It's still painful to recall, even though I'm more than 25 years removed from the worst of it. And I don't mean the throwaway taunts of classmates and so-called friends who thought they were just helping me out by pointing out all of my inadequacies (like that I was fat, ugly, hairy, boring, un-likable in either a platonic or romantic way). I'm talking about being actually afraid of a particular student who took any and every opportunity he had to belittle me, intimidate me, ridicule me, threaten me even when he thought I had tattled on him (when in fact I hadn't and didn't even know he and a group of other guys were smoking a joint on school property until he told me).
It's turning my stomach just to think of him, and yet I can't remember his name. I remember the names of some of his friends, a few of whom were actually really cool guys who weren't mean to me but weren't necessarily my friends either, just classmates who occasionally deemed me worthy of conversation, because I liked Led Zeppelin and the Who.
This guy wasn't good looking or particularly clever. He looked a bit like a junior-high version of Nelson from "The Simpsons." He was not athletic and had several extra pounds to lose, but somehow being a pudgy guy was ok, whereas being an overweight girl was inexcusable. He made me emotionally cower and wonder what was so horrible about me that he had to lash out again and again.
I remember praying. Not for revenge but for him, that God would grant him peace and kindness and understanding. Sometimes I prayed he wouldn't notice me, that I could be invisible instead of my huge and offensive self that somehow managed to piss him off without so much as a word in his direction. To tell you that I internalized a lot of his jabs and jokes is to put things mildly. A small, irrepressible part of me really believed I was unworthy -- not of something particular but of everything.
Despite my maturity, despite my faith and my friends from church, this bully got to me again and again for three years.
He probably doesn't remember.
I don't wish him ill. I hope he changed and reinvented himself and went to college, met a lovely woman, built a family with her. But I do hope that one day when his children experience their first inevitable encounter with a bullying classmate that he'll feel remorse and regret -- not about me in particular, but about his cruelty in general -- the kind that cuts so deep a little girl felt unworthy of anything but that cruelty in his presence.