Childhood is a funny thing. The parts we remember, the parts we can’t remember, and the parts we try to forget.
I sat down in a restaurant one day with a friend during our lunch break at the local college. The waiter walks up to me with a huge smile of recognition. “You know who I am, right?” He asked still beaming.
Of course I didn’t remember him. I can point-blank tell you about something insignificant 2 years ago on Facebook, but please don’t try to get me to remember faces or names. I squinted, and forced my mind to try to think, and counted my lucky stars for his name tag. “Mike.” I replied.
Then he took me down a track I wasn’t prepared for, “So, um, I’m glad to see you again, because I have to say something… I’m sorry for being a complete ass to you in grade school.”
Had I been standing I would have tripped and fell and stumbled over his words until I was black and blue. Memories I let go of years ago flooded my vision. I searched for words as he stood there staring at me, what do I say? Yes he was a complete ass to me, yes he picked on me, made me want to cry. But I was 12 back then, such a long time ago, is this really necessary? And a part of me didn’t want to give the former bully of my youth the satisfaction of knowing he ever ment a damn thing to me. I picked the blonde card, “I’m sorry, what?”
He rolled his eyes, scooting into my booth, making the gap between me and my childhood tormentor non-existent. “I just want to apologize, that’s all. No games.”
I shrugged, sipping on my lunch time beer, spinning the long neck bottle as if the label would suddenly produce a script for me to follow, “Eh, you weren’t that big of a jerk, no biggie.”
He grabs my hand gently from off the bottle neck, and guides it down to the table, nothing forceful, nothing romantic, just touching, reliving the past few years as quickly as he could fit into his short break.
Lives lost, hearts broke, changes made. The bully and the bullied made their peace. Forgiveness was given, wounds were healed.
Plans were made, numbers exchanged. Beer on a Saturday afternoon, the bully and the bullied.
I saw him once more, a week later, during another lunch break (beer break) from my Bio-medical Ethics Class (don’t ask). That would be the last time I ever saw him…
Weeks later, maybe a month, the world proved to be too much for him.
And it was hard, difficult, impossible to place the pieces together. What mind wouldn’t grasp what one could have said, could have done, could have noticed? What mind wouldn’t want to take responsiblity?
I couldn’t have changed the course. Even though my heart stills aches over the tragedy of the whole thing, three classmates, best friends, leaving this world all too soon… it had nothing to do with me.
But at least for a moment, just a small crack in time, we had our peace. Peace between the bully and the bullied.
And today as I look back, I can no longer see the memories from grade school, his image as a bully isn’t there. He’s the man, sitting next to me in the restaurant, with the kind words and the open heart, holding my hand. I’ll never forget his soft smile.