After a few days, the newness and novelty of grade five wore off, to be replaced by an atonal sameness of routine typical of any classroom. There was some initial excitement cause by the fact that I was the only person in the class that could not write in cursive, but it was agreed that I would be allowed to continue to print, so long as my printing was neat and legible, and “representative of a quality of work attributable to a grade five student.”
The schoolwork was not difficult. It shortly became as normal as the drone of the air conditioner. My transition to grade five was more or less seamless in maths, sciences and english. French proved to be a challenge, as I had missed the introductory classes that most students experienced in grade four, but some diligent studying with my sister quickly compensated.
After the first two weeks at school, it became clear that grade five no longer hated me. Sister Maria Corvi didn’t hate me, she simply thought I was “too big for my britches” and “too smart for my own good.” There was no doubt she believed I should never have been skipped. My continued success in her classroom merely infuriated her.
While the workload of grade five presented no real challenges, the social landscape of grade five seemed too complex for me to travel. While most of my classmates were more than happy to ignore me, Jay continued to resent me for reasons I could not understand. His motives were impenetrable. His cruelty was profound.
No week went by in which I wouldn’t hide the purply-green bruises on my arms, marks imprinted on my skin in a near-perfect fist shape. His cronies would chant profanities at me. Even when I was far away from their taunts, the words and the hurt would float across the school yard, and the wind would whisper them in my ear.
Once he stole my sketchbook, and scribbled obscenities across every page. Another time he tripped me during a class basketball game. It looked harmless enough – an accidental collision – but his knee met my crotch and left me dazed on the floor while the good Sister screamed at me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get up.
And each time he would watch me, the gleam in his eye daring me to tell someone, to try and get him in trouble. And each time I remained silent.
Sometimes I believed he would really hurt me, do something permanent.