First, I want to say I’m not angry. I’ve thought about it a lot and the conclusion I’ve come to is that you were a thirteen year old boy and you genuinely didn’t understand the magnitude of what you were doing. There was no football team. You were no jock. You had a stutter when you were younger. You were bigger than me, but you weren’t lumbering. There were cuter boys, richer boys, and cooler boys. You were average.
I want to say I had a crush on you. Although you were average in the scheme of things, to me you were cute and sweet. I remembered you from before you transferred to my school and how we agreed that we would be friends once you joined my class. This may be a fabricated memory, but I recall that our friend who introduced us confided in me that she suspected your father beat you. I know your mother died not long after what you did. I was genuinely very sorry for you.
I want to say that I don’t think you’re evil, although I think you did something banally evil. I think we were surrounded by competent and attentive adults who should have intervened long before it happened. I think by the 8th grade we were all due for multiple discussions about sex, abuse, battery, and rape. We went to a school for gifted students, we were constantly praised for our maturity and intelligence. I think we could have handled someone facilitating an assembly about consent and harassment. In this sense, you were a victim. Even with all those resources, even in a school district with all that wealth, we were all deprived of basic tools and dialogues that could have spared us guilt, pain, and humiliation.
I want to say that I strongly believe that if someone had spoken with our class about the lines we don’t cross when we interact with other people, that if the message and expectation had been clearly communicated to us, none of this had to happened. Maybe you still would have held me down in the back of the bus. Maybe you still would have stayed on top of me even while I screamed for you to stop and kicked. But, I believe one of our classmates would have stopped you if they understood what they were witnessing.
I want to say I blame the bus driver much more than I blame you. I didn’t know all those weeks of touching and teasing were leading up to that. All the bus driver had to do was say something. Tell one of us to change seats. Tell you to keep your hands to yourself. I want you to know that I genuinely forgot about it for many years. I was confused by my fear of being touched and physical intimacy. I didn’t understand why I started to shake when a boy leaned in to kiss me. I never told anyone but my sister and even then I never said your name. Part of me is glad I forgot and glad that I never told. If I had told my parents what you did I can imagine what would have happened to us. Both of our lives would have been ruined.
When I searched for you on Facebook I couldn’t find you. I don’t know if that means anything. Our class was small, under 100 students. I feel like I’ve heard from or about every person in our grade but you. Part of me, deep in my gut, thinks you may be dead. The reality is probably something much more mundane.
I know nothing about this story is exceptional. This happens every day, all the time. My life wasn’t drastically altered. I had a happy life and still do. Did I owe it to you, or our class, or the next girl to say something? Did we perpetuate a cycle without realizing it? I wish we could sit across from one another as adults, outside of time and law, and come to a consensus of what would have been for the greater good. I imagine what your face looks like now still with freckles, your smile without your retainer. I imagine you turned out good in the end, the sort of person who would stop to help a stranger with a flat tire. I imagine that you don’t entirely remember what happened, but you acknowledge that you hurt me and you wish you could take it back.
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