Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Unforgettable

It's been over 30 years since my high school days, but I can still remember some of the things I disliked in school. I was never any good at finishing my school assignments on time; and of course memorizing where and when the mouse deer outwitted the prince's hunting dog was not my strength. Then there were those times when I had nightmares of having to memorize the periodic table. But all those weren't so bad when compared to living life in constant fear of the big bully.

We've all seen them in the movies, and there are a few of them in every generation. Oh yes, decidedly these creatures are born to become a pain in the ass. There was this boy in school whose life mission was apparently to cause havoc and terror upon his peers. I'm thinking maybe the first thing he did when he woke up every morning was to plan how to outdo himself in being an even bigger asshole in school. Perhaps he would be miserable and feeling totally depressed if he failed to achieve something mischievous for just a day.

He had earrings in both ears, wore his hair deliberately cut crookedly so that one side is a little longer than the other side. In fact, a perfect example of a total idiot—ugly, ugly creature, if you know what I mean. He seemed destined to become a criminal and then spend half his life in prison. And of course there were other idiots who looked up to him as a leader, I don't know why. Oh! those were the days...

Well, over 30 years have since elapsed, and one would think that things like those would have all been forgotten. Then recently, at the launching of a property development which I attended, I saw him again. Somehow he was also invited to the event. The earrings were gone; his hair cut evenly and neatly combed. He was well-dressed with a tie on. But there's no mistaking that face—he still looked ugly; much the same as 30 years ago.

30 years is a long time. So many things can happen within that duration; certainly people can change for the better or for the worse. Maybe he has changed for the better; I'm not sure how's that even possible! But the reality is that first impression can sometimes be a lasting one. I have always known him as a pain in the ass, and I guess that's how I'm seeing him now, even if he's a changed person. There is really no valid reason for me to fear him today. Yet there is that fear of getting into trouble if he's around me. It's hard to explain. He's got that aura that spells trouble, you see. He's just one of those unforgettable characters in school.

All too often parents have the tendency to let their kids be naughty and mischievous—even mean to others. They're convinced that that's just a passing thing; all part and parcel of the growing up process. Unfortunately, sometimes the heart can forgive, but the mind can't forget. The harm inflicted upon others can last a lifetime. The impression of a forsaken character can remain forever. 

I suppose there is some truth that a book should not be judged by its cover. But there are occasions when the book is judged by its contents too. The author has only one shot to impress his readers. If he fails to impress them upon the first reading, he hasn't very many opportunities to rewrite or edit his book, and then expects his readers to have faith and revisit his book. A book, once known to be lousy, is always remembered as a lousy book. That's just one of those unfortunate realities in life.

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