An Italian boy named Antonio was sick in the hood of my coat while we sat on the school bus in Year 6. I was on the seat ahead of him and my jacket was slung over the back of my chair. Although I heard his retching I didn’t notice that my hood had been used as a receptacle for his vomit until we’d reached our destination, by which point it had partially dried into a crusty smear with a wobbly interior (mmmm delicious).
I took the soiled hood to my teacher and I found her response to be simultaneously disgusting and perplexing:
- She dabbed the crusty surface with her index finger and proceeded to lick it. She did this, I can only gather, to double check that the substance on my coat was indeed Antonio’s vomit.
- She moved her tongue around inside her mouth as if she was trying to hone in on the specific flavour notes in the throw up.
- She scraped off the sick with her satsuma-coloured acrylic nails, which just happened to be the same hue as the veggie specks that were suspended within the upchuck.
- She handed my coat back to me and said “there you go, ALL CLEAN”.
This teacher was actually a parent volunteer who had come along on our journey to the local swimming pool to act as an extra pair of hands. She was tall and skinny (and was the mother of one of the girl’s in my class who I remember to be very freckly and petite). She also had a hairstyle that was short and stiff, like Dolph Lundgren’s in Rocky IV, and spoke in a broad Yorkshire accent. Sometimes I dream about this teacher scraping the vomit off my hood – she repeats the same phrase to me in her Northern drawl and it gently echoes away into the distance: “If he dies, he dies.”
As for Antonio, he was a nice boy. His black hair was always slick with oil and had a gentle wave to it that made him look like a 1920s flapper, except fatter and with ruddier cheeks. I’ve just looked him up on Facebook and he is now skinny and has many tattoos. His hair is spiky, like a villainous hedgehog, and he’s written a post about being happy and in love.