He was standing with his mother. He was looking humiliated, he had that hunted look that those who are teased relentlessly have. His mother, looked concerned, really concerned. I was in the same aisle of the pharmacy as they were as I needed to pick up those little wipes that women use to keep their skin clean and spotless. For some reason we find that travel clogs our pores. Beside me, mom and son were speaking in whispers. He was a really handsome young man who had a strong jaw and high cheekbones. In the hollow of each cheek was a cluster of small pimples. I could see that these tiny, transient, tributes to adolescence were ruling his life. Destroying his self esteem. Laying waste to optimism. He was in pain.
I found what I wanted and rolled away. We had all seen each other. He knew that I knew. I knew that he knew that I knew. Yes, I knew he was buying spot remover. Yes, I knew that he knew that he had spots and that, somehow, that made the spots more real. It was painful watching another human being suffering. My God, how brutal the world has become. My God, how the horrid prey on any, even slight, imperfection. My God, how endless are the days lived in fear.
And I wondered what was happening in him. I wondered if he was growing brutal. If he would end up learning, not the effects of violence, but the ways of violence. Would he become compassionate or cruel? It's a coin toss isn't it. One of my most shameful memory was of a moment, a single decision that I made, in Grade 11. I was teased fairly relentlessly in school. I lived in fear of each school day. I knew what it was to be hurt, by those who found my torment just a casual past time. Me. I knew what it was like. And then, a moment presented itself when a young woman, even lower on the social totem pole than I, looked to me to end torment. I could have. But I responded to the opportunity to use the power I had with poor judgement. I was cruel not kind. I thought it would make me feel, even momentarily, better. It didn't. It's something that haunts me to this very day. Seeing that young man made me wonder. One day those zits will be gone and what will be left is a very handsome young boy. How will he use the power that his attractiveness will give him? How will he handle decisions. Will generosity win of spirit win? Will hardness of heart take the moment?
I was rolling down the aisle, chasing after Joe who was looking for me. He still hasn't adjusted, five years on, to the fact that though I'm still over six feet tall, I'm now seated. So, he loses me. As I rushed down the aisle, I saw the young man heading towards me. I expected him to look away, embarrassed about our earlier encounter. But instead, he looked at me, bravely and smiled. I nodded my head, he nodded his. A moment of comradeship. A moment that represented a huge decision on his part.
I think, perhaps, that when he grows up, if he continues to make decisions in the manner of kindness, he could be more than handsome, he could be beautiful.