Ana is 25 years old. She is a slim, very pretty girl with some nice tattoos on her body, a quiet smile on her face and scars on her hand.
We are standing at the reception of one of the hostels in Costa Rica, when I point out to those scars and ask ‘Where are they from?‘. Equal set of several scars on the wrist, they look like cut from a knife or other sharp object. ‘When I was in 3rd class, in primary school, I was a victim of bullying‘ she said. This confirmed my initial thoughts that Ana had to self-harm herself. She looks like a cheerful person, but often cheerful people have head full of problems that the unconscious outside world does not understand at all. I did not expect what sort of story it was. ‘Once I was coming back home from school and I had no place to go …‘
She has no place to go. The game starts as soon as they catch her. The reason isn’t because she likes them, nor that she enjoys playing. No. She is just skinny, in fact a bit too skinny for them. This little detail drew their attention: they came closer, close enough for her to do nothing more than rise her hand in a pleading gesture, as the game began. She can see their faces for a moment, but the very next moment she try to cover up, she is hiding under her arms, she is hugging the ground and crying inside because she simply can not cry to the outside anymore.
In Mexico there are a lot of tools for this game. She doesn’t have to count punches. No one ever counted, they happened too often. ‘One, two, too many‘ she lost it. Man can get used to everything, even to beating, pushing, spitting and contempt. It’s worse, when some equipment comes in action. The equipment is different. It’s a game-changer, not as gentle as fists themselves. Knives and scissors fell on her hands and feet, over and over again, wounding her deeply. They cut off her hair, and weaved chewing gums on the remaining patches. After a while they got bored and left, leaving her in the middle of the street.
Accelerated breathing, high pulse. Calming down. Pain, stinging pain – from the beats, vibrating pain – from cuts. Pain of existence – from words. ‘They used to set the school ruler on fire and put it on my legs and watched it sizzle’. Plastic melted with her screams. They did not stop because of that, why would they?
Do you think it’s just one day? It’s not. It’s everyday. Day after day, not always with open wounds. Always different, although every time the same. But one year will pass, two and sixteen will pass. Wounds will heal, psyche too. Then she was 9 years old. Her peers, small torturers, also.
‘You know, later I did the same thing myself. I mean … not the same, because I never cut people with a knife. But I was abusive to others’ Ana added after a pause. I know what she’s talking about. I went the same way – they never cut me, but I went through some situations. And then – when all this suddenly broke off – I myself became a cat who found some mice in the new class. Now she’s laughing at her word choice: ‘Is maltreatment even a good word?‘. ‘Why was that you?‘ I ask, although I know the answer. There is no key. You are wider, narrower, whiter, darker, lower, taller, or your skin is shining in the wrong way. ‘I was too skinny, you know the bones and the skin‘. ‘And you grew up on a beautiful girl‘ I summed up with a laugh.
We were both involved in this game – inasmuch as you, my dear readers: either the brutal psychic play of victims and torturers or the shocking physical strength manifested on the weaker or defenseless. We remain scarred, there remain a trace of hate on our tongues, and memory of helplessness we felt back then.
Bullying. Another name for the definition of human manliness.
Our conversation was interrupted by the reception closure. Ana spoke with the guest and I sat there to think about the condition of human nature.