“Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.”
At ten, I went to an all-boys boarding secondary school.
There are many painful things in life that they tell you are good for you. “You’ll see the benefits later,” they say, encouraging you to bear it. If I made a list, boarding school would be at the top, several spots ahead of a colonoscopy.
Before I was shipped out, I had to choose between a day school close to home, and a boarding school in a different state.
My parents like to say they allowed me to make this decision myself. The truth is a bit more complex. Yes, I chose, but they made it easy by listing only pros for the school they liked, and only cons for the school they didn’t like.
Whenever we went out, we would drive past the day school, and if we were early enough in the mornings, we would see the day students running to make it into the school before the morning bell. If they were late, a teacher would stand in front of the school gate with a cane, whipping the students as they walked in. My mother would shake her head and say, “Look at those poor children. Do you want to be like them, getting flogged every morning by the side of the road?” I admitted I didn’t want that.
We lived in an old house, and if you turned on the taps, you would hear a gurgling sound in the distance a long while before the water finally trickled out of the faucet. My father said it was because the pipes were old, then he would continue and say, “I heard the boarding school is a new school. All the facilities, brand new. You won’t have any problem with old pipes there.”
The same thing on nights the light went out. He would look at me over the monopoly board, the light from the candles reflected in his eyes, and say, “I’m sure the new school always has electricity.” He would shake his head in self-pity as he counted off his dice roll with the top hat piece, “No more coming home everyday to suffer in darkness.”
Months later as I frog-jumped under lit fluorescent lights with senior students taunting and dousing me with water from the school’s efficient taps, I thought about my parents at home laughing their heads off at how gullible I was, high-fiving themselves as they converted my bedroom into a study and erased all evidence that I had ever lived there.