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.