In Third Grade, I reduced the class bully to tears by telling him he’d broken my finger back in First Grade. Except that he hadn’t. Not really.
I’m “double jointed.” No, that doesn’t mean I can roll two joints with one hand or be in two seedy dives at once. It means I have loose, overly flexible ligaments. In grade school, I could bend my index fingers backwards almost 90 degrees at the middle joint. Like this:
Only…more. Anyway, back in First Grade, Wes had grabbed my finger and pulled it backwards, towards my wrist, making me howl in pain. He and his friends thought it hilarious. I decided, then and there, that boys were mean. By Third Grade, we were all in for a lesson.
Wes saw my funny, flexible finger one day. He’d forgotten all about me and all about tormenting me in First Grade. I hadn’t forgotten – the memory of that wrenching pain and humiliation was still fresh in my mind. “How do you do that?” he asked, staring at my rubbery finger with a mixture of horror and fascination.
“Well, it’s not like I do it on purpose, Wesley,” I said, mustering a tone that was both dejected and scornful. “You remember back in First Grade, when you grabbed my finger and bent it backwards? You broke it, Wes.”
“Yes. And it never healed right. My family couldn’t afford the doctor’s bills, so my dad set it with an old pencil and some duct tape, but it healed crooked. See?” I held it up in front of Wesley’s nose.
He stared at my finger. He looked at me. He looked back at my finger. “I’m so sorry!” he wailed. And suddenly, there were big tears spilling down Wesley’s cheeks. Oh my G-d… Suddenly I knew what it was to bully the class bully, and I did not like it. You’d think I would enjoy the satisfaction of revenge, after all this time – making Wes cry right there in the middle of class, in front of his friends, making him suffer some of the guilt for some of the pain he’d caused me in First Grade, but I was the one who felt the full burden of guilt that day.
“Oh, forget it, Wes. My finger’s fine.” I showed him what I could do with the other nine fingers:
Wes sniffled. “Wow. Cool.” He called some of his friends over. This was just gross enough that the boys found it fascinating. I was no longer an icky girl. I had talents they could respect and admire.
“I’m sorry, Wes.”
“For lying. For making you think you broke my finger.”
“Oh. Yeah, that was pretty mean,” he said, smiling. Like he wished he’d thought of it first. “I’m sorry I bent your finger backwards in First Grade.”
“Okay. I forgive you.”
True story. First posted many, many years ago on Vox, I had to hunt down the backup copy for a friend whose daughter is sporting a cast after a boy pushed her on the monkey bars and broke her finger. NOT that I’m suggesting she share this with her daughter and give the sweet girl any evil ideas…