Sticks, stones, and social media.

She found you, Mark. Most people hunt online, searching for their past loves, those flames whose embers haven’t burnt out, and it’s true she burned a long time for you. But not quite that way. Or some go online and play amateur sleuths and look up old friends from grade school, but she doesn’t have any old friends from grade school, Mark. You know that. You made sure of that.

It was easy. The Internet makes everything so easy. When she typed your name in and hit enter, she found you. Her great bully–The One.

There was never a doubt that you were The King. Yes, of course there were others, because you recruited others to help you. But she doesn’t look them up. She doesn’t care about them, Mark. It was always you. It was you who always started it and when she remembers, well, it is always you she remembers. And the flames don’t lick any more–they are only memories, but the ash, the residue of you lays across her skin some two decades later and she hasn’t found a bath for it. She looks you up because she wonders if you have found a bath for it?

In the news these days, there are reports of cyber-bullying. You didn’t get to do that to her, Mark. You had to rely on old-fashioned methods–taunts in the hallways, or harsh laughter mouthed into her ear while pushed up against lockers. Or whispered inquiries about whether or not today she’d like to be beat up. Her walks home would have been lonely ones, but you were always there, behind her, using your slingshot to aim rocks at her back and gathering your posse to join you in your jeers. You taught them your names for her, you taught them to form crosses with their hands, as if to ward off evil spirits, and you taught them how small things could hurt big. You were never clever, but my God…you were devoted. For years and years, you were right there. 

“Mary the Goon! You guys, there she is! Mary the Goon, hey! Do you hear us?” Yes, she heard you. She always heard you, Mark. Your associates would change, or become bored, or leave, or stop, but you always were there, and she always heard you. From second grade, and for nearly ten years on, she always heard you. Even after she had left, she heard you. Through her 20s, she heard your voice, in her 30s it finally began to fade, at 40 she prays her own children will never hear voices like yours.

Your online photos tell your story, Mark. She had wondered at what she would find when she went looking. Would you have turned into a good family man? Would you have children now, maybe a daughter as ugly as she was in her youth? Would you have become someone she would admire?

She stares at your pictures, you with your muscles and brawn, your wide, frowning mouth and your sad eyes. Somehow, gazing at the pictures, she knows you have not changed. She hears a voice now, but it is her own. She thinks of the things she would tell you, and strangely, they are different than she once imagined they would be. And she discovers, she wouldn’t tell you much. There is all this ash that remains. But you never went looking for a bath for it, she just knows. Somehow she knows, Mark, and you would never understand.