I had a dream last night that I had stopped breathing. I actually did, too, which woke me up.
In my dream, I was six years old again and walking to the bus stop in winter. Standing there were the bullies, a boy four years older than me and a girl five years older than me. Both were twice my size. They were never satisfied unless I was crying or otherwise distressed and made it their mission in life to ensure these things from Monday to Friday.
I remember them now, but I doubt they remember me at all. I can recall both their first and last names, their physical appearance, and the address of their homes. That's something that bullies don't tend to think about, the possibility that their victims grow up and remember. Bullies don't tend to do much thinking.
It was unfortunate, growing up with such people for neighbors and schoolmates, people whose only concern in life was whether they were big and strong enough to lord it over someone smaller. Part of the misfortune was the opportunity cost. If their spaces had been occupied by people that were interesting and friendly, I might have made a good friend. As it was, they were completely worthless, offering nothing except abuse. They were a waste of space.
As I grew bigger, these people stopped being bullies, because they did not have the size advantage anymore. Bullies are cowards, after all.
The girl changed. I met her once and she was unusually polite. I asked her why she was acting so different now, and she said she had matured. She may have even apologized for past behavior, but I don't remember. She played the repentant monster, but she was still a monster. I could tell. There are smiles of happiness, and then there are smiles that serve as a mask to conceal what is beneath. She had shown her true self to me long ago, and I remembered.
The boy was always the silent type and remained so. The only thing he was interested in was his skateboard. I never saw much difference between him and the skateboard. Anytime he was asked a question, there was a delay as he calculated the minimum number of syllables needed to provide an answer. Usually a grunt or a shrug or obscenity was the pinnacle of his expression. He had seemed scary when I was little, but part of the scariness was his size and reptilian personality.
These are the monsters that lurk in the mind and every once in a while come out at night.