a guest post by Kevin C. Waters
As I look at this man standing before me, I examine him carefully. He stares back at me and without a word being spoken I already know what he wants... forgiveness. After all of the pain and heartache he has wrought in my life, he wants to be forgiven.
I can tell by the frown lines on his forehead that he is an angry man. The not-so-visible scar on his right brow speaks to the violent lifestyle he chose to live. My heart begins to quicken as I anticipate his request. He wants to tell his story. He wants to explain why or how he has become the man I despise. I don't want to hear some "poor me" diatribe about a broken home or abusive childhood. We all have choices and he chose to ruin my life.
Looking at the contours of his face I can see that he is not the young ruthless kid that I remember. Amazingly his eyes seem softer than I recall. I suppose they should be after twenty years in prison. Maybe he got victimized the way he victimized me decades ago. Serves him right.
Well, I guess it couldn't hurt if I let him "explain" why he chose to make my life a living hell.
He begins with a simple apology, "I'm sorry."
I hope he doesn't think that is going to make it all better.
I must admit, though, it felt sincere.
He follows the apology with a story about how he grew up. Surprisingly, both parents were in the home, yet he still felt alone. I don't get that. How could he feel alone in a house full of love, with siblings?
He goes on to explain how when he was nine years old his little sister was born. He was no longer the baby and no longer got all the attention. Why he began to feel abandoned because of that is beyond me. I think it was an excuse, because within a couple of years he said he became infatuated with gangs.
I knew it! He's a gang member. That explains everything.
However, it doesn't explain why he pulled me into his misery. The tale of a stable but rocky childhood doesn't move me. I see more bad choices than faulty parenting. Many kids don't even have both parents and they still do the right thing. This man chose to turn away from his family instead of lean on them for support. How dare he complain about that!
As he talks about his teenage years I can see how his unhealthy choices were reinforced. I start to empathize with him because at thirteen years old he witnessed his first act of brutality on a fellow gang member for "breaking the code." He learned rather quickly that loyalty was paramount.
But loyalty to what? Right then and there he had a choice. He could have turned back and ran to the loving arms of his parents, but he didn't.
When he spoke of being kicked out of school behind his newly acquired beliefs it was obvious to me that he was seeking attention. The attention he lost when his little sister was born. He did the same thing when he accidentally hit his head on the coffee table, playing in front of his parents. What were they thinking? The signs were so obvious. Maybe they were blinded by the quest to feed three kids and pay their bills. It happens.
While he talks about his spiral into corruption I can see the pain in his face. I can feel the inner turmoil he was experiencing. Tears roll down his face as he apologizes with his eyes. I try to hold onto the anger but it is getting more and more difficult.
He speaks about the fights and criminality that led him to prison. It must have been pretty rough on a teenager at the most dangerous prison in the state. Well, he made his own bed. Unfortunately, the mask he adopted in that environment imprinted him with permanent frown lines. A young boy hiding his fears behind a mask.
I stare at this man, aged, humbled, and apologetic. I don't have any words for him. I am still angry at him for ruining my life. But am I angry, or am I hurt?
He looks at me, almost intuitively reading my thoughts, and he says, "I created all of the destruction in my life because I was scared and hurt."
Wow, does he feel my pain? That's not possible, because the only thing I'm displaying is anger.
I look at him intently, struck by his honesty and humility. I truly believe he gets it.
Teary-eyed I manage to smile and I do something I told myself I would never do: I tell him, "I forgive you."
We stare at each other unblinking for what seems like an eternity.
I take one last look at him, put the mirror down, and go to sleep.