Tonight I learned how to make Christmas cards with two friends of mine and about ten other women at our local library.
While checking out one of the card-making stations set up by the instructor, I recognized a woman carrying a cane who came in along with two other younger women. She was the mother of one of the girls who, in junior high school, made my life a living hell for several months.
At the end of eighth grade and beginning of ninth grade, I was the main character in one of those two-against-one-best-friends-betray-a-weaker-friend-mean-girls-scenarios that you see portrayed in so many movies, TV shows, commercials and… cold-blooded crime shows.
Of course, since it is my story, there is so much more to it than that. But for now I’d rather just write about tonight.
When I saw the mother walk in, I quickly assessed if her daughter was with her and I didn’t see her at first. So I thought, good.
It turned out, however, that I was wrong. As everyone seated themselves for the class and got comfortable, it turned out that indeed, the “evil one” was going to make Christmas cards, too.
It did not occur to me to leave, so we’ll call that progress. And I did not have an anxiety attack, also progress. I did decide to avoid being near her, which meant a certain amount of hyper-vigilance. I’m not too sure how to grade that one. Maybe it was just some good, old-fashioned self-care.
If I had never met this person before, and knew nothing about her, I’d be under the impression that she was a nice woman who was close to her mother and enjoyed some of the same things I do. All that might even be true to a certain extent. I mean, we were actually friends for a time way back when, so there must be something in common.
At any rate, I do know about her. I know what she is capable of. I know what I carry around with me to this day because of her and the other girl involved.
People like her are the reason that people like me leave their hometown and never come back. I did leave for ten years but circumstances brought me back here and now it looks as if I am here to stay.
I actually had her as a customer once at the Terrible Job. At the time I had no way to avoid waiting on her. She seemed nervous and hyper and like she was trying to please me. And the whole time I’m thinking, “Ha! Your son is in prison. You raised a violent criminal! Why am I not surprised? Your violence led to a second generation of violence. Ha!”
I expected to see some sign of this tragedy in her face, but there was nothing there for me to see. I also wanted to see some sign of sorrow or shame for what she did to me way back when. But again, there was nothing to see.
No, people like her do not carry their own shame. They carry no sense of responsibility for the effects of their actions on others. Instead, they give their shame over to their victims.
Over forty years later and I’m still having to deal with such things.