Sometimes, Everyday Beasts Need a Warrior
Natasha Bhattacharya

Natasha, you communication flower child, you are such an inspiration. I read this post last Sunday morning and immediately decided, at 6:30 am, to radically change my hair and appearance.

You had me fired up to slay some condescending ghouls, even if those metaphorical ghosts are my own. So, instead of responding, I spent the next 80 minutes trying to put in blonde highlights. I realise that this does not and should not imply that I am a warrior, but, for someone with no salon experience or expertise, it was crazy out of the square. Especially when you consider that I’ve been a bog standard brunette for at least 2 decades.

Like you, I had to fight to be me and stand up to bullies. Though I was regularly sent to the Principal’s office, after I explained I was never punished either. My mother despaired of me ever becoming a lady, but my dad taught me how to punch. It was after I was ten and had moved to a new school.

Tiny, I stood 4 foot 8, slight and spindly. The boy who I was forced to sit next to punched my arm about 6 times a day; always on exactly the same spot beneath the shoulder on the side closest to him. After a week the bruise was mixed shades of purple, red and green. It wouldn’t heal and became more tender each school day.

‘You stand up to him. Tell your teacher,’ mum said.

And I did. Geoff would stop for an hour then resume punching.

After a fortnight, I pleaded with sir to change seats. Then I told that rotten boy that if he didn’t stop for good he would be sorry. He smirked and punched again.

Maths in the middle session, I was perched on the side edge of the desk. Hardly any room to work out angles in geometry, and as far from Geoff as I could get. My pencil case was perched on top, next to the old ink wells that hadn’t been used since my dad went to school. The zip was open. A protractor was right there, pencil on one side and ready to draw. Metal. Sharp. Maybe deadly?

After the next punch, which almost pushed me off my chair, there was a final warning.

‘If you hit me one more time you’re gonna be real sorry.’

‘Huh,’ he said, punching again twice as hard.

This one did knock me to the floor. The other Grade 5 kids, the one’s I had only begun to know, the one’s who I couldn’t call friends yet, turned around and started laughing. Humiliated, my eyes teared up. I was hurt.

I stood, grabbed the protractor and slammed the pointy end down hard. It went into the webbing between Geoff’s thumb and forefinger. After penetrating the wooden desk, it stayed there. Nailed down tight.

The tool stood upright, as if it was ready to draw another circle. Geoff squealed. He shrieked. He cried and pointed with his other hand as if he could not believe that there was an instrument of torture stuck in his hand. Tears flung from his eyes like a mini fountain. It was terrifying and stunning and gory and attention grabbing. Mesmerising.

No blood, but his hand did turn a peculiar shade. He glared at me, as if it was too much to comprehend that this pipsqueak of a new girl would ever have the courage to act.

I admonish school kids all the time for saying: ‘he squealed like a girl.’ But that day, Geoff did, only worse. He squealed like a mouse, like a petulant bully who thought he could get away with continually hurting someone weaker than he was. He squealed for twenty minutes; squealing especially hard when sir finally extracted the protractor and dark blood bubbled out.

The howling and wailing from him was, dare I say it, nicely protracted?

That afternoon, when called to account for the injury I administered in front of my classmates, I was scared. So scared I couldn’t talk. Instead, I rolled up my sleeve. The bruise on my arm was particularly yellowish around the edges, with a splodge of khaki green at the centre. Sir knew how many times I had complained. Everyone heard. He remembered denying me a change of seat. I winced when he touched the skin on my arm, still pink from the last 2 strikes.

There was no punishment, unless it was that every girl and boy in the school now feared me and what I might do to them. No friends really that year, I sat alone. They were all petrified of the small girl. It was okay though, I learned more that way. I definitely learned people watching.

So, while bleaching my hair at home isn’t quite an act of a innate fierceness and personal strength, you reminded me of a time long ago when I was a warrior. A ten year old, pint sized warrior that wasn’t going to be timid and wasn’t going to be bullied any more.

And, the best thing is I haven’t been. And, the second best thing is that I haven’t turned into a knife wielding psychopath who goes around stabbing people without just cause. No, actually, what is good is that I’m pretty much a lady, which means my 90 year old mother is content with how I eventually turned out. Still, even though I’m only 5 foot tall, no one gets to bully me. They. Wouldn’t. Dare.