I was sitting on the sports ground, tying my shoe laces and generally feeling frustrated at being out in the heat and the sun to do some silly drills. I was about to hoist myself up when one of the infamous, extremely wealthy and snobbish girls sat down next to me. I knew her to be a rude, bad tempered, foul mouthed person and decided to get away from her.
To my amazement, she grabbed hold of my hand and pleaded with me to stay. Unsure at this turn of events, I sat down beside her feeling uncomfortable. I glanced at her and found, to my astonishment, that she was crying. I was flabbergasted and was unsure of how to react. I kept quiet and stared into the horizon, my intuition telling me to wait and watch.
Between her sobs, she told me that she had failed a test and the report had reached her parents who would probably take away her phone, many of her other privileges and ground her till her 18th birthday. She started raving and ranting about the stupid teacher who had brought her to that level, who was her sworn enemy and was demeaning her on purpose. I considered it extremely unlikely but restrained myself from telling her so. I had also never even dreamt that one of the richest and spoilt brats who did not care for other people’s feelings would ever have it in them to show anger and frustration at failing a test.
Ultimately she came around to my way of thinking. She accepted that what happened was probably her own fault and that she HAD overindulged in frivolous activities and neglected her studies. By and by, she told me why she became like this- the messed up high schooler that she had now become. Apparently, when she was younger, one of the so called punks at her earlier school had bullied her and caused the whole school to laugh at her. She had needed intensive counselling and a change of schools to get over it.
I realised that that kind of an experience must have had a long lasting impact on the mind of a five year old. She swore that she would never ever be so vulnerable to anyone ever again. As a result, she became one of them. Teasing, bullying, showing disrespect ṭo the teachers, using people and then brushing them away all became her second nature to the extent that she hardly knew herself anymore. I was astonished to find myself sympathising with her. I knew bullying could be pretty nasty and bad experiences were very often the foundation of horrible personalities. Granted, she could have handled it differently but hey, we all make mistakes, don’t we?
She’d been scoring poor marks all through the year but the failure gave her a shock . Her so called friends were whispering behind her back. They made fun of her weaknesses instead of understanding and supporting her. She shook with shame, despair and sorrow. I don’t know who was more surprised when I put my arm around her- me or her. We sat like that, clumsily slumped against one another as I gazed into the calm and serene afternoon. The heat didn’t bother me anymore, it seemed welcoming, as if the sunlight would drive away all the sorrow and despair that was seeping through her then.
She suddenly sat upright and wondered aloud why she was telling me all of this. I restrained myself from grinning at that. She stayed quiet for sometime tracing patterns on the ground with a blade of grass. She asked me what I thought she should do. I stared at a flock of birds flying away and asked her if she didn’t already know the answer. She smiled at that. She chuckled because she wanted to, because she was … truly happy. It was not an affected chuckle, it came from within her. She gave me a hug, a warm one, which probably had a trace of the five year old who had lost herself under the continuous facade of the bullying, fearless and I-don’t-care personality that everybody saw.
A month later, she topped the class in a test on the same subject in which she had failed. Though no longer casual about her studies, she hadn’t changed in any other way. She was still beautiful, yet a mean, rude, proud, disliked and disrespected student. She was treated like a celebrity and was a certified mean girl. She never messed with me though. It was as if she had left a tiny piece of her five year old self in that one confession that she gave me. On multiple occasions when her cronies weren’t looking, I caught her giving me sidelong glances. Those glances told me everything I needed to know. She had realised her mistake but felt that it was too late to change now. She had built a reputation she didn’t want to destroy. She was probably addicted to her facade and even more likely, dare I say the word, a coward who could not let the world see her for who she truly was. I smiled sadly at the thought. Her eyes asked me to guard that memory, that confession and tell no one of what passed between the two of us that day. She had been vulnerable, after a very long time. Surprisingly though, she had confidence that I would not divulge her secret.
I gave her a nod which she seemed to understand. She never saw me again. She didn’t even turn towards me before walking out of the school gates for the last time.
So there we have it, people. Many of us change because of some bad experience others don’t know about. People aren’t born bad. The series of events that occurred to them are bad. The trials of life are sent to test us. At times they mould people into better characters and at others, they create bullies. So give everyone a second chance. Even the meanest of the mean, the people who hurt you the most, deserve the humane feelings of kindness and sympathy. The meaner they are, the worse life has probably treated them.