“Hey von Ahsen, watch this.”
These memories often seem like like I’m watching a move. But in this scene I’m not in it… not in a way that can be seen by the audience anyway. They are seeing what I’m seeing through my eyes.
And these fourteen year old eyes are looking up at old man Werner holding the door open, waiting for me to step up onto the bus.
“On or off kid, I don’t have all morning.” or some such thing.
I can’t really make out individual sounds. Not because there is anything drowning them out, but because everything seems muffled for some reason. Mr. Werner’s voice is like a growling old dog and the youngest King’s Park kids filling the front seats babble incoherently as I pass. One of them pokes Jerry and makes piggish grunting noises at him. Jerry quickly turns towards the window in disgust, the rolls of fat on his jelly-like stomach ripple under a too tight t-shirt.
My mind winces.
Grateful that Jerry is here to take that kind of abuse, I continue back to the middle seats. Back to my usual place, now occupied by Gordon Trudeau. He gestures for me to sit in the seat in front of him. The bus shakes and sways as it rumbles over the gully bridge, heading up the hill for the younger Steiger kids. I sit down before it stops. Gordon looks at me with a co-conspiratorial grin. A repeat of yesterday’s display of power over his little brother.
“Hadley… oh Hadley!”
An almost exact repeat of the show begins and I’m now a player… by default. I’m here, it’s happening and once again I’m not NOT doing it. The old program that will repeat itself in my head for many years yet to come. Only this time, Gordon pushes the issue of my involvement.
“Ok von Ahsen, your turn.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask with feigned naiveté.
“You do it now… Gordon says impatiently. “Just look at him and call him ugly, it’s easy.”
I’d like to say that I refuse, that I tell him to stuff it and that what he is doing is so very wrong. I’d like to say that I tell Gordon how aware I am of what it feels like to be psychologically abused like this.
Nearly fifteen years later, I look at my good friend Hadley Trudeau who’s now a groomsman at my wedding (wedding number two, that is) and in that “I’m giving you shit like only a good friend can” way, I say…
“You know Hadley, I only became friends with you because I felt guilty for making you cry on the bus.”
Hadley looks back at me and smiles.
“Fuck off Brian.”