September 3, 2013 by lanehollingsworth
If you think of your high school class clown, you remember all the hilarious impressions, pranks, & shenanigans they used to do in class that kept everyone entertained & sane until 3:45 each day. What most people forget is that a lot of those jokes were at the expense of someone. And for one particular class clown, I was always at the brunt of those jokes.
For the sake of his privacy, I will refer to him as Tom (because Tom is a harmless name, ie. Tom Hanks & Tom from MySpace.) Tom and I’s interaction began around the 4th & 5th grade. We would ride the same bus home every day home from school. Each day Tom would find something new to point out about me to all the other passengers, making me the pariah of the bus each day. This was during a time in my life when I was wearing jeans that had the word “husky” involved in the sizing and I was sporting some very Harry Potter-esque glasses, so I wasn’t exactly the coolest person to begin with.
I didn’t know what the word “faggot” meant at the age of 11. I assumed that it had something to do with the way I moved my hands when I spoke or that my voice was higher and more feminine than the rest of the boys my age. More than the words that were being spoken, I took offense to the laughter I heard from everyone inside the bus when Tom yelled the words “fat faggot” out the bus window when I was dropped off at my stop. Unfortunately, the humiliation created by Tom didn’t stop in the 5th grade. I can remember sitting in my 12th grade economics class and hearing him repeating everyone word I said, but in a voice that was an exaggeration of my own. I can still remember the feeling I felt for Tom as I sat there, my ears turning red, sinking low into my chair. That feeling was hate.
Last month I got a text from my mom that said that Tom had died. I stared at my phone feeling numb about this information; I pulled up Safari on my iPhone and googled his full name and our hometown. I learned that Tom had overdosed on prescription medication after several years of fighting substance abuse. I didn’t know what to think. realized that the person who spent so many years of his life torturing me, had been torturing himself since our graduation. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel about his death. I hadn’t seen him since 2004, but I had definitely thought about him on occasion.
After a month since Tom’s death, I have talked to several people about how they would feel about a situation like this. I was hoping I would receive enlightenment on how to categorize this issue in my mind. The anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech was a few days ago & I saw a quote that became the conclusion to my confusion. MLK Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
The realization that I have come to is this, I am not the same person that I was in 2004 and it would be safe to assume that Tom wasn’t either. I realized that we all grow up; we realize that hurtful things happen and sometimes the easiest thing to do is let go and move on. And to me, that’s forgiveness.