term before the summer holidays. The teachers said that, if I could stay completely out of trouble for just that day, then they would give me a clean slate the following year. And not only that, they said that there wasn’t even any classes on as my year were being asked to show around all of the primary school kids that were due to join the school from September. Obviously, they couldn’t let me do this since I’d just got back from being suspended, but they said I could sit in the assembly hall for the day and just chat with my friends.
I thought that would be easy. What trouble could I get into sitting with my mates in the hall? I was guaranteed a clean slate and I wasn’t going to waste it, I thought.
However, just half an hour before the end of the school day, one of the biggest snobs in my year came over and sat directly behind me. He was saying all sorts and I knew he was trying to wind me up so I just ignored him. But then he started on the one girl who had shown me loyalty.
Something inside me just clicked and I told him to leave it out. He came back with the standard “what are you going to do” response and I struggled to restrain myself. I told him to cut it out or he’d soon find out and hoped that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. He carried on and the second he finished having a pop at my friend I turned around and hit him.
It was only one hit, and it was the only time I’d ever thrown the first punch, but the moment it landed his cheek ballooned and he jumped to his feet. I slumped down in my chair as he ran across the hall to where the teachers were standing and pointed directly at me, shouting about how I’d attacked him. I looked around at all of the little kids, there to dispel any fears they had about moving up to a new school, and took in their shocked faces. I knew it was over and within an hour I was expelled.
But despite the attitude of most of the other students and even some of the teachers there, that really was the best school I ever went to. It had the best facilities, the best programmes, even the best quality of teaching. I have to wonder how different my life would have been if I hadn’t thrown that punch.
I’d probably have made it through the day. I’d have been given a clean slate. I like to think I’d have used it. I might have got my act together. I could have really knuckled down and got some great grades. I wouldn’t have moved house again. In all likelihood I wouldn’t have started drinking so much. I probably would have never come to prison at all.