I’d like to apologize to “Lizard” for the way my friends and I treated him when we were in high school.
Lizard — that’s what a handful of us called a boy named Richard.
That wasn’t his nickname. It was a derogatory moniker we few seniors contrived to ridicule the underclassman for his physical appearance.
More than just tease him, we picked on him, bullied him without ever putting a hand on him, just because he looked and behaved a little odd, or so it seemed to us. We were mean to him for no good reason.
For the most part, I don’t recall more than the random snide comment directed at Richard in the hallway and never any physical abuse, but shame has permanently etched one incident in my memory. That was the day four of us ganged up on him in the boys restroom, with jeers like, “Hey, Lizard. Why don’t you crawl back under your rock.”
I’m not sure I actually said anything, though I think I remember who uttered the “Lizard” epithet. No matter what I did or didn’t say, I was there. I was part of it, and I can still see the hurt in his face as he rushed from the restroom, his footfalls drowned under our laughter.
Richard may not even remember that particular incident, but I do, and I want to never forget for at least that distant moment in time, emboldened by my buddies, I was a bully.
In fairness to myself, my behavior that day was not characteristic. I was more often the one being teased, rather than the one hurling insults. But, I went along with the group. Individually none of us were mean-spirited or cruel. But, in trying to prove to one another how tough we could be, we all became inexcusable horses’ behinds.
I’m pretty sure we were not the only jerks to pick on “Lizard.” Some may have had other names for him. Richard was one of those kids whose appearance and demeanor invited bullying by weaklings who needed someone to feel superior to.
In truth, I knew almost nothing about Richard. I was a senior. He was a sophomore. I didn’t know him well enough to like or dislike him. He just looked easy to pick on.
I think he was a nice kid. Given the chance, we might have been friends. But, I was too busy being a cruel jerk.
I don’t know what ever happened to the kid we called “Lizard.” I don’t know if he’s still around, but I pray he grew to be a bigger man than my pals and I were in our high school days.
I hope, as in the popular song sentiment, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Richard became stronger, rather than take our jeers to heart. I hope he had friends and family to assure him he was better than mean kids like us.
So, if you happen to read this, Richard, I’m sorry for the way we treated you way back then. I like to think I’m not the same smart-aleck kid who picked on you in 1964. I really wasn’t that kid then, but I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to tell my buddies, “Hey, leave the kid alone. Maybe we’re the ones who need to crawl back under a rock.”
©️ James E. Hamilton 2018
Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.