Bobby Stover is at peace, and because of that, I am at peace. While everyone else mourns, I celebrate. Why? Am I cruel, cold-hearted and soulless? Go ahead and think so, but I know the truth; Bobby Stover made my life a living hell, and I am better off without him.
Whenever a child dies, it seems that the world mourns his passing. A child is innocent, undeserving of death-there was so much potential for life that was taken away in just one fell swoop! In Bobby's case, it was a tree. An accomplished skier, they all said; but not accomplished enough apparently to avoid that daunting tree that stood in his path. He slid thirty meters and died of severe head injuries…so, so sad. No fourteen year-old deserves death, especially a violent death such as this, doing something he loved so dearly. Now Bobby's grave is decorated with flowers, pictures, teddy bears…all of these things will rot in a few weeks, just like his body will deteriorate underneath all that soil. All the pretty little memories and tributes, all rotting away -doesn't anyone think of that when they place these items on the grave? How much more dismal it will seem when these pretty little trinkets are dead and rotting too? Won't that just rub it in? But these thoughts don't bother me this time, because like I said before, I am happy that Bobby is gone. Because without Bobby, I am finally free.
My life was as peaceful as a normal eleven-year-old's life could be until Bobby showed up. I had few worries-how I would make new friends when I began middle school, whether I should continue to pretend I thought girls had cooties or admit to my undying crush on Bryana Joseph, and how to get my parents to change out my racecar bed for a real one without them going on and on about how "their little boy was growing up so fast!"' Of course at that point, these worries seemed valid, until of course, Bobby showed up and all of these things became petty in comparison. I don't know why Bobby targeted me specifically, and me only-I wasn't a "nerd," I wasn't the smallest kid in my class; I had become comfortable with putting myself in the category of "average." But when Bobby showed up in my math class in sixth grade, I became his mark. I felt, when I first saw Bobby, before I even knew who he was, everything around me change. I can't explain why, but the room got smaller, my palms became sweaty, and a sense of dread surrounded me. As I looked around the room, everyone else seemed comfortable with his presence; he was the new kid, but he was accepted. But he smirked at me, once, coldly and quickly, and I knew that things were not going to be the same after that moment.
I hate to say that Bobby "bullied" me, because it sounds like I would be admitting that Bobby was the stronger one, and I the weaker. I like to think that Bobby was a menace, without regret, remorse, or any real reason for putting all of his malice on me. To everyone else, Bobby was pleasant and polite, but to me, he was the complete opposite. He was so goddamn clever about it; nobody ever believed Bobby was capable of the torture he put me through. As a side effect of Bobby's abuse and my attempts to make others see what I saw, I became the "crazy" one. No one believed my side of the story. Bobby had brainwashed them; put on a façade for them, and for me only was he his true, unrelenting self. After awhile, I stopped trying to make others believe me. I tried to ignore it, but ignoring was impossible.
It started in school, in math class, with a few comments. When Ms. Berg called on me to answer a question, I heard Bobby, sitting right behind me, mutter, "Don't mess up!" and when I stammered and did, in fact, mess up and give the wrong answer, something I could normally have brushed off, I heard Bobby again, "Nice job, retard!"
"Wait, wait no, I know it…" but before I could try again, he yelled out the correct answer. He beamed at me.
"Yes…that is correct," Ms. Berg said, trying to move on to the next question. But I couldn't let it stop there.
"That's not fair…I knew it, I didn't….I didn't get enough time."
"It's OK Ryan, we are going to move on now."
"Way to make a big deal out of nothing, what are you gonna do, cry about it?" Bobby snickered behind me.
Maybe it was nothing. Maybe I could have just brushed it off. But there was something I couldn't let go of in this situation…I had to fight back.
After class, Ms. Berg pulled me aside. "Ryan, is everything OK?" she asked. Bobby's words echoed in my head. If I told Ms. Berg, would I be giving in? Would I show myself to be a tattle-tale, someone who couldn't handle being called a "retard"? Worse things had been said…
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine…I just, I knew that answer."
"I know you did, Ryan…"
"Yeah. I'm fine."
Bobby Stover. He came across as the smart kid, the suck-up, not the tyrant-in-the-making that I knew he was. It was only a matter of time before he struck again, and I was the one being talked to by the teacher.
This continued for the duration of the semester. Whenever Bobby would make some snide comment behind me, I would try my best to ignore it. I stopped responding to him, which only fueled the fire. Then one day, I couldn't take it anymore. Up until that point, it had been comments about how stupid I was, or when I forgot a homework, he would say something like, "Oh no, Ryan, were you too busy playing video games or wacking off to do your homework? It must be lonely being friendless, and retarded. Or maybe that's why you have no friends?" Those comments I could ignore. I knew I had friends, I knew I wasn't retarded. But once he brought Bryana into the mix, I had to fight back. I couldn't let my dignity be attacked in front of the girl that I wanted.
It just so happened that the only class I had with Bobby was also the class I had with Bryana Joseph. So of course, between Bobby's remarks and Ms. Berg's close eye on me that she had kept ever since she asked me if I was "OK," I tried to sneak a glance every chance I could get at Bry. She sat in the corner of the room near the windows, two rows in front of me. As it was late in the year, the windows were left open in the classroom to get some air circulating in the suffocating heat. I was thankful they were, not for the cool breeze to relieve me from the humidity, but to see that soft wind pass through Bry's hair. Occasionally, the breeze would blow a strand of her hair in her eye, and to brush it off she would turn her head, ever so slightly to the left, towards me, and pass her hand across her face. I yearned for those slight moments of eye contact when that happened. One day in May, when I was waiting for one of these moments, Bobby caught me.
"What'cha looking at Ry-re?"
"OOhhh a little touchy are we? I know what you are looking at. You are looking a Bry over there. Nice try, bud. You really think you have a chance? Is she what you think of when you are alone at night…"
"Why? Am I turning you on…uh-oh, Ryan, is that…are you getting a chubby thinking about it? Gross! Are you going gay on me now, too?"
I couldn't take it. I stood up, and without thinking about what I was doing…
"STOP IT! JUST STOP! You have no idea what you are talking about! You don't know me! Who the hell do you think you are?! Just SHUT UP!!"
Ms. Berg looked like she was about to faint, and the whole class broke out into nervous snickers, including Bry. They didn't even look at me, but at each other instead, questions on their faces and tension in the air. I could tell everyone was incredibly uncomfortable, except Bobby. He just stared up at me, smirking.
"I'm so sorry Ryan, I didn't realize you were so sensitive."
I didn't know where to go, or what to say. I could feel that same sensation creeping in that I had felt when I first saw Bobby. Ms. Berg was coming towards me, a look of bewilderment on her shrew face, but the room was closing in on me, and I needed out. I pushed past her and ran out of the room. I made it to the bathroom although I don't remember how I got there, and splashed my face with cold water, over and over and over again. I locked myself in a stall and stayed there.
I couldn't believe it. Bobby had come after me.
"Get away from me."
"Ms. Berg is worried. You scared everyone. Even poor Bry is all shooken up. Don't you want to come back and comfort her in your big, strong, arms?"
"What do you want? Why are you doing this to me? I don't even know you."
"Ryan, stop that. You know I'm your only friend. You love me!"
"I hate your guts."
"Why don't you come out here and talk to me, Ry-re?"
"Stop calling me that."
"Ry-re. Ry-re loves Bry-Bry, and Bry gives him a chubb-y, and…"
I burst out of the stall and attacked Bobby. He may have tortured me through his words, but I wasn't small and I knew, in that moment, that I could take him down. I tackled him to the floor, but he just held me off and wrestled his way out of my grasp, running out the door. Now he was the one running, ha! I sat on the ground, half-defeated and half-victorious. My hand was bruised but I felt better. Until, of course, Ms. Berg opened the door with Principal Wiles.
"There he is!!" yelled Ms. Berg, like a frantic Chihuahua.
"Ryan, please come with us," Principal Wiles said very slowly, and very seriously, offering me his hand.
That incident spurred a whole month of horror for me. While Bobby's taunting died down a slight bit, I was forced to see a therapist, for my "outburst" in class. My "outburst" that had been completely Bobby's fault. But all through my therapy with the school counselor, the focus was never on him, as much as I tried to steer it in that direction. I had no power. My doctor, Dr. Mearny, always wanted to focus on my feelings. "How does Bobby make you feel?" He would ask. "He makes me feel like shit!" I would respond.
"Maybe if we can change the way you feel about Bobby, we can fix the problem. Have you tried ignoring him?"
"Yes!" I would scream. Yes, yes, yes! I had tried ignoring him, of course. Why wasn't Bobby getting the "crazy" treatment? Why was it only me? Maybe he was, I didn't know. I wasn't told much about Bobby; Dr. Mearny always wanted to talk about me. What made me angry? What made me sad? What did I enjoy? It all seemed so pointless. I was a normal kid. Bobby was ruining my life. I was now the laughingstock of the school and I heard now more names. Instead of Bobby's "retard," now I heard whispers of "crazy," and "freak," all because I had reacted. Bobby was so fake-he had the teachers and other kids fooled. Nobody suspected he could be the real reason behind all my problems.
Over the summer, Bobby was out of my life, finally. No more math class, no more "retard," "crazy," no more Bry, no more Dr. Mearny…I was free. I went away with my family to our lake house where I had a different group of "summer" friends and no homework to worry about. On my birthday, which happened to be on July 4th, I received a cell phone. I had earned it, my parents said, and I deserved a little independence, ha.
Not more than a week later, after having given out my number to fewer than ten people, a received a call from a strange number.
"Hey-hey Ry-guy. Remember me?" Bobby.
"How did you get my number?"
"What do you mean psycho? You called me."
"What are you talking about?? I just picked up the phone…"
"Right, wow. You are so desperate for friends that you are calling me and then pretending not to. Very suave, Ry-re."
"I'm hanging up."
"Go ahead! I don't need to talk to freaks like you anyway! Goodnight, love bug."
"You are disgusting."
"Bye-bye Ryan, I'll tell Bry you said hello. Maybe you meant to call her?"
I hung up. I was so confused, so angry, so offended that Bobby had found a way to insert himself into my alternate life where I finally had started to forget about him. Bobby kept calling me throughout the summer. I would try to ignore it, again, but it got to me, and I had to answer. Every time he would switch it around and accuse me of calling him. It was so infuriating, this game he was playing with me. I kept it a secret for awhile, but by the end of the summer, when I knew I would have to see Bobby again in school, I told my mom about the phone calls.
"Bobby has been calling me."
"Bobby? Bobby who- oh…that Bobby. Ryan, what is this about?"
"It's about Bobby! He won't leave me alone, Mom, I can't take it anymore. Can't we do something?
"Ryan, we have tried. Can't you tell him to leave you alone?"
"I HAVE! Are you even listening to me? Mom, you have to do something."
"OK, Ry. Your father and I will talk. We will figure something out. For now, just don't answer his calls. Just relax! You only have a few days of summer left; why don't you go out and enjoy them?"
It was useless. My phone kept ringing; he knew that our reunion was near and he wanted me to dread it. I couldn't take it…my parents didn't take me seriously, Bobby would never listen to me, and I didn't want to face another school year of Bobby's torture. On the last night of summer, when my phone kept ringing and ringing, I took it to the lake and threw it as far as I could. When my mom asked where my phone was, I lied, but she knew something was up. We had a "family meeting." Myself on one couch, my mom and dad on the other. I was told that they were "disappointed in my behavior." I had been irresponsible and irrational, and they were worried about me. Worried that I would have another "outburst" at school. They said I would have to go back to Dr. Mearny when school started, and they would deal with the Bobby situation on their own. I was to do my schoolwork, go to counseling, and that was it. Once again, Bobby was pulling apart the threads of my life, one by one, ripping them apart, unraveling everything I had rapidly and without remorse. I hated him.
Seventh-grade was worse that sixth. Bobby was coincidentally in almost every one of my classes. Despite my desperate pleads to Dr. Mearny, he was not taken out of my classes. Dr. Mearny said I needed to face my issues and until I did, Bobby was not going to just go away easily. He said I needed to be confident, and live my life as I would if Bobby wasn't a part of it. Easier said than done. Who knows if Bobby ever got in any trouble-it sure didn't seem like it. In class he didn't say much and teachers seemed to leave him alone. I tried to convince myself that perhaps they were scared of him too, but I doubted it. To them, Bobby seemed quiet, innocent, a boy incapable of what I accused him of. And the more I accused and tried to make people believe, the more reason he had to tease me. Now, I was a "tattletale," a "snitch," "weakling," and worst of all, a "coward." Whenever Bobby got a chance, he would remind me of these things. Sometimes it was through just a look, sometimes a comment in passing, either in the hallway or in class, as he always found a way to sit near me. My parents refused to buy me another phone, so at least when I was at home, I could be alone. But his voice was always there in my head. I couldn't let it go. It got so bad that I tried to get my parents to switch me into a new school. I felt like a coward, but I also felt helpless. They said no-at my school I had Dr. Mearny, I had good grades, I couldn't sacrifice all of that because of some stupid bully, now could I? No, I guessed not…but I had done all that I could. I had tried to ignore, and I had tried to fight back, I had tried yelling-but anytime I talked back to Bobby, I got in trouble. He denied, denied, denied, and he was the innocent one. But I was the crazy one with the "outbursts" who needed to be dealt with. My friends started to drop off, as they couldn't handle me constantly talking about Bobby. They didn't understand; they didn't see what I saw; I guess they couldn't fathom how a quiet, nice boy like Bobby could possibly be such a threat to me.
In eighth grade, my final year at middle school, Bobby took it to a whole new level. He began showing up outside of school. At the mall, I would spot him in the next store over. He would smirk at me over the rack of clothes, knowing that just that snide smile would give me shivers. When I tried to tell my parents, they would look around, worried, and tell me it was time to go home. I don't know why Bobby was following me; I never knew why, but to him it was a game of chase. He knew he could keep chasing me and he wouldn't get caught. Nobody else was experiencing what I was; he had no other victims, as I took up all his time.
My parents finally started reacting when Bobby began following me. They tried to keep me calm by keeping me out of the loop. They made phone calls behind closed doors and considered switching me to a new school, or moving, but ultimately did not come to any conclusions that they made clear to me. When winter break approached, they told me that we were going to go on a little vacation to the Poconos to try to get away from "everything." I knew "everything" meant "Bobby", and it was true, sadly, that he had become "everything." He had influenced every part of my life, and I looked forward, with a slight bit of hope, to this trip. Even a week without Bobby would be a small victory.
When we got to the resort, I immediately felt, surprisingly, a sense of freedom. The heaviness of Bobby's threatening influence was lifted, even if it was just temporarily. My parents could sense my spirit had been eased, and they too seemed relieved. After a couple of days, Bobby-free, of dining, sleeping, skiing, and relaxing, my parents let me have a day of my own. I decided to take to the slopes. I had skied most of my life and I found the opportunity to be alone in the crisp air, traveling up and down a mountain to be comforting and peaceful. Peace was not something I had been familiar with for a few years now, so a return to this state was welcomed with open arms. I was feeling strong and energized, and I could feel a spark inside me alight. I wanted to challenge myself. I got on the lift to the black diamond, and breathed in the air. The air flowed through my lungs and into my veins, and my body tingled. I was no longer suffocating. Once I dropped off the lift, I took a second to take in the view. Other skiers whizzed by and took off down the hill, but I waited. I wasn't sure what I was waiting for-I wasn't scared, so it wasn't fear keeping me there. Then something happened. As my eyes scanned the mountain, something caught my eye in the distance. No, someone. Off to my right, in the opposite direction as the lift, stood Bobby. He was staring right at me.
I froze, but I didn't feel the suffocating sensation that I usually did when I saw Bobby. I stared right back at him. And then, I felt my feet begin to move. I went towards him; I was the one approaching Bobby. I was going to be the one this time to make the move.
"Hey Ry. Funny seeing you here."
"What are you doing here? You followed me…why are you so obsessed with me?"
"Ryan, silly, silly Ryan. You are following me! Don't you see that? You are in love with me! Don't deny your feelings, Ryan, you big fag. I know you love me."
"You…you are insane. You have been doing this to me for way too long now. Get a life."
"Ryan, I'm going to ignore that comment. I'm going to ski down this hill now, and you know you are going to follow me. You are going to follow me because you can't bear to be away from me! You are so totally infatuated with me that you will follow me everywhere!"
I didn't respond. He did what he had said he would and he took off, but not before turning to me and blowing me a kiss.
I did follow him, but not because I was obsessed with Bobby. I did it because I wanted something, something I couldn't quite explain at that moment, but I knew that there was something I had to do, that had to happen, and this was the very moment in which that was going to occur.
I could see Bobby ahead of me, weaving in and out on the path. He was an extraordinary skier; that I could say of him. But I was just as good, and I was hot on his path. He could feel me behind him I'm sure, and I felt in that moment that I was the hunter, and he was the target. For once, I felt powerful, and the adrenaline pumped through my veins.
He kept skiing faster, and he started getting sloppy. He was nervous. I sped up. The tips of my skis were so close to his that I could have reached out and touched him. I got right up next to him instead and peered over. What I saw was something that I didn't expect, not from him. In his eyes I saw fear.
"Don't do this, Ryan…don't."
"Why shouldn't I?"
"You know WHY! YOU KNOW!"
"It's too late, too late Bobby."
I watched Bobby ski into that tree. I watched him die, I watched him bleed, I watched as the medics came and lifted his body into a stretcher and I watched as the helicopter lifted him up and flew his body away. I killed Bobby Stover.
Because Bobby is at peace, I am at peace. The only way to achieve utter peace was to rid myself of that demon that was Bobby Stover. But these people, those that mourn the passing of this innocent child, that weep and leave their rotting gifts and cry and tell stories about the boy they thought they knew, they don't mourn Bobby. They mourn Ryan; they mourn me. Because Bobby Stover was never real to them; he was only real to me. They didn't see him, they didn't understand him, they didn't believe in him, but I did. Bobby was real. That's why I had to do it. He was so real to me that there was no other way to prove his existence but to kill him, and in doing so, I paid the ultimate price. But was it worth it? Yes. Because now I am free. I am at peace, and that is all I ever wanted.