Some things are hard to forgive. And the hardest person to forgive is you.
I was cursed with a long memory. I can’t remember sometimes what I did yesterday but recollections – pleasant and not so pleasant – appear, grow dim, vanish and come back into stark relief as regularly and perhaps as predictably as the planetary motions.
I’ve done a lot of things in my life of which I am not proud. Sometimes I wish I could forget. Perhaps I’d be a happier person. Perhaps if I was a happier person I could be a better person, too.
Not that I’m unhappy person, you understand. I have a great wife and a great daughter. Somehow, things have worked out okay for me in spite of the many times I’ve let others or myself down.
Oddly enough, one memory which regularly comes back to haunt me may not seem to you to be any big deal. It’s something that happened a long time ago, back when I was maybe nine or ten years old. So we’re talking mid-1960’s here.
And it was simply this. A new kid came to school. In fact, it was three kids. The eldest boy came into my class. There was a younger boy and a younger girl, as I remember.
The boy who came into my class was called William Frame.
We all instantly took a dislike to William. He was timid. He was skinny. He was an interloper. He looked poor and I think he was poor. William also looked a little unclean. I can remember he didn’t smell so good.
It’s always tough for kids who transfer to a new school. Friendships and cliques are well established. If you’re a tough kid and you can handle yourself this doesn’t really matter but if you’re a weak, scrawny kid that smells a little, like William, some kids are going to turn on you and make you an object of scorn.
Poor William got beat up regularly by some of the kids simply because he was an outsider and easy to bully.
And you know, it’s also easy to fall in the way of things, especially if your pals are encouraging you to take part, applauding you when you did, making you feel like a valued member of the gang.
I can only remember hitting poor William once. It wasn’t in my nature to be a bully, you understand. It didn’t sit well with me. As I say, though, once I did go along with it and egged on by my pals I waited for William and his younger brother and sister one day after school and thumped him.
I can remember clearly that as I hit him I saw the look of anguish on his younger brother’s face. His big brother was being hurt, humiliated, tortured in a sense, and he could do nothing about it.
This is what has remained in my mind all these years. It surfaces every now and again when I start to think to myself that maybe I’m not such a bad guy after all.
Nothing very much, you say? Kids will be kids, after all … right?
It’s ironic in a sense that I now do the kind of work I do. Because now, as a middle-aged man, the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. The reason why William and his siblings looked so poor is that they were poor.
And what was the reason why they came to our school so late on in their school lives? Who knows … but perhaps there had been a domestic situation where the family had been forced to move to a new locale … maybe things at home were bad … maybe they had been removed to a place of safety …
Or maybe I’m being over fanciful.
I know for sure that there was suffering and want etched on the faces of those children.
The world had been unkind to them.
I believe in a kind of instant karma. What goes around comes around. A couple of years later I was involved in a road traffic accident in which I was nearly killed when I fell under a bus. Somehow I got away merely with a broken tibia. However, I was laid up until well after the summer holidays and started late at high school
Guess what happened to me.
Maybe someone somewhere frets about beating me up in the same way I fret about what I did to William Frame that day. I really do.
There’s no way to put it right, you see.
I know it’s silly because – and I want to assure you that this is the truth – I’ve done worse things in my life. But for some reason, when I think about this seemingly small incident, I could hang my head and weep with shame.