Dear Bully

January 17, 2013
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Dear Bully,
Remember that girl, the one in first grade, who you laughed at and told her that her dress looked like a nightgown?
Remember how you decided, in second grade, that her middle name was funny and called her by it and laughed every time?
Remember how in third grade she wasn't allowed to sit with you at lunch because her food was weird and you though it was gross?
Remember how in fourth grade you blocked her on the way to the slide at recess because only your friends were allowed to play there?
Remember that?
And then she moved away. The girl you liked to torment. She moved to a different country. And you forgot about her, or maybe remembered her, vaguely, as the tiny one, who's clothes were always a little too big, because she borrowed them from her older sister.
But she didn’t forget you. Your words, and your cruel laugh always sat there, in the back of her head, reminding her, as she started in her new school, in a country where she didn’t speak the language, or know a single soul, that she wasn’t good enough. That here, it would be the same. It would be worse, even, because she wouldn’t know what they were laughing at her about, so she wouldn’t be able to defend herself, or change it.
But it was OK. She got older. She made friends. She learned the new language. But she kept looking over her shoulder, making sure she was wearing the right clothes, and liked the right movies. And maybe she started laughing at the victim in her new class, the one who was always dirty, the one who was poor.
And when she got a little more mature, after the girl moved to a different school, she realized how mean they had been. She felt bad. She decided she wouldn’t do that anymore.
And she kept her word. She moved on. Soon, she started high school. It was another chance to start over. But this time, she was confident. Her best friend was in her new class. She was fluent in the language she had learned in fifth grade. She knew the slang, and what clothes to wear, and even how to travel across the city without getting lost. She felt at home.
In high school there weren’t as many bullies. The girls who criticized others did it behind their backs, and they were never the wiser. She liked it better that way. She didn’t want to know if someone didn’t like her. It was their problem, not hers.
She grew up. She turned fifteen, and sixteen, and seventeen. Now she's a senior. She's making decisions about her life. And she's happy. She likes who she is. She's glad her dad got transferred seven years ago, across the world. She's looking forward to her future. She's excited.
But last year, when she went back to where she had grown up, she saw you. And you smiled vaguely, and told her how much school as different without her, and how much you missed her. And she smiled back and told you a little about her new life. And then she walked away with her friends, to buy ice cream.
But your words still resonate inside her head, every time she debates whether to buy a dress or not. She hopes it doesn’t look like a nightgown. And she's still careful about the food she brings to school for lunch. She wants to make sure it's not weird.
Sometimes, she feels bad for you. She knows it must have been hard for you, when you were young, if you needed to feel powerful and in control. And even when she saw you last year, she could tell that you hadn’t changed. And it made her sad. Because her friends accept her for who she is, and she doesn’t have to pretend. And they laugh about her quirky taste in books, but she laughs with them, and tells them their taste is terrible too.
And she knows she'll have a good life, and full life, and she'll be happy in the end.
But she's not so sure that you will.
Your former Victim

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