I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.
Jesus, does anyone?
(Stephen King quote from the book “The Body” & movie “Stand By Me”)
It’s funny how I honestly thought that I had remembered everything about the bully years I experienced during my youth from 1975-1981 in Lexington, MA. For some reason recently, I decided that I would look for some of the people who were actually my friends in Lexington those 28+ years ago. As I was looking through my old Junior High yearbook, I came across, a boy I recalled being a friend, but just couldn’t place moments in time with him. I found old pictures that he was in with me and I even found him to be prominent in the pictures from my Bar Mitzvah.
The one thing I knew was that I met him only in the last year before I moved, 7th grade. 7th grade was a dark period for me where the bullying over the last many years had pretty much wore me down and I was now a quiet and scared adolescent. I had a great distrust of kids around me and found comfort in being alone with my music and television. My old friend is probably a victim of me just not wanting to remember those last years, but I did recall him. So I reached out to let him know that I had posted a picture of us.
Not a few hours later, he had added me as a friend and sent me a message. He said:
I must say that you moving away was one of the saddest events to me. We became such good buddies so fast. I have an unbelievable amount of memories hanging out together, doing sleepovers, and just being generally mischievous…
This shocked me as I remembered many of these moments, but just couldn’t recall directly his involvement. His saying it was one of the saddest events of his life when I moved away made me feel special in his life. I remember his friendship, just not the direct memories. This really bothered me. It’s important for me to note that I did not share with him my experiences with bullying or the website you are reading this on. He continued to send me some messages with even more details about the fun times we had together. This really upset me, because there was so much I did remember from those days in Lexington and not to remember a friend and the good times…well, it was hard to understand why for me. But then he shed some more light as to why this might be in the next thing he wrote to me:
I remember being incredibly sad when you moved away. I got over it of course, but there’s always been something about it in the back of my mind that’s bothered me. Specifically, what happened at the end of 7th grade when we had a fist fight at school. As far as fistfights went, it wasn’t unusual. Even for friends, because usually they can move on and endure that kind of stuff. But what’s bothered me since then (and I was just thinking about it only a couple of weeks ago before you contacted me) was how that injured our friendship, and then you moved away before we could really set it completely right. That was a mean day for me, and one which I really wish I could have back.
And since a window of opportunity doesn’t always open for long, I have to use our reconnection to tell you now how incredibly sorry I still am for what I did to make that fight happen (it was probably very stupid and blown out of proportion), for every blow struck against you, and for whatever mean (and I mean in the low-class, uncaring, dirty, and despicable sense) action or words that were used by me, before or after. Whether or not there was mutual responsibility, I don’t remember. But I’ve always known that my part in that event was a sin, and one which I still hold onto. I have never forgotten about it.
…Even writing this now, I have trouble knowing what to say. His saying this time that he was sad, because of a fight and because we ended no longer friends. The shock in my heart and mind and the fact that my memory would not hold on to his friendship and what happened was telling me something. He and this fight were the last straw for me for Lexington, for the pain that I had from the bullying years, and for wanting to forget. I was moving only weeks later, far away, and all I can figure out was that my mind let go of this friend, let go of the friendship we had, and let go that it ended in yet another time when I had to fight, when I lost a friend I had made. As a 42-year-old man, as I read his words, I again felt sad and alone and wondered how it was that something I just wanted to be good…this friendship with him…was destined to be another incident in these dark years in Lexington, MA.
Then I read the words again and started to feel for him The guilt that he writes about and his long-term effects from this incident. The fact that not only did he hold the good times, but that he could never forget and had trouble forgiving himself for this. He wanted to mend things, he needed to mend things. If he had never written about it, I would not have recalled anything but the nice guy that I remembered he was. He even said that a couple of weeks prior to me contacting him he was thinking about this. It doesn’t go away. We can forgive, but not always forget and I don’t know how this has affected his life. So I did the one thing that I could do, given his honesty and heartfelt approach.
I forgave him!
I forgave him in writing and I told him it was long gone and he could let it go. I asked for his forgiveness as well. I did all I could do. I thought sympathetically about how he must be feeling and how he felt when he first saw me contact him. I thought of the courage that it must have taken him to write these words to me 28 years later, thinking a few days before that he would never have to do that or that he would never have the opportunity.
We are both middle-aged adults now and it still amazes me how the things that happen to us when we are in those forming youth years stay with us and the long-term effects are real. We may keep things in the back of our subconscious for long periods of time, but when we bring them forward, the emotions we felt all those years ago come back with the memories. I sent him an email with my forgiveness and told him about this website and my anti-bullying cause. After I sent him my follow-up and forgiveness, he wrote back to me again:
Thank for your understanding and forgiveness. It was a significant event to me. I remember feeling badly about it, since we never completely got it out-of-the-way before you moved.
He wrote more, of course, but some friendships need to have privacy as well. On that note, he and I are now quickly reforming our friendship. Even though we are miles away, through social networking and active communication, I think we are finding that the qualities that made us friends in the first place are the qualities that we share today again. He is an empathetic and caring individual and also someone who finds humor and can communicate it as well as vividly recall life and our times together. I am looking forward to seeing him face-to-face soon. He shared more stories with me and I did get his approval to share this one. He happily said yes, since he now understands my anti-bullying cause.
So for me, this story tells me that I have not yet told all my stories. There may still be some hiding in the back of my subconscious that I don’t want to recall, because maybe they are too painful. I am still sad that I can’t fully recall my friend and our good times together for that brief year in 7th grade. But I certainly will look forward to creating a new friendship and new memories with him now that we reconnected.
As I shared in the beginning quote in this post from Stephen King, I never had friends again like the ones I had when I was twelve. And like Stephen King wrote, this quote doesn’t necessarily mean that this is either good or bad. Just that it is. And life is what we make it and does get better if you let it.