I have no embarrassing photographs to share because nobody took photographs of me in school. In fact, photographs were not really given any thought at all and with the hum drum element of school routine meant that there was no time for a keen photographer to come and capture us all smiling and acting goofy in starched uniforms as we prayed to cracking statues with pale faces and eyes cast to the heavens and bare feet shrouded in ivy that filled the corridors of the convent that I attended. No, all the photographs are in my mind. Embarrassing perhaps but poignant too. Embarrassing somehow manages to conjure up a joke, to make somebody laugh but what if, embarrassing simply humiliates? I have plenty of those photographs ingrained in my mind. I have so many photographs that they would fill more than ten photograph albums and yet I don't want to do that.
I never saw a person being beaten before I saw the nuns do it. I remember it well. Slipper clad me and red-legged Nora from out in the country, crying her eyes out as she fell victim to the relentless bitterness of the nuns. I remember seeing an old nun polish floors until her back bent into a twisted S from the labour that she devoted to stupid wooden floorboards. I remember a priest telling me not to question the church and have me stand outside in a cold corridor for two hours without any explanation. I remember wet slippers on my feet and sixty coats hung up in the cloak room that smelled of damp cats piss. I remember photographs in strictly black and white and sewing rooms where I was told that if I did not sew in a straight line that I would fail. I remember wondering if I could ever escape the cloistered world of my education and when, finally, the last day came, the sun shone bright and I walked out into the street. I remember taking off my school tie and dropping it carelessly on the sidewalk. I hoped a car would run over it and mangle it into the weeping tarmacadam and I imagined a photograph of that, how it would look, like a contorted snake and me, a photograph of me too, as I walked away, kneesocks at half-mast, books falling from my bag in slow motion, a long stretch ahead that promised something more. Anything.