Unsettling

I met a man of which I knew from grade school at a bar tonight. It was the typical smiles, handshakes, and light conversation. Location, occupation, that sort of thing. As I finally found my chance to go to the bar, he ended up following me. He wanted to buy me a drink. I refused. He persisted, and I was persistent as well. Finally, he said a question which I was never expecting. He said, “do you loathe me?”

I really wasn’t sure what to say at such a question. He repeated himself, and followed up with “…because I was a piece of shit to you in grade school.” He was, of course, right on the money. The aggregate of the school body was something I was trying to put behind me. After having a not-so-great week, this was the last thing I wanted dredged up on my plate. I paid for my drink, and told him we were kids. I’ve tried to put that all behind me. After that, I excused myself to the best of my ability, and went into an empty room.

About five minutes later, he enters the room and asks if he may speak with me. I obliged, but didn’t like where it was going. He proceeded to apologize for his cruelty, and the reasons why. I told him in a very calm way that I understood his reasons, and that I wasn’t completely blameless.

After the apology, he told me he had sought everyone he had been cruel to and gave them an apology. He thought he was done, but until that night, he had forgotten about me. That’s  par for the course with my character. Out of sight and out of mind.

I would be prone to think that the typical response would be gratitude. So, I thanked him for his apology and said I hoped it helps him along his path in life. However, it deeply upset me. He knew it. I knew he knew it, and that upset me even further. I was angry that he had brought all of this back to the forefront after 25+ years. I was angry that he was seeking absolution right then and there. I was angry that I couldn’t do anything about it. I was most angry, though, for not being satisfied. It didn’t help in the slightest.

Over the past few years, I was beginning to think that some recognition of what I endured for over a decade would feel like release or relief in some way. There was none. I still felt as hollow as the days I entered that public institution. I felt no euphoria; I was pissed I was wrong.

He finally said he would leave me alone for the night, and that brought some comfort. That didn’t, however, re-roll all that was unraveled before me. The entire night, I could not stop thinking about it. People who usually see me as genial or polite must have thought something was wrong with me. They would be right. Paranoia crept in, as a gaggle of unidentified women trampled in to the room, looked at my book, heard the jazz, laughed, and walked out. My blood boiled. Most people don’t change.

The infuriating part is: I can’t think any better of the ones that do.

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5 thoughts on “Unsettling

  1. gracious says:

    Being bullied is typically a different experience for girls. Girls ostracize and exclude, they spread gossip and isolate. At least that’s how it was in my day. Because it’s less visible, it’s less likely to ever be acknowledged by anyone.

    However, I’ve twice had it happen that ex-boyfriends have contacted me long after taking what they needed from me and disappearing. They felt guilt and regret and in retrospect they thought I had deserved better treatment than I had received at their hands.

    What I experienced at those times was similarly more confusion than comfort. They knew me well enough to know that I would accept their apologies but I always wondered which of us was intended to benefit from the gesture.

  2. There are plenty who have been bullied. For some, they may feel comfort in not being alone for that honour. Facts like this never moved me like they probably should. It feels like there’s some sort of hardware missing, because it passes through my brain unused. This particular man spoke of a mutual acquaintance, of whom suffered similar treatment. By his accounts, she was “ecstatic” when he spoke to her. At least it made her day.

    I know myself as jaded. I’ll sadly admit that. There have been too many cases during my life that have ended in disappointment, which throws people’s action quickly in suspect. It’s like a reflex. The easiest thing in the world is to say everyone’s in it for themselves, and leave it at that.

    While I can thankfully say that the gossip was little, or at least little had come back to me, there were plenty of vocal jeers. Yes, there was physical abuse, but possibly surprising to you: isolation. This town has made freezing people out a municipal pastime. It’s quite possibly the root of my social concerns.

  3. I can absolutely understand your reaction to this experience. I don’t think I’d do any different, to be honest. He didn’t give you the opportunity to think about what he said, and he didn’t respect the fact that he was dredging up a lot of really unpleasant memories for you. It also kind of sucks that he said he had forgotten about you until the last minute. Hey, thanks. These sorts of apologies are more for the apologizer than the person being apologized to. It sounds like he was more concerned about forgiveness/absolution than about your feelings on the matter. I wouldn’t have been satisfied either.

  4. […] There was a conversation last night among a few of my friends about the MENSA quiz. We arrived at this point by discussing how Hooterville does not know how to serve its more intelligent students. Instead of providing a more comfortable learning atmosphere, it bashes, mashes, and terrorizes students to be of average intelligence (i.e. not sticking out). When my friend arrived at this conclusion, it was like a moment of clarity for me. Even one of my childhood terrors admitted to me recently that I was too smart, and it frightened him… […]

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