Betrayed beyond belief, he didn’t know how he was going to cope.
Everyone around him was talking about him as though he didn’t really exist. He himself thought sometimes that his very presence was a mere illusion. He walked home from school that afternoon with feelings of self pity, anger and thoughts of revenge. How could it have come this far? It never stopped, the incessant bullying by his peers. Even his sister had joined in with the crowd, taunting him at every chance she could. That was the worst betrayal of all.
When he finally arrived at his doorstep he wished that he could open the door and find a sense of relief upon returning home. He really wished that he’d feel safe here. But the truth was that he didn’t feel safe anywhere. He walked through the door, threw his backpack on the floor and wearily ascended the stairs toward his bedroom. At his tablet now, for the umpteenth time he googled “how to stop being bullied”. Of course there were all the methods he’d tried before. Nothing new here except that this time he paid particular close attention to the video clip about not holding fast to the old school rule of not ratting out your bullies. He thought about that for a long time afterward as he lay on his bed staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling.
Tommy had been his best friend in grammar school. What had changed him? He’d become a mean spirited adolescent who picked on every kid who wasn’t exactly like him, a star tackle on the junior high school football team. He was the ringleader. Sure, he was okay looking, but he acted like he was Tom Brady or something, which he wasn’t. He thought all the girls wanted to get with him. Was it his popularity that turned him into a bully? Chris tried to understand the how to of it all. Of how his friend had overnight turned into his worst nightmare, a bully who betrayed him and turned everyone else against him as well. He just couldn’t come up with any answers.
At his wits end, another sleepless night ahead, he decided to try and talk to his Mom about it. She had been friends with Tommy’s Mom back in the day. She might have a clue. He was hesitant as he didn’t want to get Tommy into trouble, thinking it may make matters worse.
He approached his Mom that night as she quietly read her novel in the living room. “Mom, do you remember when Tommy and me were best buds?” “Well of course I do Chris.” She replied. Chris started to tell the story of how the bullying began. That day when Tommy made fun of his left ear sticking out so far, in front of the whole seventh grade history class. He told her of how they all laughed and joined in and of how terrible he felt. How he turned crimson red, felt the burning of his face and neck, how his eyes filled up, the anger, embarrassment, powerlessness and shame. Chris’s Mom held him close. She took him into her arms and hugged him for a good long time, stroking his still baby soft strawberry blond hair. She told him again how loved he was by his whole family, even by Taylor, his sister. He cried into her shoulder as she held him. Eventually he pried himself loose and held his head high, drying his eyes. He asked her if maybe someday he could have that left ear surgery they’d talked about a few years ago. “Of course you can, Chris. We’ll do anything for you. You know that.” She said. “But in the meantime, you’ve got to deal with the bullying issue that is at hand, in the moment.” “Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do to change Tommy’s situation. Ever since his Mom became ill he’s been on a path of destruction. He loves her so very much Chris. He must be in a lot of pain.” Chris knew he had to face the fact that Tommy’s life had forever changed. Although he made every effort to appear to be the big, tough, football tackle that he was, his home life was eroding before his eyes. He was losing his Mom.
Chris felt stronger after talking things over with his Mom. It wasn’t going to change things overnight for him but at least it gave him some insight as to why a bully might be a bully. He made a temporary plan in his head about Tommy. He had seen in one of the googled videos that if you just try non violently standing up to your bully, it might sway them to stop.
He hoped he’d run across Tommy without too many other kids around and sure enough, it happened the following Thursday. They passed each other on the way home from school. Chris made sure he was the first one to speak, walking up from behind Tommy. He rushed in with, “Tommy, I remember your Mom use to bake the best chocolate cake. I miss her. How is she doing?” Tommy turned his head, ready with a scoff and an insult. But something made him take pause. He looked and looked again. There stood Chris, his old friend, head held high, looking him straight into the eyes. Chris’s eyes looked warm and genuine and caring. His body language spoke of compassion and childhood friendship. Of soccer balls, ice cream cones, tree houses, walking stick bugs, crawfish, hornets nests, baseball, pizza and chocolate cake. And two Moms.
Tommy waited. He stared at Chris. He looked at Chris’s ear sticking out. Then he said, “She’s okay I guess. You wanna ride bikes or something after?” Chris said, “Yeah, I guess so.”
They never got around to riding bikes but the bullying stopped. Chris would never be exactly certain that what he said, what he did and how he did it was why it all came to an end. He was glad it did though. He was to later learn of the horrible effects that bullying can have, driving some to feel so powerless as to contemplate, even commit suicide or homicide.
Chris never did have that surgery that they’d discussed. Time passed, he grew bigger, his ear stayed the same size and other things in life became much more important. By the time he was eighteen the ear was almost forgotten. He was headed off to college to study business. Chris is now CEO of a Fortune 500 company and never even thinks about ears, his or anyone else‘s.
Tommy’s school football career flourished. Although he took it hard when his Mom died when he was a freshman, he rallied as a sophomore and made the varsity team. He was granted a full athletic scholarship to The University of Rochester where he studied pre-med. He is now a physician in Boston where he practices Plastic Surgery.
WordPressDaily Post Prompt: Betrayed
Photo Cred: Google images