Memory a fickle bitch, isn’t it? For those of you not in the know, I have a daily walking regimen. As much as I would like to believe otherwise, it’s purpose exists more for clearing out the daily accumulated mental clutter than for any health benefits I may receive from it. My track has changed in the last few weeks. I took much solace in the emptiness of Sacred Heart Church and Apollo Park, but each day more and more people fill these areas up as kid sports and non-kid weddings are big thing during the summer months. I’ve extended the track to cover places from my childhood. I pass the Fountain Park Boys & Girls Club and Stephen F. Austin Elementary, carved through the sidewalks alongside the housing community, and traveling alongside Lincoln Elementary, one of three alma maters from my childhood.
Taking the path I took when I walked home from school, the surroundings blurred and focus returned to the past. Walking home from Lincoln Elementary everyday with childhood friends, Andrea and Elisa. Passing that prick Ricky’s house. And the memory of his little sister, whose name escapes me. The girl I mercilessly bullied one day.
I am not proud of what I did then. From time to time, I remember her face. I remember her voice. Her screams and tears.
Pushed the thought from my mind, at first. What sort of hypocrite would that make me, though? The person who wants people to own their shit, regardless of how it makes them look to others. So I forced myself to remember the who experience. From befriending her weeks prior. Listening to her stories and jokes. To giving Eliza that look of “back off” when she threaten violence. To the moment of betrayal as Eliza barked, “Get the bitch!” and we broke out in a run toward her.
I followed the path we took to circumvent having to pass their home, but failing to do so. The sound of Ricky’s angry, pre-pubescent voice hollering from across the street. Their mother shouting curses at us, as we briskly walked past the house.
There is no question, I knew what we did was wrong. I had the power to not follow through the plan. I could have warned the poor girl what Eliza was cooking up. I never understood Andrea or Eliza’s hatred for Ricky. Never understood why his little sister acted as his avatar for said hatred.
After fifth grade, I lost contact with Eliza. Searching my memory, I don’t recall seeing her at the sixth grade campus. Whether she flunked or moved away—or, quite possibly, found a home within the fences of a juvenile detention center—is knowledge I’ll never have. I spoke to Andrea from time to time in the halls. Our lockers were near each other. But we lost contact, too, despite living on the same street. And soon, their names were as unfamiliar to me as the girl we chased down the street. And that sucks. Because their names are seared in memory forever, while I can’t remember what hers started with.
In the Season 3, episode 13 of the television series NCIS, there’s a scene with “Probie” Timothy McGee interrogates a schoolyard bully. There’s a line that stuck with me after watching it: When you get older, you’re not going to remember their names, but you know what? They’re always going to remember yours. And I hope to this day she’s forgotten me. Forgotten my face. Forgotten that day. That I am nothing in her autobiography. Not even a footnote on the page.