tfw: You Find Your Middle School Bully

tfw is a mini personal essay series I’m try to do on Tuesdays to recount second-person experiences of feelings and experiences we all have. Or maybe I’m the only one who has them?

“Dan Rust?” you look at the television. That’s the name under the person being interviewed. You turn to your friend, “Dan Rust?”

They shrug at you. What’s the big deal? they suggest with their shoulders.

“Dan Rust is the name of this kid I knew.” You take out your laptop and go to Facebook. “He used to call me gay all the time.”

Your friend smirks and shrugs. Cool.

Why haven’t you thought to look up Dan before today? You type his name in. There are a few Dans but none of them are him. You look up a friend who you went to middle school with, who might know him. Sarah Wiley. You haven’t talked to her since middle school and you’re not even sure why you are friends. Was it the Facebook friend rash of 2006, when we were all in college and used Facebook like a yearbook of your lifetime? Probably.

She knows three Dans: Dan Burn…Dan McReynolds…Dan Rust! That’s him. You have six mutual friends. The page loads. Slowly. You wait.

He has his arm wrapped around a small Korean girl in his profile photo. You notice they are married. His cover photo is of boats passing under bridges on the Chicago River or whatever you call it. You click the profile photo. He still has the same squinty eyes and that vacant smile, tight enough for a growl but loose enough for a slow haaa haaa haaa laugh. He had that same look when he would make fun of you for only having girl friends. “You want to fight me?” he asked you one time. That’s the only time anyone has ever asked you that. You kind of said yes but not really and he pushed you and your Mexican girl friend who smoked—Abbi—stepped in with her low hanging backpack and Jncos. she pushed him and told him he ate his mother’s dick for breakfast. He smiled and called her a dyke and he and his friend—Theo Prtizker, the one who looked like a Polynesian lizard—laughed at us and walked away, hitting each other in the shoulders.

Wait: what happened to Theo?

He was even meaner and looked like someone whose name was Razor. His hair was so spiky and wet and his eyes were dry slits near his brown temples. He was stocky too, entirely too muscular for a twelve year old. Theo Pritzker doesn’t come up in a generic search. You go back to Sarah’s profile: Theo Pritzker. Enter.

One Theo Pritzker. His profile photo is a dark photo of his face, pixelated to look like a comic book as expressed through Photo Booth. His cover photo features two UFC fighters knocking fists together. There is no information on his profile. You can’t even find out where he lives.

You go back to Dan’s profile. He lives in Chicago. He has been with his Korean girlfriend for three years. You’ve been with your boyfriend for five and you consider that a win for you. He’s a lawyer. Half strike against you. He still looks the same (No strikes.), he is slightly balding (Win for you.), and he played intramural sports at a no name college (Double win for you: you were a competitive athlete at a good school.). Should you friend him? Why. Has he ever seen someone on television with a similar name to you and looked you up through Sarah Wiley? Eh. Probably not. He probably doesn’t even remember calling you names. The ones making fun never quite remember what they’re doing since they did it so much.

You close the window and close your laptop and continue watching television. The Dan Rust on the show you are watching is a gay man getting his home remodeled for a reality show. You laugh.

“This show sucks,” your friend says. They turn off the television.

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