Throughout my childhood, we moved constantly. There were literally times my brother and I would come home from school to find our mom filling a U-Haul with all our belongings in black trash bags.
To make friends and deal with my own insecurities, I would try my best to make people laugh. This could be anything from acting as the class clown and robbing other students of their time to learn or making fun of people on the bus.
The incident that has haunted me for nearly 30 years, took place on the school bus. My circle of influence rode in the back seats. We would verbally assault whoever we decided to pick on that day. Most days it was two girls, twins that lived in the same government housing that we did.
We would shout the same hurtful saying, over and over again, until they would cry almost daily. I don’t remember doing it to specifically hurt them, but more to make the boys laugh. It was like a game and the guy that made them crack first, won.
As an adult, I have been haunted with the thoughts and memories of my actions.
In my mind’s eye, I imagine these young ladies walking in the door of their apartment, only for their mother to ask, “what’s wrong” they reply with “nothing” and lock themselves in their rooms to try and deal with this treatment on their own.
The next day they would show up at the bus stop to take the undeserved verbal beating again.
I was raised to stand up for and protect the weak. I didn’t do that, I decided it was easier to pile on.
Nearly three decades later, I finally realized, I was the weak one, they were strong and courageous.
I couldn’t remember their names, only the horrific ones we would chant. I couldn’t easily search them out to apologize.
Just last week, I found them through an old friend. I sent both messages to verify they were the twins that lived in the same apartments I did. It was indeed them. I poured my guts out, accepting responsibility and apologizing for my actions.
Both had the same response; they didn’t really remember, but were sorry I carried this so long.
They were the victims and were telling me they were sorry? Like I said before, they were the courageous ones.