During my pre-teen years I was short, twiggy and wore thick Coke-bottle bottom glasses. I felt painfully awkward in social settings, so I usually could be found with my nose in a book. Bully fodder. That was what I was growing up.
In fifth grade, I was singled out by one girl in particular. She went to great lengths to find me alone to whisper threats into my ear. I ignored them. She’d give me long, lingering, menacing stares. I ignored them. Inside, I was terrified, but I tried my best to stand my scrawny ground. I never said a word. One day, she decided to push me off the sidewalk leading from the playground back to class. I didn’t say a word as I picked myself up and continued walking, but our teacher saw it happen. She asked me what happened. I said nothing. She asked her what happened and she said the same. Our teacher marched us both into the library and told us we were not allowed to leave until we were friends. She left me alone with my tormentor. The funniest thing happened. She and I became friends. She had lots to say and I was a good listener. She had lots of opinions and I was non-judgmental. She hated our teacher and I humored her complaints. She and I were friends until she graduated early in 1988. During middle school, we saw each other through some serious personal trials. Hers centered around her mental instability and mine around some serious family dysfunction. We held each other up when others could not understand. We were completely loyal to each other.
My senior year of high school was particularly stressful. By this time, my friend had graduated and we’d drifted apart. As soon as I graduated and went to college, I left my home city and never looked back. I didn’t abandon my family – they moved to a different city too, so I had no need to return to the site of such painful memories. I finally went back for my 10 year high school reunion. I looked for her, but she wasn’t there. I didn’t pursue it further. I recently went back for part of my 20 year reunion and was shocked to find out that she committed suicide sometime before our last reunion. I felt like a part of me was ripped away when I heard the news. The saddest part? Nobody could tell me what happened. So few of them really knew her. It’s been several days since the reunion and all I’ve carried away from it is that somebody very important – to me – is missing… forever.
I am doing a lot of reconciling right now. It has been over 20 years since I’ve thought about a lot of things, happy and painful things. I find myself in a position right now that I have to re-experience everything. You see, my husband, children and I are moving back to the same city (the same area to be more precise) where all of this occurred. I see familiar faces and places and memories explode into my head. I reconnect with old friends and my high school sweetheart and I feel ashamed that I abandoned them. So much time has passed. How can I explain that I had to get away to heal my bullied soul? How will my healed and stronger self face all those painful memories?