An Open Letter to My First (And Worst) Bully

For the purposes of this open letter, the addressee will be referred to as 45217. A subsequent person will be referred to as Jake. -Ty

Dear 45217,

One of the least surprising things I ever learned in my life some years ago was that you ended up in prison. Robbery, was it? I don’t remember exact details, but I think it was for 15 to 20? That would mean you’re still locked up. Whether you in fact are, or if your rich parents once again did something to help you out of trouble, I don’t know. I do know you probably deserve to still be in prison for any number things other than that for which you were convicted. And wherever you actually reside now, you still warrant no further identification from me than a prison number.

I’ve known several people in my life who I believe in my heart are psychopaths. Most are simply without morals, but have adjusted to society in such a way as to not cause much trouble. You obviously never made that adjustment, but then again you are not merely a psychopath; you are evil. I have no compunction at all about saying so if you are no different than you were as a child.

That label, evil, obviously means nothing to you, being what you are. So I expect no regret, and indeed would expect you to be somewhat entertained as I remind you that you were not my only bully, but you were the first, and the absolute worst. I would assume that if you could remember who I am, the memory of the psychological torture through which you put me on a daily basis would put a smile on your face, even as you sit rotting in your prison cell.

It’s probably the exact same smile you had on your face every day in grade school when you would see me coming: your friends, and those who pretended to be my friends in tow, just before you launched into whatever relentless verbal assault you had planned for me that time.  A smile that gave birth to the words you shouted, whispered, hissed and vomited onto me from however far away you were when you saw me. The smile that increased every time a friend walking with me would laugh at what you said instead of defending me in some fashion, as though such laughs were returned investments in your bank of emotional violence.

That same smile that you wore when, in 8th grade, you were already manipulative enough to convince teachers that it was only harmless teasing, and that it was in fact funny. The smile you wore when they walked away from you, either saying nothing or laughing with you at some of your comments you’d used to once again talk your way out of any punishment. The smile that even as you said nothing, and faced no consequences once again, was in and of itself more torture to me as I observed it from a never-quite-safe distance of a victim; a victim who was told time again by authority figures things like, “it’s just words,” or “he doesn’t mean it.”

My guess, though I can’t be sure of it, is that you wore the same smile when you got home from school, having escaped from trouble because your wealthy parents had once again marched into the office with their furs in springtime and their Rolexes reflecting the fluorescent school lights back in people’s faces and issued reminders of how much they contributed to the school in addition to your tuition. The same parents who would be thanked profusely in the annual report, all the event flyers and at many school assemblies and evening programs. Each thanks being yet another way your very existence tortured me without you having to say a word or even so much as look in my direction, making the brief times when I didn’t have to see you just as painful as the many, many times that I did.

The smile was also present with agonizing frequency when teachers and staff praised your alleged “giftedness,” though in what, I’ve never understood. Perhaps they meant in the “gifts” your parents gave the school all the time, because I noted no particular intelligence in you to warrant the example everyone made of you of, ” being gifted” to the rest of us.

I’ve wondered at times, 45217, if that smile was anywhere to be found when you committed the crime for which you were at last arrested. Did you show it when the idea for your crime was first hatched, as you pondered who your victims would be? Was that smile there when you thought you’d gotten away with it, and did it appear at any point when you met your lawyer? (Undoubtedly the best money could buy.) How about your mugshot, are you smiling in that?

Truth be told, I don’t much care. Smiling or not, you were put away and there is some satisfaction for me in that. Even a psychopath would rather be free after all. What I’d really like to ask you about is something from years and year before that.

I’d left the school in the middle of my 6th grade year, due in no small part to your bullying and your smiling. But in the final year or so I was there, I met your younger brother. I was convinced that the two of you would make up some kind of double-team of bullying. That fear nothwtihstanding I couldn’t help but notice from the first moment I saw him that though there was familial resemblance, he seemed, for lack of a better word, fuller. More complete as a life form. The prospect of him being around still worried me, but until I saw him in comparison to yourself, I didn’t realize that he possessed some sort of consciousness of the world behind his eyes, whereas you had only a violent vortex into which you sucked up all of the emotional turmoil and pain of innocent people you created. I wouldn’t have put it that way as a child, of course, but even then I knew there was something vastly different between you and Jake, and that he was closer to decency.

Sure, he was more sarcastic than he should have been, laughed a few times at someone tripping up the steps when it wasn’t the nicest thing to do, so I avoided him. Yet unlike you I didn’t find him lying in wait for me. If he saw me, he saw me, didn’t usually have much to say to me when he did. I don’t think he put any effort into finding me. And what is most significant, he did not torture me.  True, he didn’t as far as I know, try to stop you from doing it, but he didn’t assist you either.

When the school started a bowling league, he joined it, as did I. Though I don’t think he and I were ever friends, (he was still a few years older than me) he actually had constructive things to say to me. Tips on how to bowl better. Where to place the ball, when to let go. “You just need a little more spin to it,” he would say to me and many of the others over and over again. I can still hear him saying it today-the small but enthusiastic nod toward his student, his hand twisting slightly at the wrist on the word, “spin.”

He didn’t smile as often as you did. If I recall he smiled less often than a lot of us, and yet I found more humanity in that slightly distracted expression of solemnity he seemed to carry than I ever found in you as you smiled.

I almost liked Jake. Maybe I would have eventually if I had stayed at the school longer, I don’t know.

My question to you, 45217; did you have that fucking smile on your face when you killed him?

Oh, I read the newspaper accounts like everyone else  a few days after I found out. (Someone at my new school had heard about it and told me, as they were also acquaintances of your family.) How you were both out hunting in a nearby field with a rifle, (with nobody else.) How your brother had turned slightly at the exact moment you dropped the gun on the ground in front of you, and how it went off right into him.  How you called for help and began CPR. How it was ruled an accident, and how you were not held responsible for it. I’m aware of the official accounts. To tell you plain, 45217, sitting here today, I don’t believe them.

You see, knowing what I know of you and your capacity for inflicting pain, victimizing the weak, and showing no remorse for doing so, and given that I still have scar tissue on my soul from your assaults to this day, I have all the evidence I need to conclude Jake’s death was no accident. At very best you were goofing off and kept waving the gun around at him threatening to shoot when it went off by accident in your hand, or you were firing warning shots at him for something and got to close. At worst, (and what I suspect most of the time) is that you had a gun, your quieter, more civilized brother pissed you off somehow, you were in a field without witnesses and you shot him Then, as so often was the case with you, you got away with it.

Are you smiling now?

I can say you were not smiling the last time I ever saw you. It was the very day the news broke, may have even been the very day it happened, I’m not sure. My mother had picked me up from my new school and taken me back to my old one, where I had dealt with you for so long. I don’t know why. She probably asked me if I wanted to go, or suggested that I do and I agreed, though deep down I didn’t want to go back there. The place was understandably like a funeral parlor when I got there, everyone milling around in tears and shock. A few of my so called “friends” came up to me briefly to discuss things, but that was the last time I ever saw most of them.

Then I saw you. You were in the office, for whatever reason. As I said you were not smiling, and your head was down, and your eyes sort of half-open in what appeared to be fatigue to me. I’m not one to judge someone’s grief, if you were in fact grieving. But I did wonder why you would be there, at the school, once again the center of attention only a short time after such an event. I won’t assume much, but again, if you are anything like you have ever appeared to be, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was all part of an act: a chance for you to try on “grief” and see how it worked.

Jake did not deserve to die, however it happened. Your parents, obnoxious and condescending as they were, did not deserve to lose a son. Yet in my estimation, they have in their life actually lost two sons: one of them to death at the hands of the first, and the first to whatever warped sense of  reality that you projected onto the rest of existence. A reality that justifies any action and any thought so long as you are entertained or advanced by it. Nobody anywhere deserves to be subjected to that, and that includes me.

Could I be wrong? Could you be now, and as a child when you knew me, merely a lost soul? A soul who remained unable to attach, to love and be loved? Someone who never found a way to be a productive human being? Is it possible you are a gifted soul not properly nurtured within the cradle of wealth and privilege into which you were born? Might you have really dropped that rifle, and continue to mourn your brother to this day?

I don’t know, but frankly in the time I knew you I never got the impression, even for a moment, that you are anything but a sick, heartless waste of human DNA capable of anything and everything. For years I looked at you, and felt you looking at me and sensed nothing approaching even troubled humanity. I’m willing to risk being incorrect about that, especially if for a moment it tortures you.

Go to hell.

–Ty Unglebower


This post is part of the Open Letter Continuum.


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