An Apology and Forgiveness
From the age of five I was bullied and beaten right up until my early twenties. All manner of boy and man would, could and did hit me at will but by far the worst of the bunch was a skinhead I’ll call Joe.
Joe had the works. Bad attitude, grudge, chip on his shoulder, the lot. But what Joe had most importantly was a knife. A gleaming, sharp, shiny life ender hidden in the coats of his jacket.
He didn’t need it at first. Why would he? My frightened, skinny frame and gentle nature was no match for his aggressive, muscular being and so when I dated his long gone ex-girlfriend then I became fair prey in his eyes.
His first ‘go around’ was to ambush me and slam me against a wall with a warning; “I’m stronger than you Morrell, you should know that.” But of course I already did. Me weak, him strong, no doubts.
I thought that was that especially since said girl had already dumped me but no. No that wasn’t enough. Sitting in the safety of my own bedroom listening to my music I was interrupted by a knock on the door. Opening it I was greeted by a terrifying sight; Joe and a few friends…
“I couldn’t give a fuck if your mum and dad are in. You are to meet me in ten minutes at the field. I’m going to batter you.” My only act of bravery that night was to not show up but this was to be rewarded the next day by a beating in school. Little bit of this, little bit of that.
Tired of using his fist for fun I was then subject to his blade. Sixteen years of age and being chased through the streets, terrified beyond belief. Luckily my escape was my fortune and in a desperate attempt to end this nightmare I turned to my dad who sought out Joe. The result wasn’t good…
A defiant, hard looking skinhead simply stared my dad down with chilling words; “When he is eighteen I’ll kill him.” My dad was lost for words except one; “What?”
Joe coolly responded with a sneer. “When he is eighteen and no longer yours I am going to kill him.” Then he just turned away and left the scene of the crime; simple.
Well the years past and I grew but along the way way his affect on me had terrific consequence as I shrank into agoraphobia and panic disorder. Every street had dire, every doorway a Joe. My world became small until a certain lady entered my life and changed it beyond compare.
I had already tried to find salvation in Martial Arts with limited success but Julie encouraged me to try again and with her behind me there was no stopping me. She would spend every last penny we had to fund my education in the fight world and with every penny she did my confidence soared. Every time a fight, grapple or session got hard I I would look up and there she would be, urging me on and in a matter of years I started to stand tall, no more bullies, no more Joes.
Until one Saturday morning during work I made a delivery to house on a rough estate. As I unloaded the van a door opened and there he was; Joe.
Almost ten years had past and my first glimpse of my terror returned. I had a moment when I became a frightened teenager again, quickly replaced by a fighter of repute, a second dan full contact black belt who realised I could swat this guy like a fly.
And then I truly saw him. He looked small, sad and apologetic when he recognised me.
“I remember you,” he said. I replied “I remember you too.”
“Wow I was horrible to you.” Who was I to disagree? “I was out of it in those days. I try and stay away from it all, you know the…” He didn’t need to finish.
“It was a long time ago Joe and we are both different people now. You know what I mean don’t you?”
He nodded. “I’m sorry,” he said and offered his hand. I took it. “Long time ago Joe. “
I turned to unload my van and he joined me, side by side carrying boxes to their new home.
Twenty years on I recently learned he took his own life. Someone suggested I was pleased at this. What???
All I felt was sad. Sad at a wasted life, sad at his torment and what drove him there because believe it or not, as we unloaded that van we had a laugh and I realised he was not a bad guy at all. Strip away the bomber jacket, remove the knife and lose the snarl and attitude and he was okay. Joe was okay.
An apology and forgiveness was all it took for two men to work side by side.
Simon is the author of the books From Bullied to Black Belt and An Everyday Warrior. The former tells more of the story in this article and is currently under discussion for a feature film. You can visit Simon here or buy your copy of From Bullied to Black Belt here. If you have already read his first book the the sequel is available here