I have a longtime friend who was a longtime classmate who was an outcast for as long as I can remember. If he really chooses to be one, or if he simply has no appeal on others, or if this damage is irreparable, nobody can figure out anymore.
I think it all started from his broken back, or neck, or whatever. It gave way to this:
- a mother who was constantly by his side during grade school, while the rest of us independently moved about on our own, and
- a white orthopedic brace that had been set around his trunk for about the same period, creating The Image of him, now permanently tattooed on everyone’s school memories.
Hence he had been isolated from the rest of mankind.
Regretfully, I had bullied him as well. I remember sticking a pencil unto his ass. I still remember that ass. It jiggled under the thin blue fabric of his P.E. pants whenever he walked. I’m sure everyone noticed that as well, and laughed behind his back.
(In spite of that, I still became his friend. He’s kind.)
I don’t know. Even if he had seemed to gradually normalize as the years passed, the process never seemed to carry on to fruition. There was always STILL something wrong with him. He had this disgusting green gunk nesting on the corners of his glasses. He constantly carried a gigantic waterjug partnered with a gigantic non-folding umbrella topped with a gigantic white towel shoved under his shirt, on his back. NOBODY else in high school looked like that.
And we still witnessed how the ass jiggled even until the end of high school. Nobody was a friend enough to tell him how unflattering that pair of jogging pants looked.
Though, he was way smarter than anyone. Everyone knew that. I don’t think he even needed to copy a single assignment or answer on a quiz or whatsoever. Copying from him became a common practice during that time. The cheaters became his co-honor students. He was kind, and consistently acquiesced. There was a time when he was the only one who completely figured out how to construct that Herculean handcrafted transistor radio, a project in Home Economics class. I can still remember this image of him, sitting on a hallway, soldering beside a pile that consisted of everyone’s unfinished radios, his heart broken over a girl he liked who was already with someone else.
He graduated from Ateneo de Manila, one of the universities that are hardest to get into and get out of, and could explain in detail, how Photoshop takes into consideration the surrounding pixels and calculates changes to an artwork every time you use the Liquify Filter tool.
It’s not his fault and I don’t know how he became a mess. After two or three nervous breakdowns, and three years of bumming around at home, he is now a depressed fella who thinks, every now and then, about slashing his wrists. Even if it seems his back is completely fine now.
He got mad at me recently.
He was sort of the reason I met my boyfriend (who is also his longtime friend and former classmate). He set us up for a friendly meeting a little over a year ago. Two weeks after, we fell in love, and visited him only once or twice a year.
It’s not that we are jerks. We can’t be around him without each of us feeling uncomfortable. He IS a very lonely person, and him seeing us together just reminds him just how lonely he is. He said so. Until now we are utterly clueless, what to do about the situation. It’s like we are destined to continue being jerks to him, whether we visit him or not.
I always tell him online, that he should change. That he really doesn’t have a problem. He tells me, he decidedly, unwaveringly, believes he has one.
He just really should forget about the past. Is it possible for him to imagine how his life would have been like if he hadn’t broken his back? And how it would be like now?