You were the last person I would have expected to add me on Facebook. Partly because I can’t remember the last time anyone added me on Facebook, but more significantly, because you should hate me. I spent an entire year bullying you, so why the hell would you want to know anything about my life?
The first thing that I thought when I saw your smiling profile picture was ‘Wow, you grew up.’ Which, frankly, is a stupid thing to think, because it’s been ten years since I last saw you. Of course you’ve grown up. You’ve got boobs now. You have a seriously strong eyebrow game. You’ve grown your hair out – and it looks really nice. You went to design school. You look happy, but then, who doesn’t on social media? I hope you are happy, now. I really do.
I should explain…
When I was 10, I lived in a yellow house in a cul-de-sac. There were a whole heap of kids who lived on our street and our parents pretty much let us wander between each other’s houses, pausing to pick up snacks on our way to our next adventure, comforted by the thought that there were watchful parents wherever we went. I was the youngest of our gang, which was great because no one minded if I said I didn’t want to jump off a big rock or crawl into the sewage pipe after everyone else had (seriously). But it also meant that my opinion mattered the least, I would always get the smallest slice of cake or have to sit on someone’s lap if there wasn’t enough room.
You must have moved next door when I was nine and you were seven. I was aware that you were younger than me, and because age was everything, you were the first person I was able to boss around. And woah, the power went straight to my tiny head. Instead of taking care of you, I bullied you. We all did.
We would tease you mercilessly. We would laugh at you, and refuse to touch anything you touched. We would lie to you. We would lock you in rooms. One time you stuck a flower down your pants and we talked about nothing else for weeks. But no matter what we did, you kept coming back – and so we kept at it, stuck in this cycle of using your weakness to make us feel more powerful.
I remember one day you ran away from home. You were only a kid so you didn’t actually get very far, but I can see you sitting on the steps between our houses, with a bag full of teddies, watching my friends and I play. Instead of inviting you in, instead of asking you if you were ok, I ignored you. I probably pointed you out to my friends and we laughed about it.
I moved house a year later and while we still went to the same school, we never really talked after that. We even went to the same high school, and every so often you’d surprise me in the halls or you’d come up and sit with me at lunch and I’d try to be kinder to you than was strictly necessary. My friends would ask why you hung out with us sometimes and I’d just shrug and say we went to primary school together. I never explained that I was trying to make amends for the way I treated you when we were younger.
I never apologised for it. But I really, truly, am sorry. I was a dick. An enormous dick. A cataclysmic dick. The queen of the dicks. And it’s still one of my biggest regrets, all these years later. That I wasn’t kinder to you. That I didn’t have the moral strength to be different. That I was so desperate to be part of something that I didn’t realise it often means someone else has to be standing on the outside, looking in.
Now, I try my hardest to be a kind person, both to my friends but also to the people who seem like they could do with a little bit of kindness in their lives. The people who stand a little to the side at parties and who always end up taking the photograph, rather than posing in them.
But none of that changes the way I treated you and I just wanted you to know – I’m sorry.
Image: Hailey Hamilton