I was a very angry teen. It wasn’t unheard of for me to lash out. My attacks were usually verbal in nature and almost never violent. There were only a few times when my temper got the best of me and I’d give into using my fists.
There was one night I had stayed behind in the ceramics room cutting mats for my Senior Art Showcase when an underclassman came in and started talking to me. Truth be told, I don’t remember how the chat started or what it was even about. My memory of that night lives only in small distorted clips of footage.
I recall the kid was shorter than me, his forehead coming up to my chin. I remember his full lips that were unusually pink and only parted to giggle. Then I remember he put his hands around my waist. I remember asking him to please not do that. He persisted. I asked again. This time, he insisted. I pushed him away, maybe a little harder than I should have. And when he bounced back, still with a smile on his face, I punched him hard and in the stomach. He folded over looking up at me with tears in his big brown eyes. He said nothing and neither did I.
I’ve always regretted my actions. I didn’t know how to handle my anger any better than he knew how to handle his…I don’t know…his crush? His infatuation?
I didn’t even know his name. I knew nothing about him. He knew me though. No matter what he knew or what feelings he had, it was enough for him to try to make a move. It was all handled so poorly.
I think about him often. Even more since the heights of bullying have reached a frightening high. I think of the kids who don’t have the outlet for their frustrations and turn on themselves. Causing themselves harm or, the worst, taking their own lives. I hear of the victims of bullying and I want to hold each one. I want to tell them how sorry I am they have to endure such abuse. And to those who died I want to tell them how much they were loved and what a gap has been left in the world with their absence.
I feel so much guilt for becoming physical with him. I felt I betrayed him. As homosexuals we spend an exhausting amount of time worrying about being “bashed” in one form or another. I felt like I turned on my own. I was the “basher.” It turns my stomach that I never apologized.
I have no ego to think our confrontation led to Jorge’s departure. But it has crossed my mind. I believe the events of our youth steer us into the expectations of our adulthood. What role did my teenage self play in his adult world? With luck, he moved on and forgot it ever happened.
I never said I was sorry and, if I’m being honest, my teenage self would be too ornery to ever comply. But my adult self? My adult self would hold you close, wipe your tears, and say how very sorry I was for not controlling myself.
I’m so sorry, Jorge Fuentes. I’m sorry I treated you that way.
I’m so unbelievably sorry I didn’t learn your name until I read your obituary.