Sunday 30 December 2018


by Gill James

strong black coffee

You see, it's all very well isn't it, if you know who they are?  When there's every chance that they've done the same thing to dozens, hundreds, thousands of others and that if you speak up those others will find the courage and join you? It's different, isn't it, when all you know of them is that they're capable of sustaining an erection? You can't say, can you, that it was that man with a beard who drew those fantastic pictures? It wasn't the one who made kids' dreams come true. Nor was it that famous film producer.
The ones I'm talking about are anonymous blanks.
It was attempted rape. Even if it was Freshers' week and he was drunk. He was wearing nothing but a white coat. I assumed he was a medical student. Over the years I've wondered if he felt he had to behave that way because he was such a small man with such thin arms and such delicate fingers. Maybe he was so drunk that he has no recollection of it now. Perhaps he is now a grandfather and would be mortified if he knew. But if he was that drunk, how come his penis was throbbing and erect? And he'd had the sense to put on a condom?
It wasn't all that late - maybe about eleven and I'd just got back to my room in Randy Ranmoor. (So-called because it was a mixed hall of residence. The first in the country, I believe.) As I unlocked my door he came from nowhere. He charged into my room, pulling me behind him. He was still holding me as he flung himself on to the bed. I was grateful for the condom but I didn't want to lose my virginity that way even so. I fought him. It wasn't easy despite his size or drunkenness. Then as suddenly as he arrived, he upped and left.
I took a deep breath. It was nothing, really, was it? I never told anybody about it until a few months ago. Forty-eight years on I can still remember his face clearly. Should I even now write and tell them? Could I still identify him now?  

Then there were the hands at the football match. There was always a crush on the way out. There was something crushing my groin too and then fingers inside my knickers. I tied to pull them away. The harder I pulled, though, the harder he dug in. It hurt for days afterwards. Andy, Benny, Mel and Jaimo were in front so it definitely wasn't one of them. Sheila was at my side but I couldn't tell her. We were here mainly to impress the lads. What would they do if I called for help? I didn't want to look useless.
Then we were out of the gate and the pressure dissolved. I turned. There was no one behind me.
It was best to carry on as normal. The long walk home. Bragging about the results to my parents who already knew them, in fact, because the walk home was very long. Talking football to my dad.    
I never went to the football match again, though.

What was he thinking? That man on the bus. I hadn't even reached puberty, let alone gone through it.
The only empty seat was next to him. I took it. Why wouldn't I?
He just annoyed me at first. He seemed to be taking up more than his fair share of the seat. His thigh rubbed up against mine. Then his hand was on my thigh. I jumped. He squeezed. Then he pulled me towards him. "Look," he whispered. He nodded towards his lap.
I'd never seen a penis like that. Fat and erect and oozing slightly. He was breathing heavily.My cheeks began to burn. 
I did know a little about penises. I'd established very early on that Edward next door used to wee-wee through a little pipe that came out of his trousers. Very convenient. It wasn't fair that girls couldn't do the same. It was always such a rigmarole when you were taken short as you were out and about.
Back then, though, I knew nothing about sex, erections and ejaculation. Was there something wrong with this man?   
I know that this was wrong and that I was too ashamed to tell anyone. Somehow I had made that man behave that way.
A woman got off at the next bus stop.
I moved seats.

There were also the German piss artists. I'd see one practically every day on my walk from the tram to the house where I had a room in Degerloch, Stuttgart. Some guy urinating with no discretion whatsoever. As if he needed to show the world how great his penis was.

The first time I answered the phone after we moved to Holland I explained in broken Dutch that I hadn't mastered the language yet and could the caller speak very slowly.  "Oh, you're English," he said.  "I've got my thing out and I'd like you to talk me to come." I put the phone down and then picked it up to check whether he'd gone. He was still there. "Almost there. Say something dirty."

All brushed aside as unimportant. Life would go on. Life was good. These were just anomalies. Except: why do I remember all of these incidents so clearly? If only these men were famous I could pin them down.   

About the author

Gill James is published by, amongst others, Tabby Cat Press, The Red Telephone, Butterfly, The Professional and Higher Partnership and Continuum. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Salford University.
She has an MA in Writing for Children and PhD in Creative and Critical Writing  

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