I drew more than my fair share of insults and cruelty when I was junior high school. Glasses, bad complexion, no physique to speak of -- I spent a lot of time fairly miserable, encouraged to be so by those around me. Looking back, I wonder at my mind set, my motivations; I knew I was an outcast, yet I kept trying, vying for the friendship of people I didn't even like. The worst part was that I think I knew how pathetic it all was, but that didn't even change my course an iota.
I can almost understand where the rest of the school was coming from, though -- there's a strange, visceral thrill that comes part and parcel with doling out misery. I know because I never failed to take the opportunity to dump on another kid when such an opportunity arose. It moved the focus away from me, and made me feel like I was one of the cool kids, terrorizing the losers in whose shoes I spent most of my days. It's a carnivorous sort of euphoria, the taste of tearing apart the spirit of another.
Then, one day, he started crying. My teeth were still dripping, as were those of the pack -- I hadn't near enough confidence to go it alone on the hunt -- and he let out a wail and curled up on the ground.
We were in 6th grade. You didn't do that in 6th grade. You were above that sort of behavior. I was incensed.
And then, mere moments later, I was ashamed. Ashamed is a strong word, but, in truth, it doesn't do the emotion justice. I felt as though I was the worst person -- if a person I qualified as at all -- in the world. I was a traitor, a fool, and a devil, all wrapped up into one, and I hurt. I hurt all the more because, even in my moment of clarity and awareness, I still didn't have the guts to step out from the group that stood around him in a tight circle, laughing at his pain.
I think I may have laughed too. I honestly don't remember.
creentmerveille wrote about the feeling of knowing you've done wrong, and I think that's what I'm writing about too. There's a shift of perspective -- a realization that the world can be a nasty place, and that you're more than capable of helping it along. It makes me want to curl up on the ground when it happens, but I keep seeing the kids encircling him -- I don't even remember the kid's name -- and I can't hold off the realization that I am still capable of standing in the circle too. I think we all are.
And that's what makes it hurt so bad.