With the ending of summer, I decided to do a series of posts reflecting on what the summer months taught me, that my years in school never could. If you missed the first 2 posts in this series, you can read them by clicking here and here.
Matt lived one block over, was 4 years older than me, and made my life, the lives of my friends, and anyone he happened to trip over walking down the aisle of the bus, miserable. He sat in the back and barked orders to the minions who danced around him ready to do his bidding and execute his judgments against the common people.
I hated Matt.
I used to watch him in action; squeezing my friend Aaron’s neck until he cried and then laughing at him the entire bus ride home. I wondered what his parents were like….if he even had parents. I wondered if he ever cried at night? What made him tick? What made him explode with such fierce anger? Where did he get all that leather and those AC/DC t-shirts?
One afternoon, at the start of summer, my older sister and I were arguing, which transitioned nicely into wrestling. She pinned me to the floor and then finally let me go and stormed off to her room, leaving me fighting back tears as I cursed her name.
I ran outside and stood in the garage, kicking random objects and telling my sister things I could never say to her face. I kicked the tire of her bike and mumbled, “stupid sister” under my breath. The bike was pink and white, with white handle grips, and pink and white streamers that poured from the ends of the handle bars. Pink, purple and white polka dots decorated the banana seat and a white plastic-weaved basket sat on the front.
My sister needed to pay….and the bike was right there.
I ran inside to my parent’s desk drawer found the plastic container, pulled out a couple of items and slipped them in to my pocket.
I stood in front of her bike and stared at the tires. I rehearsed in my mind the crime I was about to commit….I took a deep breath….and knelt down.
Hours later, I was inside watching an episode of The Great Space Coaster when I heard Jennifer screaming. I jumped up and looked around. My dad came running down the steps and looked at me for an explanation. I gave him a look that said, “honestly Father, I too am puzzled by the cries of distress coming from the next room….shall we go inquire about it together?”
We ran outside and into the garage to find my sister kneeling by her bicycle that now had 2 flat tires. She was crying as my Dad explained to her that the tires could be fixed in a few days.
My Dad looked at me, calculating my response to his gaze so as to determine if I had a part in this injustice. My look back said, “Oh Papa, surely you don’t believe that I would stoop to such a level and deprive my eldest sister of the joy that comes from riding her bike in the warmth of summer?”
“What did you do??” my sister shouted at me through clenched teeth. “It wasn’t me” I screamed back.” “yeah right!” she said.
And that’s when I played the best card in my hand. Years of injustice and abuse were about to be made right with just a few words.
“All I know is that I saw Matt walking by our house just a little while ago, and he was staring into the garage.” “Maybe it was Matt.”
“What a jerk” she yelled as she ran into the house crying. “Who is this Matt kid?” My Dad asked me. I looked at him as if to say, “dearest Father….I am not one to bring accusation against my neighbor unjustly….how can you now ask me to…”
“You are not in trouble, just tell me….”
I spelled his last name slowly and clearly. “I’m not sure, but I think he lives on Karen Drive” I said.
With that my Dad walked in to the house to find a phone book.
The next day my friends and I were riding our bikes down Karen Drive, and we passed by Matt’s house. He was outside staring into his mom’s car, holding the light while his Mom’s boyfriend worked on the alternator. He looked up to see who was riding by and I locked eyes with him. Even with a dirty face I could easily make out the dull bruise on the side of his face. He stared at me for a moment, and then looked back down at the alternator.
That summer I learned that while I say I want justice, too often I am perfectly willing to settle for vengeance. Justice is the long hard earthly fight that ultimately cries out to the God we believe will have the final word and make all things right. Vengeance is the cheap imitation that is more about me than about making right any wrongs. Left in my hands, vengeance gives me the power to “win” for the moment even if I must use injustice to do so – be it with the bully on the block or the gossiping, scheming, know it all in the next cubicle.
I never told my sister that I was the thumb tack terrorist until about 15 years later. I guess there is always time to make things right. Matt, I can’t imagine you are reading this, but I’m sorry….please forgive me….wherever you are.