You don’t want to know the people in the headlines: people are not the heroes or villains you read about in the news.
This year I recognized the name of a former student. There she was in a photograph dramatically accusing someone of sexual harassment. I said with disbelief to my husband, “Is that Bunny?”* Sure enough, it was.
Her accusation was plausible, and I felt compassion. l remembered her as a genial girl, a bright, if not brilliant, student. From the little I knew of the students’ social lives– English teachers, appalled by their essays, gossiped about their precociousness and promiscuity–the incident she described could have happened.
In my own school days I would have avoided Bunny, though. Popular girls could be kind one day, vicious the next. And Bunny needed attention. She needed to be the center of attention.
One day Bunny came up after class and accused a new student of cheating. The new girl was smart in a quiet way, and her grades were good. I told Bunny she was mistaken. I’d sat on my desk and had a clear view of the front of the room where the new girl sat, eyes on her test. But Bunny reported her to the administration. I assured the principal and the counselor that the girl had not cheated. I called the girl’s mother and said she had not cheated. Yet she was called in front of some student council to be sentenced—to what I don’t know. But I had forgotten the incident entirely until I read the news about Bunny.
What am I to think all these years later? Bunny is an adult now. Doubtless she has endured sadness and grief. And carried away by the #metoo movement, she probably did not anticipate negative news coverage.
When you have even a slight acquaintance with someone, you realize he or she is not the hero or villain you read about. It’s complicated. It’s difficult to know what direction his or her life has taken. It’s just a story. And after a while nobody really cares.
*I have changed her name.