In seventh grade, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the fantastic novel, “Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories”. Evidently, it recalls the experiences seventy authors have had with bullying. Reading their stories, I was inspired to share my own experience with bullying. This story takes place way back when I was in elementary school.
(*All names have been changed)
I’ll never forget you. I’ve met a lot of people. The close friends, chatterboxes, super-doers- but I’ve never met anyone like you. You’ve left a bruise in my heart, and even today, the bruise stays. You showed me how subtle bullying can be. You victimized me in a way I didn’t even think about. I guess it has to do with the day we met.
Except, I can’t even say why.
I had just moved to a new school that year. I opened the door to my classroom and felt a wave of nervousness come over me. I peered in and saw you. I remember it like it was yesterday. Big brown eyes. Silky, straight black hair flowing below your shoulders and a pleasant smile on your face. Glossy lips, no flaws, and that North Face Jacket. No wonder I wanted to be your friend.
We did become friends after a few weeks. At first, you confided in me. You’d tell me some not-so-nice things about my other friends and force me to shun them. So slowly, bit-by-bit, you started gaining my trust. Once you thought you had it all, you started growing. You grew in our friendship- you took the charge, you took control. On the other hand, I started shrinking. I lost myself inside our dangerous friendship. I listened to you. I followed you. I did whatever you wanted. I trusted you.
That’s when you pulled out your malevolent weapon. You made rules. Well, no they weren’t rules really, I’d hastily reassure myself. You just didn’t like it, that’s all. You didn’t like it if I didn’t do whatever you asked. You would persuade me to do all of your favorite things. I mean, if I picked, how good would things be? You’d always have the better option. If you wanted to spend time with me, how great was that? So what if I did all of your homework? Who cares if we hung out with your friends? You’d already assured me all of my friends were losers.
After a month-or-so, you revealed your true colors. You turned into a living nightmare. Being your follower, I saw you in your disguise as a nice, kind person. By then, you had started lashing out at me. You started to ridicule me. But then, you’d apologize and blame yourself- swear you were just having a mood swing and say why, why, why were you so mean, so inconsiderate- until I would feel sorry for you and assure you that no, you weren’t a bad person. You weren’t mean or inconsiderate- it was all my fault. I’m the one who should have been saying sorry. Then, you’d cry and hug me and say, “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.” You’d promise me you would never be mean to be again. For a few days, you would spend time with me, be all fun and games until you went back to being mean again.
The last thing I remember about being your friend is you screaming at me for asking if you wanted to play during recess. I walked away from you, my heart shattered and tears falling down my face. That’s when I realized how fatal our friendship had been. It had eaten away at my conscience until I couldn’t even think straight. From then on, I vowed: no more bad friends. You’ve had enough, Sanjana. Don’t blind yourself just to appear stronger. See the red flags and get out. Pronto.
At first, I thought being without you meant being lonely and an outcast. But as I shut the door on greedy, manipulative friends, I found real friends. The true-blue ones that hang with you until the very end.
There’s still something I want to say to you Lily*.
Thank you for teaching me to not always trust first impressions. From your friendly disguises, I’ve learned it takes more than a first look to become someone’s real friend. You’ve shown me it’s what’s inside that truly counts.
Thank you for making me think before I start a friendship. To look down the road for red flags and danger signs. You’ve made me pay close attention to the smallest details. No longer will I blindly trust a person. No longer will I blindly let a friend hurt me with their stinging words. No longer will I hide in the darkness.
Thank you for showing me how to deal with anxiety. Every time I do something important, I remember your mocking face. If I’m scared to do something, I’ll remember you Lily.
You’ve left a scar in me which I will always remember. You’ve showed me how subtle bullying can be. You’ve victimized me in a way I still can’t imagine. You’ve left a bruise in my heart. I’ll never be the same.
No longer your victim,