There’s something about Real Live Preacher’s newest series in the Foy Davis stories. The latest three center around a boy named David Friedman. His stories and writings always hit hard in an ultra-realistic way, but it’s not that.
In another life, back in school before college I was David Friedman. During fifth grade, I was beaten up daily and blamed for it. (Smart kids ask for it, apparently, and should just act normal.) Middle school wasn’t much better. High school the beatings became emotional. College? It was wonderful. But my experience reflected through David’s aren’t what’s eating at me through those stories.
For awhile, a part of me wanted those who bullied me to be monsters, still. Probably some are. Probably some are ordinary people. Even some may be nice people once they grew up some. Another part of me wanted to lord over them that I’ve managed to do things with my life that they haven’t–I’m one of the few from my suburban high school who’s living further than 10 miles away from the suburb I grew up in.
There was a time when I wanted to show up at a reunion, Hoopy Frood in tow, and name-drop the composers, choreographers, visual artists, and other people I’ve met, while reciting my CV. In the end, I didn’t go to my 10 year reunion. Now I don’t feel much towards those people. If I hadn’t read the story, I probably wouldn’t have thought about them. I have people who love me, and I have people I love. I’ll never be a social butterfly, but when the mood strikes I have people to do stuff with. Life is pretty good.
What made my stomach sink was the idea that those who bullied me are feeling some kind of remorse, yet I want them to be faceless monsters. Can anything erase what they did? Probably not. Will I forget what was done to me? Probably not. Catholic teaching says as much that we have responsibility for the effects of the sins we commit. What reconciliation does is allow us to go on with our lives. Do I want their lives to go on? Sure. Do I want them to feel awful for what they did? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, but no I don’t as much as I once did.
What would happen, if we ran into each other in QFC? Probably the initial pleasantries. I’m sure they’d be as interested in my forays into the arts like I’d be interested in their kids. We’d exchange smalltalk over avocadoes, and then go on with our lives. Maybe they need to hear that my life is as boringly normal as theirs is. Maybe I needed to hear that they’re just people.