Cyber Bullying By D.I. Jolly
It had all happened to fast, the perfect storm, a breakthrough into a world he didn’t know existed.
After all the message, the intimate details shared and discussed, and all the self-discovery as his walls had come crashing down. As scared as he was, he was renewed. He was reborn and ready to face his fears. So, when he walked into the restaurant and found it filled with ‘friends’ and co-workers all standing under a banner that read “Gotcha!”, his mind went blank as his skin erupted into waves of hot goosebumps. Before he could fully realise what was happening, or stop himself, he said.
“What, what are you guys doing here?”
The room burst into laughter and a horrible sick feeling started to push its way into his heart. He scanned the room for the girl he had been talking to online and found no face that matched hers until his gaze settled on a printout of her tinder profile and darkness started to push into the edges of his vision. His mind erupted into conflict, simultaneously releasing and rejecting the truth in front of him. His cheeks burned white-hot and his muscles vibrated with misdirected anticipation of something. Then all together, as if practices, the room at large announced.
The wave of sound washed away any doubts he could form and a voice in his head started saying,
‘It really had been too good to be true after all. The idea that someone could actually care about me that way, or at all, was a lie.’
It had been a prank by the people who called themselves his friend. A small dying voice in the back of his mind wondered if he had, at least, only been talking to one person. Someone who, perhaps, hadn’t shared every secret, but as his private conversations started to pop up on rolling text screens around the room, and phrases like.
“It was so funny when…”
“The time he said…”
Killed that voice dead, and any hope he had left was gone.
He was humiliated, standing alone in a room full of people who had stolen access to his most private and intimate insecurities, and found them funny. Not one had been touched by his feelings, his vulnerabilities, or his honesty. He was just a joke to them. Through the blur, he battled to make out actual faces, and just saw a laughing shaking blob of shapes, pointing fingers, and open mouths.
And he wondered if it was easier to think of them as a sea of demons, instead of everyone he knew.
What felt like minutes passed as he stood frozen to the spot, terrified that if he moved some form of violence would break out.
But then he realised that he still just stood in the doorway of the restaurant, holding the door open, and as quickly as he could he stepped back and let the door close behind him. His first instinct was to run, to hide, but then he thought,
‘These people don’t care enough to chase me.’
So he walked back to his car and jumped when a hand touched his shoulder.
“Hey man, where are you going?”
He looked at the person and shook his head slightly confused.
“What do you mean?”
“Come on, it’s your party where are you going?”
He stood for another moment trying to parse the words, feeling almost like it was a language he didn’t understand.
“What? Why would… why would I stay?”
His words came out flat and genuinely confused, honest in a way so unmistakable that the person stepped back looking as if they’d just been slapped. For a moment a flare of anger rose up inside of him and he wanted to push that feeling, lean on that moment and start asking accusational questions, and drag some kind of feelings kicking and screaming out of the person. For a moment he thought that none of them had ever stopped to think about the true effects of their actions and had only ever seen it as a joke on a screen. Just scrolling text, like playing a game.
And that was the true crime, that was exactly the terrible thing they had done. Not the joke itself, but that they never once stopping to think about what effect their actions had on the real person. They had forgotten that there even was a person there, an actual real-life person on the other side of the screen, on the other side of the “joke”. It was the only explanation he could think of to justify how they could do, what they did.
But indifference won him over again, and told him that those people didn’t care. Trying to get something out of them was akin to getting wine from stone. So, he just turned and continued to his car, climbed in and drove away.
For a moment he considered stopping at his house, but didn’t. He knew that the longer he kept driving, the further away the party was.
A moment later he considered parking his car on a railway track and letting it simply end, thinking that it would show them, it would make them feel what they’d done. But indifference dragged him out of that idea too. It wouldn’t matter, it wouldn’t make a difference, they didn’t care.
So, he just drove on, telling himself that in his next life, his new life, he would simply never open up to anyone, ever, again. He would smile, and make nice, he’d be friendly and say what people were supposed to say, but it would never really be him, never be his words, it would just be the things you’re supposed to say. It would be the ‘right; answers.
The idea didn’t make him happy, but it did satisfy the indifference. So he threw his phone out of the window, and just kept driving.