By Manik Rege
Moving places makes you realize how badly humans need closure. How hard we strive for the chapters of our lives to open & end neatly, one by one. And how much we hate cliffhangers, incomplete pages, or vague endings off the screen.
I tried to seek my closure yesterday. Because I’m moving away from the neighborhood I grew up in. Don’t worry, it’s nothing I’m going to miss. School sucked for me, as it did for most ‘studious’ kids.
Fat, nerdy, weird, and a bit on the ‘girlish’ side, it was like this boy entered the class wearing a cap that said, “Your new favorite target.” Of course, the cool kids ganged up & left me broken. I felt all alone like a wet puppy abandoned in the rain.
So like a dog, I learned survival, the ugly way. I bit back, chewed on smaller prey. And before I knew it, became the very thing I hated the most. A bully.
Roy, let’s call him that, had the same awkwardness that had made me a target. His only disadvantage was that he didn’t want to fight back. This allowed me to slowly strangle him, one taunt at a time.
It started out as lame jokes that you’d expect from any teenager. Calling him “gay,” laughing at his curves, making him feel unwanted. This graduated into mild jabs & punches. And then finally, one day, the five of us spent 2 straight hours ‘roasting’ him, stepping on every last piece of his self-confidence that we could find on the floor.
Turns out, he’d had enough & his father was at my door with an audio recording of what we thought was sublime standup comedy. I felt ashamed but cried victim, pushing the blame back onto him. Tit for tat.
We stopped playing with him after that day. He had become a traitor. I don’t know if he found that liberating. And if he did, I can’t imagine how fucked up that would be … feeling happy to finally have no one you can make memories with.
I went abroad and forgot about Roy. Until yesterday when we were packing up and I saw him pass by. Something snapped. Like an ice cube being run down my neck.
As someone who has been through so many changes in the last few years, I felt an urgent need to prove to myself that I’m no longer the person I was years in 2014. I wanted to leave this shithole behind for good.
So I messaged him on Facebook.
Hey. I won’t ask if you remember me because I know you do. I just wanted to say I’m really sorry for how I treated you. There’s no explanation. No my side of the story. No excuse. And they weren’t just harmless jokes.
I bullied you badly and caused you a lot of pain. Practically ruined your childhood. And I don’t know if you’re doing better. I hope you are.
You didn’t deserve any of the shit I gave you. I did it because I felt powerless myself and needed something to fill that hollow space in my days.
We moved out yesterday & I wanted you to know that I’m aware of my mistakes and although I can’t change the past, I am working to heal, both myself and others. I’m part of some NGOs that help poor kids in Majiwada. I do regular activities to put a smile on their faces.
Again, I know this isn’t enough or even related but I hope someday you can forgive me. Even if you can’t, I understand. And I really wish that you find love, happiness, and peace wherever you go – yes you do deserve those things. I was wrong.
Please let me know if I can do anything for you. Thanks.
He responded with that “blue thumbs up” icon. That’s all. I didn’t push it, either. We didn’t have a heart-to-heart conversation to go over everything. I’ll probably never see him again or know how he turned out to be. It just is.
So did I get my closure? As I unpack in my new room, I’m not sure if it matters anymore. Because I think human relationships are much messier than we let on. You cannot just file them into chapters.
Sometimes they’ll end abruptly. Sometimes they’ll reappear again and again, unexpectedly. And sometimes you’ll find new meanings every time you go back to old pages.
More importantly, you cannot just erase the damage you do to people. You cannot say sorry hoping everything will be forgotten and forgiven. The harsh truth about scars is that they never really heal.
But someday someone will look at those scars you caused on people, and madly fall in love with them. Someone will find that pain beautiful. Someone will turn it into a source of strength and love. And you can take the first step towards making that happen – by just saying one word.
- GET TO THE POINT – If you think you hurt someone, you’re right 9/10 times because we’re hardwired for empathy & kindness so the moment we give in to hate, our mind sends us a small hunch. So just say you’re sorry. Not “sorry if I hurt you.” Not “sorry but it wasn’t my intention.” Just. Fucking. Sorry. Own what you did. It means everything.
- DON’T FORGET IT – Yes, it’s best if you repent asap but even if it’s 10 years later, admitting to your fuckups is the right thing to do.
- DON’T EXPECT AN OK – Your sorry is about you choosing to become better. For the person in front of you, it represents lots of trauma, heavy baggage, and painful memories that they’ve probably suppressed or internalized. So they may not forgive you or even respond. Please respect their privacy & feelings this time. And move on.
Trust me, this was one of the hardest things I’ve done as an adult. That said, I think we all did stupid things when we were kids. I think we were all MADE TO DO stupid things by a select few who understood intuitively how war works. I think most of us were a form of entertainment. Puppets. Dogs in a fighting ring. Dogs trying to fit in, or be liked, or just be left alone.
Realizing how insanely toxic this entire game was … is probably the most obvious sign that you’re growing up. I know I am. I’m actively working to be truer to the kid I was before they took him away from me. And I know it’s not going to be some beautiful transformative journey away from my past like they show in the movies.
It’ll be ugly, too painful to bear sometimes. Because I’ll meet parts of me that I hate. Parts you’d hate if you knew them. Parts that I’d rather not be remembered for. But you know what?
Sometimes, the first step in conquering your demons is accepting that they exist.
That they make you but don’t define you. That you have a choice to be kinder, sweeter, warmer. And the only thing that matters is whether you have the courage to make that choice even when the whole world is giving you a billion reasons not to.
Be that one reason everyone needs to heal.