I remember it vividly. One of my earliest “best” friends, or at least in the top three, came up to me with a couple of other guys by his side. He looked at me with a face that I’ll never forget and said, “You’re a fag.” To this day, I don’t know why. I just know that as a junior high student, this devastated me.
You’ve been there; you know how formative those years are. It’s kind of odd that I remember almost nothing of junior high, but I remember this and several other times I was bullied. That’s the thing about bullying; you just can’t shake some of it off. What’s more; the effects don’t go away.
The story doesn’t end there though. I got some payback – or so I thought. We were in gym playing softball – playing ball was about the only sport I was any good at. My friend (or ex-friend) came up to the plate. I knew where he would hit the ball because he always hit it in the same place. He did; the ball sailed out to left field and I went after it. Unfortunately, another kid was there, but the ball bounced off his shoulder and I recovered to make a truly great catch.
I remember having a really good game that day. Afterward, in the locker room, the gym teacher who didn’t really say much to us, said, “Boys, Cross came to play ball today.” I was ecstatic because someone recognized that I could actually do something well. Then, one of the popular kids said, “Don’t let your head swell so you can’t get it out the door.”
My head never swelled because I considered myself a loser and never thought I did anything to be proud of. My moment disappeared in a poof of depression. One sentence ruined it.
People who bully need to be aware of something. The bullied victims sometimes feel so low about themselves they try really hard to do something great, but when they get bullied again, they often give up. Others don’t try at all. Some withdraw; some kill themselves.
It’s easy to kick someone down, but it takes a real jerk to kick someone when they’re already down, and a real ass to kick someone when they’re trying to get back up again.
I still remember the multiple times I was bullied, and I’m still trying to prove myself 50 years later. Don’t tell me and other people who’ve been bullied to just get over it. It’s not that easy.
Anyway, because of the bullying I still vividly remember and because I suffer from a mental illness, I wrote Drowning. It isn’t autobiographical, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any part of me in it.
If you want to, purchase my book. If not, don’t. However, I do wish you would think twice before you bully someone because you could be marking them for life. If you’ve been bullied, it may not feel like it, but you’re a great person who does great things. Remember that.