I never liked Friday Thirteenths. Not ever. The thing is, I didn’t even like the number thirteen. When I was at school my teachers told me that thirteen was unlucky and when the thirteenths of the month landed on a Friday it was meant to be even worse. It didn’t help that thirteen is an odd number. See, calling it an odd number made me feel that there’s something intrinsically wrong with it. They told me seven was a lucky number, but I never saw any evidence of that.
Thirteen though. I knew there’s something wrong with thirteen. Coming along on a Friday when I was at school was always Bad News. Fridays were Spelling Test Day and Times Tables Test Day, or as I always thought of them, Humiliation Day. I have an almost photographic memory, but not for words or numbers, which meant I really struggled as a young child. My peers were on the eight times tables and Set 27 of the spellings, while I dawdled behind on the lots of four and Set 11. At the end of the tests, we called out our results. Friday Thirteenths were the worst of all because my nerves were rattled, and the aching void of time after my name was called and my voice calling out my answers of two out of ten or something seemed to stretch like elastic. My classmates tried not to sneer, just not very hard.
As an adult, when Friday Thirteenths creep around, it was monumentally hard not to be back in the classroom again, the one that smelt of age and damp, calling out my dismal answers and feeling stupid in front of everyone. But I wasn’t stupid. I had nothing to prove then. I had proof. I had a degree and a raft of qualifications, I had a good job I loved and a comfortable home. All was good. There was nothing I should feel ashamed about and I was doing exactly what I wanted with my life, which is a lot more than many other people could say about their lives.
Then came the school reunion thing. I wasn’t sure about it, to be honest. It was the school’s anniversary and someone at the school suggested that they invite everyone who’d attended and they could track down for a big party. I had moved away for a number of years, but I’d recently moved back into the area and had been about in the village, so I wasn’t difficult to track down. Roundabouts here, it’s never difficult to track anyone down, not really. “There’s always the hounds,” they’d say, half joking, if ever someone went missing in the office.
Anyway, my friend at the office, Ian (the idiot), convinced me to go, telling me that the best revenge on all the smart alec kids at my posh school who thought that were better than me, the poor kid who was only there because his dad had gone there and had died, was to go and show off how well I’d done. I’m not a big show off really, but I did want to rub their noses in it. I’d heard that Stinky Peters had gone off the rails and was working in a supermarket collecting trolleys and that One-Eyed Mick was now an actor permanently between roles and working in the bar at Dog and Ferret in the rough end of town. So, at the last minute I sent my reply in and I decided to go.
The night of the big do came, Friday, 13th October. I got the car polished by the guys at the supermarket, looking out for Stinky Peters, but I couldn’t see him. I got my best suit out and brushed it down. I showered, shaved, splashed on the expensive stuff Ian and his wife got me for Christmas (though I think they got it from Dodgy Dave from the pub, as it stings just a bit too much and Ian is an idiot) and with one last look in the mirror, headed out.
It was a dark night and the school was on the edges of village in the depths of the countryside. The drive up there didn’t take too long along the main roads, but the minor roads bent and twisted a lot more than I remembered. That could have been because of the satnav taking me somewhere I’d never been before, like they do. Then the rain started, torrential heavy rain that thundered down on the car, more than the wipers could deal with and blotting out the music coming out of the speakers. The roads were slick and the windscreen seemed to fog up all the time, even with everything on that was meant to clear it. I could hardly think, let alone see my way ahead.
It’s a shame I never made it to the party. I think Ian was right; I would have enjoyed telling Gordon about my job and Dick Eats-Jelly-With-A-Fork about my time in Thailand. My English master never heard about my English masters degree or my research into William Blake.
When they found me the next morning, my car was embedded so deeply into the tree that they had to get a special tree surgeon from miles away to cut it down because it was in a conservation area. It took three days to identify me, or at least, the bits they could put together of me. I was yelling at them the whole time. Nobody heard me. But then, I suppose nobody ever did really.
I never did like Friday Thirteenths. Now every single one I sit here and wait, wait and wait for someone to listen to me, to hear me. And may be one day, I’ll be lucky enough to get a lift home with some fortunate soul.