A few weeks ago I happened to stumble upon the email address of an old school friend of mine. We met in grade two when he moved to our area and came to my school, there he quickly became the leader of our pack, a good friend and remained so until he left the rest of us behind in grade ten. I missed him greatly although at that time in a teen boys life, you would never admit such a thing. For kids in the country, through the years children grew up together so school friends were almost like family, if one moved away it was a loss to the others. I contacted him and he was happy to hear from me, he moved close to where I live and asked if I wanted to meet for lunch, I was excited to meet him again. After he had left when we were young, we had spoken sporadically on the phone and actually met up a few times but we lost contact and the years quickly added up, slipped by and now it would be almost twenty years. I was wondering what he would be like, after all this time he would be a stranger. It suddenly dawned on me that he like myself, is a man I would be meeting him as an adult for the first time in my life.
At the restaurant I felt nervous, I needed a bud with me, a Budweiser that is, to help calm the awkward feeling I had. Remember this is out of character for me to contact someone out of the blue, however this last year has me doing a lot of things that make me uncomfortable and part of me enjoys it. He showed up, I was able to recognize him immediately there was still a phantom of the boy that I once knew. As he approached I saw how time betrayed his handsome good looks, deep lines told of his love for the outdoors and gray was starting to invade his blond hair, still he could hold his own. We shook hands and in seconds I could tell that the good hearted guy that I knew was still in there. Conversation was easy and soon flowed like time had never come between us. We did the usual, past jobs, are you married, any kids etc. He is married but does not want children and did not press me when I said I was still single. Lunch flew by and he said he had to leave, we went out to the parking lot and as we began to say good bye and move to our cars, things suddenly opened up.
He brought up the names of older boys that were bullies who tormented me, the kind that made me not want to go to school, hate myself, feel humiliated. What shocked me was the stories he told me of how they also tormented him as well, that there were also days he did not want to go to school. I never saw it from that perspective, I always thought he was cool and things like that did not bother him. Thinking on it, maybe even worse for him. With me I just took the beating to get it over with, as for him, even though he was younger than them, he showed resistance which would anger a bully more, the sad thing was they out numbered us, most of our class was girls. I thought how odd, here we are grown men, wounded still by things that happened when we were kids and young teens. We needed closure even after all this time, we spoke of the humiliation they forced on us, the violent things they did to us and the years we both spent thinking of equally violent revenge on them.
He then told me something that made me feel good inside and wiped away most of the bad memories. One day years ago, he heard a man shout to him, as he turned he could see a guy running up to him. He could see that it was Nick, one of the main tormentors for both him and I. Not sure as what to expect he was ready for anything. As he approached my friend, Nick gave a friendly greeting as if happy to see my friend. He went on to say that he was really glad to see my friend because he wanted to apologize for the way he treated him, he said he felt really bad about the way he was so mean during school and often thought and regretted it for years. He told my friend he did not deserve to be tormented like that and Nick was not sure why he acted that way but was embarrassed by it now. My friend told me that as Nick was saying this, it was like a plug was pulled out and all the hatred and resentment towards Nick flowed out, closure.
I left thinking this over, I love hearing personal growth stories, especially about people who you think will never grow. It also left me with the thought that while growing up, making our way through our teen years, we were hurting so much, feeling so alone, awkward and acting so tough, that we never noticed the hurt in each other.