“Elliot?” I recognized his voice at once. I lifted my eyes and smiled at the man standing in front of me. He hadn’t changed a bit. Sure he had a different haircut and wore a leather jacket instead of a jersey, but his presence, the aura surrounding him, was exactly the same. All the words used to describe him: tough guy, intimidating, popular, perfect, were still hidden in the same eyes, behind the same face, the face of the person now matching my stride as I walked down the sidewalk.
“Oh, hey Brian. How are you? I haven’t seen you since middle school.” I said. A million thoughts ran through my head – a million memories, a million scenarios, a million words I could have said, a million things I could have done, but didn’t.
“You know, still on the varsity football team, a thousand people cheering my name, 24-7, so I’d say I’m pretty good. And you?” I opened my mouth to answer, but he cut me off, like he always did. “Oh, let me guess, you’re still sitting on the bleachers, alone, at lunch, reading a book?”
I continued to smile. “Actually, I’ve started a club at my new school to help those who are bullied and abused.” I answered, careful to keep my tone friendly and casual.
“Yeah, it’s really caught on, we’ve helped so many people…”
“Hey, sorry to interrupt you talking about your very interesting, club…thing, but I was wondering if you wanted something to drink.” He said, abruptly stopping to point at the gas station to our right. “That’s why I was out on this walk in the first place, to get an energy drink.” There was no way that he was just doing this to be nice, but it is possible; people change.
“Um, sure.” Brian walked into the gas station and grabbed the two drinks. I tried to watch him, but lost sight of him as he slipped around the end of the isle. By the time he came back, Brian’s drink was already open.
“Thanks,” I said reaching for the unopened bottle.
“Oh, no,” he said pulling the drink back. “I dropped that one on the ground, here have this one,” he said, handing me the opened bottle.
“Uh, okay,” I responded. I took the bottle as we started to walk again.
“So when did you come up with the idea for your club…thing?” he asked, turning to lead us into an alley. I followed carefully. Something about this whole situation didn’t seem right.
“Um, a couple years ago, back when we were in middle school together, you know, before I moved,” I answered, bringing the energy drink up to my lips. As soon as I took a sip, I realized it was poison. I tried to spit it out, but I had already swallowed. My brain fogged as I fell to my knees.
“There is no antidote,” Brain said, his voice faltering.
I looked up and saw Brian through blurry vision. Realizing what was happening, I began to speak, words pouring out before it was too late.
“Brian,” I said. My voice sounded far away and echoed through my head. “Brian, I never regret being nice to you.” Memories flooded once again into my head. I could feel him kicking me in the locker room, beating me with a baseball bat, tearing me apart with both words and actions. “And I hope that somehow I had a positive impact on your life.” Another kick, another punch. The memories combined as I got dizzier and dizzier. The poison burned my throat and tore at my existence. “In this life we are constantly faced with decisions. Decisions to be nice or to be mean, to love or to hate. Those decisions make up who we are as a person. I hope that you can learn how to leave positive impacts on the people you love, how to make good decisions, and be a good person.” I felt hot tears wet my face as I began to slip away. This was it, my final words. “You have a purpose. You have the chance to change the world for the better. Remember…” I could barely speak, but the words somehow managed to push past my swollen lips, “the antidote for a poisonous life contains both love and kindness.”
As the dizziness and pain consumed my world, I felt droplets of what I perceived as rain fall on my head. I wasn’t aware that it was the tears of the weeping man kneeling over me. I tried to look up at Brian, the man who had done everything wrong to me, the man who I hoped to have helped, but my vision went black and my body numb. I breathed in and out, this was my one last shaky breath before I was welcomed by the embrace of darkness and the bittersweet kiss of death.