I Escaped, But Only Just - Part 15: Rebelling
I started Sixth Form College, studying music, sociology, drama, maths and English, along with piano and cello. By half term, my enthusiasm for study had waned as my new social life took priority, and I soon stopped the cello lessons.
At some point early on, I received my first invitation to a nightclub in the city centre, even though I was only sixteen. I went with a friend. First, we stopped at a city centre pub for a few beers. Then, we made our way to the nightclub.
At the nightclub, the bouncer stared at us. ‘How old are you lads?’
‘Er, eighteen,’ I said, watching the queue stream into the foyer.
‘Any ID on you?’
‘No,’ my mate said.
‘In that case, you can’t come in.’
‘You can ring my parents,’ I said. ‘My mum will tell you I’m eighteen.’
‘Sorry, lads. No ID, no entry.’
We spent a few moments outside, discussing what to do next. ‘We’ve come all this way,’ I said. ‘I don’t want to go back home.’
‘Let's wait. He'll have to let us in eventually.’
The bouncer overheard. ‘You can wait as long as you like. But you're not coming in without ID.’
We wandered away. I wanted to stay in the city centre and spend the remainder of the evening getting drunk, but my friend said it would be dangerous and suggested I return home - which I did. Of course, my telling the bouncer to ring my mother went around college the next day, creating a great deal of good-natured humour.
I suppose it was only inevitable that the conversation in the Jewish studies lesson at school just months earlier would have a major effect on me, causing me to turn my back on my religious upbringing. At the time, I'd dealt with the girl's reaction in the same way I’d handled other unpleasant situations – by blocking it out and refusing to think about it – but the memories must have festered, along with the accompanying emotions. I tended to shy away from facing my emotions, apart from through music. And, of course, the girl’s reaction had taken place in public and had been totally unexpected, as well as unfair.
To complicate matters regarding extended family - my parents had a tense relationship with their wider relatives. That meant I rarely saw my first cousins and had never met my second cousins, even though I had some two hundred second cousins around the world, including a number close by. Many of the pupils at the Jewish High School were related to one another. As I reached my mid-teens, I became keenly aware of missing out on something: a sense of belonging, a community.
Perhaps that's why I rejected my Jewish upbringing and became an atheist in my second term of Sixth Form College. I made the decision after watching a television programme on the Big Bang - although the bang itself neither proves nor disproves the case for a Creator. Plus, I'm no longer an atheist.
Meanwhile, the teachers at college began to complain. The sociology teacher, generally good-humoured, grumbled about the poor quality of my work assignments. The report from the maths teacher stated that I sat at the desk in lessons, scribbling, not paying attention. The music teacher described me as stubborn and refusing to do basic things. The only subject I really looked forward to was drama because I enjoyed hanging out with the other students afterwards.
Ultimately, though, my new friends wouldn’t be able to save me from what was about to happen. And it would nearly cost me my life.