It’s true. I was a bully. I was a silent bully. I sat quietly, while boys pounded sissies and fat girls got called names. And I never had the courage to tell a teacher, a bus driver or to jump in and stop the bully myself. I just sat there. And for that, I’m forever sorry.
In an effort to right the wrongs, I’d like to publicly apologize to three people:
Mrs. Sawyer was my math teacher. She was blonde and southern and excessively polite. She didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, which is why kids would yell, “Puta loca!” and she’d just reply with a smile. One day, a student taped down the light switch and we all yelled and threw our books in the dark.
Dear Mrs. Sawyer,
You may not remember me, but I’m sure you remember your short time at Kinloch Park Middle School. I sat in your seventh grade math class and laughed when kids acted out. I never did my homework. And I never paid attention in class. Although I never screamed obscenities, I encouraged others to do so. When you left the school in the middle of the year, I perpetuated the rumor that you had a nervous breakdown. Mrs. Sawyer, I’m sorry that our class was so horrible and I’m really sorry for not being the voice of opposition during our class revolts. I can only imagine you went home and cried after each one of those episodes. I’m sure we were part of the reason you left the school. If we made you feel like a failure rest assured that it was us who failed you. You probably don’t even think about that class anymore, but, Mrs. Sawyer, know this, I think of you every time I look at a budget. I become filled with regret, wishing I had paid attention in your class.
Jose Suarez was smallest boy in school. I met him in elementary school. The last time I saw him was my sophomore year of high school before I transferred. I’m not sure when it started or why, but we all called him ‘Droopy.’ The name caught on like wild fire and followed him throughout his life. He kept to himself. Never bothered anyone. But everyone bothered him.
You may not remember me, because I never spoke to you. I was so worried about being cool and getting elected to student council that I never dared to speak to you. The irony is that you were the most popular boy in school. Everyone knew you by that horrible name you hated to be called and by your real name. It’s been 18 years since last seeing you and I still remember both names. So, you see, there is something incredibly special about you. I’m sorry your adolescence was marred by people picking on you. It’s just not fair. I still remember the day you pulled a stapler on the entire class and screamed at everyone to stop calling you that name. But, we didn’t listen. I saw you cry on multiple occasions, but I never stopped to put my arm around your shoulder. Now the tables are turned, as my eyes fill with tears when I think about the horrible things that may have crossed your mind during those dark times. I’m sorry for not being a good person. And, I’m really sorry for not trying to win your friendship. You would’ve taught me so much.
Richard and I took the same bus every morning and afternoon from middle school through high school. He was a year older with gorgeous blonde hair and big puffy lips that became bright red easily. Although handsome, he wasn’t one that the girls would fall for, as his limp wrist and high-pitched voice singled him out as a sissy. I don’t remember his last name, but I do remember witnessing the beating he took.
You may not remember me, but you were the first homosexual I met. You were fierce, fabulous and out in high school. You didn’t care what people thought about you. You surrounded yourself with girls and even made friends with some of the boys. Your humor bridged the sexual orientation gap and everyone felt comfortable around you. Except for me. I was going through my own struggle. I was desperately trying to prove that I wasn’t gay and any association with you would further sink me into a hole. Stupid move, I realize now, as you could’ve helped me stand up to those kids. I had witnessed you defend a heavy girl from a name-calling attack, among other kids you protected from bullies. I knew why you were so quick to stand up for people. I was there the day you got beat up by that kid that called you the f-word. That delinquent punched you so hard in the jaw the physics made your face turn to my direction, where our eyes met. You were bigger, taller and older than that bully, but somehow you were laying in fetal position on a green bus seat, bleeding and defeated. I never yelled, “Stop!” I didn’t even ask you if you were okay. I just walked right by you when I got off the bus. I didn’t tell the bus driver. I didn’t tell a teacher. I didn’t tell my mom. You didn’t either. You took matters into your own hands. You kept showing up, every morning and afternoon. You didn’t back down. You didn’t change your seat. And, most importantly, you didn’t change a single thing about you. This is what helped you make it in high school. A lesson I should’ve learned, instead of running away. To this very day, I think about you and I think about all the kids that need a Richard to walk them through a crowded hallway or a to sit next to in a hot and stinky bus. I wish I can clone and distribute you to every high school, so you can help kids stand up to bullies, even silent ones like me.