Nobody liked you. I mean nobody. It never occurred to me that you knew that. It never occurred to me that we went too far.

Smartass sonofabitch. Standing here, that’s all I can think of to say to you and mean it. You thought you were smarter than everybody else and so you used big words we didn’t understand. You scoffed when we got the answers wrong. You snickered when we blushed because we struggled to remember what you always thought was so obvious. Smartass sonofabitch you. Yeah, you were smarter than the rest of us.

But there WAS the rest of us. And then there was just you.

It’s like time has stopped and this is all I can think of to say to you, as if I never left the second grade. As if the last time I saw you, we were just seven years old. How does a seven-year-old inspire such disdain?

How did a seven-year-old inspire us to go too far?

Damn you. At just seven years old, you were one of those people who bring out the worst in everybody. We had to beat you down. We didn’t have a choice. It’s people like you that make us sound like wife beaters. But it’s different. You really did inspire all that hate. You really did make us do it.

I remember. You were standing out in the dusty playground and we had had enough of you. The whole class, all thirty two of us, we linked arms. I don’t remember who came up with the idea, but the plan was simple.

We linked arms and them somebody yelled, “Go!” And we ran. We thundered towards you, our arms linked, a thundering herd of second-graders who had had enough of you and your disdain.

There was no escape. You couldn’t run around us, there wasn’t time. You couldn’t duck or jump over us. Our arms were locked together. We were a human chain, dragging across the ground, kicking up dust from our sneakers.

We were coming for you.

But, the fact is, you really were smart than the rest of us. I remember you standing there, looking at us. A little bit scared, but more like you were calculating something. Like you were counting off the seconds. And then, at just the right moment, you put your foot up and the boy right in front of you slammed his chest into your shoe.

Our line was broken. There was a gap and you darted through and ran all the way home.

You escaped.

You smartass sonofabitch you. I don’t know why, but that day, those long-lost feelings, it’s all coming back to me so strong just now.

But then, all those years later, when we had run out of hope, you asked a few questions. And you found out what was wrong with my Anabelle.

You saved her life. Because you were smarter than the rest of us. All I could do was shake your hand and blubber with glee because you had saved my Anabelle.

I don’t think you remembered me. Because you had found a way, at some point, to join the human race. You stopped showing us how you were so much better than the rest of us. You stopped laughing at us when we got it wrong. You stopped looking down at us. You started looking out for us instead. You grew up and found compassion and dedication. And we took you in, finally, because all men eventually find their way home.

So I don’t think you remembered me from that long-lost day where we all hated you. I think you found a way to leave that behind. But I remember that day on the playground. And I should have said something as I was shaking your hand. Because you had saved my Anabelle. I should have said that somebody should have told us we had gone too far. Somebody should have told us to stop. To wait. That we would all grow up and find our place. It will be better down the road. Give him a chance. You’ll see.

But nobody said any of that. We just tried to run you down. And because nobody told us that we had gone too far, I can’t let go of that day just now. It has come back to haunt me. All that hatred that burned so hot in the heart of a seven-year-old. Children – the cruelest creatures of all.

And hatred – the easiest passion of all. But you saved my Anabelle. So I’m going to let that go now. It lingered, you see. It stewed and simmered because I had never let it go.

But now I have to. Not because I should. But because there’s no need for it anymore. And when I do let it go, I will be left standing here defenseless against the tide of regret that will come for me.

You were smarter than the rest of us. You should understand. A man would rather hate than weep in regret. It’s easier that way.

But I’m letting go. There is nothing to protect me now.

I brought these flowers. I’m going to sit down next to you now and put them next to your headstone. And I’m going to weep a while.

Because we went too far.

©2023 Michael J Lawrence

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