That bag really bothered her. Just lying there as it was by the footbridge over the railway tracks. It wasn’t that she hadn’t seen abandoned rubbish or fly tipping before. In fact this area was so renowned for it there were big posters up and a newly erected CCTV camera on the wall nearby. It was because it was a child’s school bag, maths books, homework diary and pencil case spilling out all over the pavement. You could even see the boys name written on all his books. Sahil Majornia. Who was he, this Sahil? Why was his bag there? Why hadn’t he come to collect it?
In the absence of answers she made up stories about him. The most intrusive and persistent was that Sahil was being mercilessly bullied by a group of boys from his school, or perhaps another school. They had either stolen his bag and abandoned it or pounced on him in that very spot, and in his terror or whilst making his escape, he had prioritised his personal integrity over a bunch of books.
Or perhaps things were going badly for Sahil at school. He was angry and disaffected and stormed out of school one day, vowing never to return. As if to prove his intent he dumped his whole school bag, abandoning his books to the elements. She wondered if he had subsequently regretted this but unable to lose face, he had to stick with his decision. Or perhaps he did try to rectify his impulsivity, only to find that the November weather had damaged his books rendering them useless for studying or homework or even for lighting a decent fire.
And what were his teachers saying to him, if he even was in school. It seemed unlikely that they would not question his need for a new book for every subject. And equally unlikely was that no one had given Sahil a hard time about it all. How was that for him, coping with the displeasure of the adults around him at a time when life was clearly already throwing a good deal of challenge his way?
The stories were always hopelessly negative. Trauma layered upon trauma. How could they be anything other – what child would abandon their school bag for a positive or happy reason? It seemed an unlikely place to have lost the bag by accident. It wasn’t near a bus stop or a congregation point, where a bag might be forgotten in the midst of youthful high spirits. And when the child had lost all their school books and utensils, why hadn’t a parent come to rescue the objects and support the child to rectify their mistake? This seemed the biggest blow of all.
And then one day, after weeks of watching Sahil’s chance of a decent education slowly degrade it was all gone. The bag. The books. The pencil case. Where had it gone? And why? It seemed unlikely that the council had cleared it away, given that the old mattress and the abandoned fridge were still there. Had the parent finally come through for Sahil? Had he finally searched in the right place for the bag taken by the bullies?
And what now for him? This boy she had never met. With whom she had no connection, save for the fact she walked past his bag every day and thought about him, and wondered who else was holding him in mind and caring about what had happened and would happen to him.
And she vowed. No more children bullied, taunted or disaffected. Not at my school. Not on my watch.
© Saffron Foam, 2019