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To My Son

My son,

I was bullied as a child as well. I never mentioned it to you, for I wanted you to admire your father’s “strength.” I told you tales of my success, but not its roots. You looked up at me, and down upon yourself. I am starting to realize this now. And I regret, among other things, that I failed to stop your slow descent. All I can do is write the words that had to be spoken ages ago...

Ten years ago, your mother and I had decided to stop for lunch at a dingy cafe at the edge of town. We were young and imagined this “cheap” experience to be a great adventure, an exotic twist to the regular family vacation. You were hungry and fussy, and I remember scolding you, then regretting it and letting you order the most expensive dessert on the menu. My career was off at a good start and I could afford the little delicacies. I had even developed the “rich” look. Cigars replaced cigarettes. Suits evolved from whatever was clean to an array of brand names. I walked like a man satisfied with life. I could afford it. I had worked hard long enough.

The waiter that took our lengthy order was a frightened man, of the extremely overweight variety... Worse, he had descended to the final stages of a miserable obesity. All the signs were there: the food stains on his clothing, the unkempt hair, the raspy breath from the walk to our table, and neither a neck to hold up his head nor a general indication of a “regular human” form. His body was folded over his pants, layers of human flesh stacked one upon the other... And the name tag, drowning in voluminous breasts, proclaimed, to my absolute horror, “Jonathan Black”...

That, my son, was no ordinary name.

Ten years ago, Jonathan Black’s gorgeous blue eyes were the most discussed subject among the girls in my high school. Now, rimmed by deposits of fat, they were now neither a “deep sexy blue” nor a “frightening blue,” but rather a “bleak blue-ish”. Jonathan’s sporty form had been the object of plenty of finger pointing a mere decade ago. And perhaps plenty eyes still turned his way, but for opposite reasons...

Son, in high school, Jonathan Black was the meanest, baddest bully you could ever encounter... Now he was serving me greasy fries... But I would recognize him in any form.

Jonathan’s reign lasted and ended before people moved to abolish violence in schools. Bullying was physical, verbal, and constant. I was the “fat kid”, the “nerdy kid”, the classmate Jonathan Black could use to bring attention to his strength and virility. Why he needed to further work on his image, I never understood, but didn’t ask. No one went against Jonathan Black or questioned his “policies.” We had no free speech. The first amendment was not in effect in his high school, and I could only dream of a brighter, more democratic future. I learnt to run, eat quickly, hide well, and never, ever get noticed.

Ten years after I graduated with honors, Jonathan Black was the obese waiter sheepishly bringing me the most expensive items from the menu. I was the happy, successful lawyer with a beautiful wife and son. I could even bully him if I wanted, and he wouldn’t so much as squeak at me. I was the law and the order in this cafe. Before me was a blown up, bulliable, and malleable version of my worst nightmare, and I was in charge. I was in charge. I had the better girl and suit and the best position...

I had waited for ten years to face him again, son... But not even in my wildest teenage fantasies had I envisioned it to be like this.

For many grueling years I labored to defeat Jonathan Black’s memory. He let me down...

After we finished our disgusting meal, none other than the notorious Jonathan Black slithered over to the table to accept the fee. I deliberated about the tip, determined to deal with the situation like an adult, although my high school bitterness was reappearing, fast. Considering the financial situation of the other visitors, Jonathan would expect a jackpot from our family. His daily meal hinged on my grace, as had my high school lunches.

I could leave without tipping, son. That would be fair, almost sensible. He owed me too much. It was my turn to make him feel the cruelty of the world...

But Jonathan Black was already miserable. I could sense the despair emanating from his oversized figure... He didn’t know who I was. If I told him, would he even remember me? Would he repent, apologize?..

Son, I tipped Jonathan Black an extra hundred dollars, ten for every year that I strove to be like him... Wasn’t I so righteous, oh so saintly?..

Now I wish I had smashed his head against the filthy table. The world would be a better place... That would’ve been righteous. Yes, son, that would have been saintly. But, aren’t you proud, son, of the way I dealt with my anger, just like an adult? Aren’t you so grateful to me, Jonathan Black, me, your secret benefactor?..

That’s what happened to my bully, son...

And, son, it’s not worth it, neither the bullies, nor the few month of suffering. That’s the moral of my story. I learned it firsthand.

The memories of those painful hours will undeniably pile up in your head... They are trash. Reuse them as a lesson. Don’t listen to Jonathan Black. In high school, it’s just not worth it. You can trust me on that one, son...

But it is too late for these words.

Son, you cannot hear me anymore...

Your grieving father



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