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I am a Person.
The following letter is my formal confession and apology.
You see, I am that Person.
That Person you hate. That person she hates, he hates, they all hate. You hate me because I hate you. I’m that Person who smirks and shrugs and screams and hates. The Person who manages to smile and say “hi” and compliment your hair, all while insinuating an armada of masked, disguised, back-handed insults, little pricks and hisses that aim to deflate. I’m the One who can smile “I hate you” and giggle “You’re ugly” and comment “You’re worthless” just by grazing your shoulder in the hallway. I prattle on with my friends and turn a shoulder to your friends, I etch a million miniscule paper cuts into your skin, word by word, day by day, when I know you’ll be able to hear me.
I don’t even seem to have anything else to say, any quips to sling, any more snide pecks at what you’re wearing and how you talk. Because I’m sorry. Because I hated so much, so intensely that it burned my insides into a rancid, ashen hollow. I hated so much that it became acid down my throat, rising up as words that seared gorges into everyone and anyone who happened to be nearby. I was a perfect storm, out of control, a ricocheting bullet destined to drive its way back into my own skin, taking down everyone else on the way. It’s like I had some sort of poison in me, one that could only be spat out and regurgitated in all its foul acridity. And so I spat at everyone around me, driving words like stakes into that pulsating thrum of detestable vitality, into those people who seemed sordidly happy and nice and untouched.
I just wish that last week, in that hallway, when I told everyone what a “retard” you are, I could have said “I’m sorry.” Sorry to you, sorry to the school, sorry to the mentally-handicapped kids who have worked so hard and smiled so sincerely, only to bear the sour sluice of words and smirking gazes with a knowing grin.
And I wish I could’ve said, as I flounced down the cafeteria aisle with that soggy sheet of paper searing through my palms, “I’m sorry that I made you cheat on that test for me. I’m sorry that I threatened to hurt the people you love. I’m sorry that I told you that you were nothing. I’m sorry that I burned you all up with me.”
I wish I could’ve said, “I’m sorry.” I wish I could’ve said, “You mean everything.”
But I didn’t say anything, because the hatred had paralyzed the sharpness of my mouth, stilled my breath, bogged me down in the sour swell of my own bloated insults.
You see, I am that Person. Or at least, I was that Person.
I am the Bully.
And I can’t stop. I couldn’t stop. I was drunk, the pressed pedal too far, a cacophonous wail plaguing my ears, my own human cry that belted and rattled in every unlit corner.
But I’m done. No more. I can’t do this anymore. I have bitten and scratched, pulled the trigger and killed the mockingbird. I told you that you were stupid, even after you picked up my pencil when I didn’t ask you to. I snarled at the way you limped through the locker room, even though I knew you’d broken your ankle while rescuing the neighbor’s guinea pig. I made you feel embarrassed, or maybe angry, or utterly helpless. But I am, too. I’m angry and embarrassed and helpless. Because somewhere along the way, between the elementary school teachers’ sunny farewell waves and the wavering pride of middle school graduation, I realized something, something that edged me towards a gaping mouth of bitterness and defeat.
I discovered that loving is hard, and that hating is easy. So ludicrously simple. Hate requires nothing, after all. Hate dismisses knowledge or acceptance or understanding. It’s easy, simple, an impulse reaction. You begin to build an image inside your head: a target, a paper doll, so easily torn and tossed into the flames. The hate fluctuates and rises and blankets your body, contorting your vision, consuming and cresting. And all the while, that image inside of your head, the one of your lab partner or your cousin or your ex-best friend, begins to grow into a beast, an object, a mere thing inside your head, a faraway figure, a flat portrait. No matter if that portrait is an honest reflection or not. Those images inside the head are distorted, watery assumptions, like a furrowed reflection in the surface of a muddied puddle.
Loving, on the other hand, requires acceptance. It requires exposure, and time, and warmth, and practice. Loving seemed so hard, I’d almost given up. Loving requires the truth, that sour-sweet, sticky, gratifying truth: People are People, not the one-dimensional images we sometimes assume they are. People are People, with pets and hobbies and mothers and brothers. Pain and happiness afflicts us all. We feel everything, together, one collective, emotional existence, at the mercy of the same dreams, flinching from the same nightmares, stretching open-armed towards the same distant joys.
We are more than our image, our race or gender, more than our lopsided birthmarks or hand-me-down clothes. We are more than our unfounded hatred for each other.
We are human. We, by nature, oppose simplicity. And yet we cannot even see the infinite, spectacularly complex facets of our own humanity. We are diamonds, each and every one flawed, and yet we are tossed out and branded as “worthless” because of these differences. We are all flawed. But we have the power to refract the light around us, to capture the radiance of human consciousness, whether it’s the warmth of our family or the laughter of our friends.
We, as humans, cannot and should not be contained, battered, withheld. And yet we are always shackling each other with the whipping lacerations of careless murmurs, dismissive sighs, narrow glances. We try to hide little pieces of ourselves, the parts that we don’t love. We don’t always want people to see beyond our flawlessly cut-and-glued façade, papier-mâchéd with purposeful design, meticulously arranged to keep people thinking that we are singular images, ink on paper. But People are People. We are all People. And that is the ultimate truth. We are all that girl with the hearing aid, who volunteers at the animal shelter. We are all that boy with the scar on his cheek, who dreams about flying away.
We are all that Person, who loves and hates in unequal measure, scrabbling in that constant uphill war of Trying to Be a Good Person, marveling at the world, every Person a different shade, every Person fearing and hoping alike. We all have minds that can soar, hearts that can bleed, and the deep and ageless desire for the love we deserve.
And so I’m sorry, sorry that I never gave the love that other people deserved. But I can change that now. It’s as simple as that. I’m confused and scarred and scared as heck, not quite sure how to venture on from here, this epiphany, this edification. I’ll start with sorry. Sorry for the love I tucked beneath the armor, sorry for the hate that never truly existed at all. Sorry, sorry. Sor-ry. How bland that word is, how trivialized, diluted, double-syllabled, watery. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Sor-ry. How many syllables can sooth your burns and embrace you in the peace that you all deserve? I don’t know. But time is kind, just remember that. No matter what, time is on your side. No matter what hell your life may be, time is a kind old woman who closes all wounds and mutes all pain. And with time, people can change. People will change. I will change. I have hope.
Now, I’m not trying to make an excuse for my actions. After all, nothing can suppress the words I’ve shot and the rumors I’ve hissed. But I’m hoping that this is a start. Maybe I wrote this letter to try to prove to you that I am a Person, too. And that I’m trying, I really am. I have hope. We all have hope to cling on to, a raft in the seemingly endless tide, the light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel. Have hope. Someday, everyone will see that we are all People, mysteriously and delightfully undefinable, inexplicable. We should be sailing together on these unforgiving tides, instead of trying to sink each other. And then we will be able to love, wholly, truly, unconditionally, unsullied by the bitter wisps of hate and assumption.
After all, love is difficult, but it has saved me. This is my final testament.
To any Person who is reading this-
I love you.
A former Bully and a fellow Person.