Forgiving for the Future

[Today’s challenge from The Daily Post — “share a story where it was very difficult for you to forgive the perpetrator for wronging you, but you did it — you forgave them.”]

“I don’t see how you put up with that.” Rune ran a hand back through the waves of his greasy hair. “Those guys are terrible.”

Sitting across the metal cafeteria table, Butch shrugged. “What am I gonna do? Tell them I’m not fat?” He slapped his belly, which jiggled like a giant bowl of pudding in an earthquake.

“Your BMI’s what it is, but that’s just a number. It’s a fact, there’s no judgment in it, but fat, that’s a word some clowns choose to associate with that fact, and they only choose it to insult you. So what I’m saying is, you shouldn’t just accept what words some people choose to describe you.”

Butch nodded, drank from his milk carton, set it down on the plastic tray. “It don’t bother me none, really. People says all kinds of things, there’s no stopping them.” He burped, his milky breath flying into Rune’s face. “It’s not what people — say, that bother me.”

There was an edge to his friend’s voice that Rune rarely heard. Almost accusatory. Some students sitting nearby on the long benches rose to leave, others remained engaged in their conversations, none paying attention to the silent staredown between the two friends.

Rune swallowed when his memory seemed to hit on the issue. “Pageturners.” Across the table, Butch nodded silently.

The full memory of their hallway conversation last week came back to Rune, declining Butch’s offer to go shopping for comic books with a stream of angry words. Stupid. Childish. Waste of time. But Rune knew it wasn’t  his words, but the public humiliation of his friend and their shared passion — that honed the edge in his friend’s voice.

“I’m sorry.” The words sounded hollow to Rune, feeling he hadn’t earned the right to speak them.

“It was like saying you regretted everything we’d done together.” The edge in Butch’s voice had become a scapel. “The wa you spoke, it wasn’t just about the present, it was also ’bout the past. And when you finally stopped and walked away, I wondered if this meant there wouldn’t be no future.”

Rune looked down at a ketchup stain on the table.

“And what I realized was, it weren’t enough for you to say you’re sorry, and me to say it was OK. Because if it were just that, we’d be lying to each other. We wouldn’t be facing the real issue — which is, what does the future mean.”

Twenty years later, the two friends would remember this conversation as the start of a new, better relationship between them.


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