The Bully, Himself
The weather was perfect for the first day of High School; it was warm with a subtle breeze, allowing for shorts and flip-flops to be worn. As everyone headed into school looking up their locker combinations and trying to find their home rooms, Matt Carney high-fived his friends and batted his blue eyes at teachers. Teachers knew Carney was a trouble maker and could always guarantee he would be in their detention room that day, but something about his endless charm and flashy smile always got him out of trouble.
Homeroom classes were made up of the people whose last names were alphabetically close to yours. For Carney, this worked in his favor, and almost all of his best friends ended up in the same homeroom. Each year, he would prance in with nothing in hand, not even a pencil or notebook. He knew he could persuade his teachers to lend him materials for the first day if he needed them. To most people, this behavior was humorous and enjoyable, but to others this was unfair and annoying. Each year, before the bell would ring, Carney made sure to admire all the new “back-to-school” gear his friends were sporting. He also made sure to make fun of those who were wearing the same clothes from the previous year. While most people ignored Carney’s remarks, a fellow student who endured his rude behavior for the last three years made comments under his breath and rolled his eyes. This student was referred to as “Moose,” a nickname given to him by Carney who thought it fit well because of his smell and appearance.
Moose’s first day of school differed a little bit from Carney’s. He started his day waking up late due to the fact that he had no alarm clock or someone to wake him up in time. He threw on clothes that he couldn’t remember if they were clean or not and ran as fast as he could to catch the bus. Moose knew if he didn’t make the bus that he would have no other way of getting to school, so he had to deal with being sweaty as long as he caught it. Once Moose got to school, his first stop was to the office to receive his class schedule. Most students received theirs in the mail mid-summer, but Moose never seemed to get his. As Moose moved through the halls to find his locker he heard comments such as:
“EW, what’s that smell?” and “Did he even take a shower?”
These comments were hard to hear, but Moose knew he had no water to shower with, and he knew that he smelled from running to the bus. He would drop in the nurse’s office for free deodorant samples and wash his face. This was a normal routine for Moose, but he would rather take the extra time to clean up in the nurse’s office than to walk through the halls and be taunted. Moose realized that even after he made himself smell better and look a little fresher, that the comments would still flare. The one voice he always could pick out of a crowd was Carney’s. He knew whenever people were laughing at him that Carney would be the center of the circle.
Carney loved people’s reactions and hearing them laugh when he would yell things at Moose. This made him feel superior and that he truly fit in with his group of friends. He didn’t think about the pain or embarrassment he was causing Moose, because he was too concerned with how good he felt from doing it.
Going to school every day became a challenge for Moose. He wanted to go to learn, receive credit for being there and completing his homework, but he realized trying to get out of bed became harder and harder. Moose found himself constantly filling his time with video games and imagining playing so whenever nasty comments were shouted his way he just envisioned what he would be doing after school. He let the comments go off his shoulder, because he knew soon enough he would escape it. Moose would go home after school, plug in his video games and pull up any snacks he could find. This became an everyday routine; he would stay inside for hours at a time disabling him from fresh air and exercise.
Carney would get out of bed in a heartbeat for school because he knew after school meant lacrosse practice. Carney loved the high he got from being lacrosse captain he even said:
“Everyone had to listen to me, I was the captain.”
This made him feel like he belonged somewhere, knowing he was needed for something. After lacrosse practice he went home after school just like any other day, not expecting to find what he did. He found his little sister who was in elementary school, crying because girls were picking on her for what she was wearing. This infuriated Carney to no end, and he wanted to do anything he could to fix the problem. Family meetings became a weekly routine because of the hassle Carney’s sister was going through at school. After a few of these meetings, Carney realized what bullying was and how you don’t have to get physical to bully someone.
“I didn’t know that poking fun or making jokes about someone was considered bullying,” said Carney.
The realization struck Carney, and he realized what he has spent his 4 years of high school doing, bullying. Once Carney thought about all the mean comments he had relayed at school to janitors, students and substitute teachers, he felt awful.
“I had the worst stomach ache for days, just knowing I was the cause of other people’s pain, the same pain my sister had,” he said. “I would have done anything to take away my sister’s pain, and I can’t believe the whole time I was the reason people felt so bad.”
That following Monday marked the mid-point of the semester, and that meant there was only one-half of the year left. Carney went into school with every intention on behaving differently and keeping any rude comments he might have to himself. He passed through the halls, which suddenly smelled like mold, and he had guilt bleeding through his face, but he knew he deserved it. He went through his day, seeing the people he has been mean to and tried to offer a smile or a look of “I’m sorry,” but he received no smiles back. Carney knew he didn’t deserve people to forgive him for the pain he caused, but he was happy he realized what he was doing wrong. It wasn’t until the end of the week that Carney realized he hadn’t seen the one person he went out of his way to bully on an everyday basis, Moose. He found it so strange that a kid, who almost never missed a day of school, suddenly was out the whole week. He went to the office and asked the secretary who he had been on good terms with, and she would help him when needed. She told Carney that Moose had dropped out of school, and she didn’t know any future plans he may have to graduate.
Although the thought of why Moose suddenly left school, boggled Carney’s brain, he assumed it was bigger than the issue of bullying, and he chose to believe that. It wasn’t until Dec., 6 months after graduation, that Carney would see Moose again. Moose volunteered to ring the bell around Christmas time outside of Wal-Mart for donations. Carney showed up to do the same thing, but for community service.
Carney didn’t even recognize Moose at first, and he stuck out his hand to introduce himself. Moose shook his hand and said, “I know who you are.” Carney didn’t think much of this, and he set up his chair to sit in while he noticed Moose walking in circles and kicking the rocks around him. “He seemed nervous,” I didn’t know if I should keep talking or ignore him said Carney. Moose finally turned to him and said, “I’m Moose, that’s not my real name but you never cared about that. I was a part of the senior class but didn’t finish because I left school.” Carney, shocked and suddenly as red as the bucket collecting change, denied creating the nickname but acknowledged that he knew Moose didn’t graduate. Moose told Carney without any hesitation that he was diagnosed as being depressed and that it all stemmed from the “everyday torture you put me through.”
Years later, this is something that still consumes Carney’s mind. He can’t believe that because of him and saying things that he thought were harmless, would prevent someone from graduating. When asked if he could go back and change time, would he? He replied with, “every single time.”
Bullying can be confused with other things, and people sometimes have the wrong definition of what it is. Just like Carney, many don’t realize that you don’t have to use physical contact to bully someone, verbal abuse is bullying too. Carney learned a hard lesson from this, and he will never forget it because he is the reason someone suffered from depression and got off track from his goals in life. Moose also mentioned that he was bullied online from anonymous users on social media sites that referred to him as Moose; he instantly thought the threats were from Carney. By taking part in bullying someone, you automatically are tied into everything they endure. Moose will think the online threats were from Carney until proven otherwise, and Carney will deny it until the end of the time. Luckily for Carney, no charges or punishments were issued, because this was never reported. It’s just an inner battle that Carney will have to suffer forever.