Somehow, I almost always thought of her as a friend. I wanted to think the best about her, and I wanted to believe that she could change, and would want to... change. I thought that maybe she didn't know any better.
But month after month, and then year after year, she teased and demeaned me.
When I was in grammar school, she made up nonsensical nicknames for me like Linda Pinda. She stole things out of my room and claimed they were hers. She teased me about my belly button for years, because she'd seen it while I was swinging from the bars, and she apparently didn't like the shape of it. She said things like, "You are such a baby, your mom has to wipe your butt," and made sure the whole neighborhood could simultaneously antagonize me. Her brother and a couple neighbor boys also joined in one day as she asked me the meanings of certain slang terms, and then ridiculed me for being so clueless.
One day, she decided to pick up a handful of moist dirt and rubbed it in both of my eyes. Then she claimed I had done it to myself. As if. My mom literally couldn't see the whites of my eyes, and I had to lie on the kitchen counter with my head in the sink, as she restored my vision with a water rinse. Another day, I awakened to a note taped on the brick wall outside my window that said, "I HATE YOU." It was ironic that she signed it with love.
As we got older her tactics changed a bit, as she found other ways to try and make me feel inferior. It began with clothes. She made sure that I knew that she had designer Guess, Jordache, and Sergio Valente jeans, but that mine were generic. Her family had a posh motorhome with a safe, but mine didn't. Her brother was cooler than mine because he drove a hot red Corvette, and her dad's reserve police rank supposedly outranked my dad. She got more Christmas presents. It was always something. I really didn't care about appearances or statuses or stuff, but it hurt nonetheless, because she was trying so hard to make me feel like such a zero.
During part of junior high and high school, we walked and rode to school together. She allowed me to be some type of "secret" friend. She would happily talk with me on the way, but on campus I was dead to her. When I tried to say hi in the hallways, she would pretend I didn't exist. She would have me meet her in certain locations after school so that she wouldn't be seen with me. If I did happen to see her with a friend, she'd make sure that they knew I was her uncool neighbor, and that she had to walk home with me.
Toward the end of high school she invited me over to her house. I assumed she wanted to show me her custom made desk, and I remember being very wary of her intentions, whatever they were. I don't think I'd been in her room in years. She asked me to sit down next to her desk. And then she did something astonishing. She told me that she knew she had been very mean to me for years, and that she was very sorry. Would I forgive her?
It was so surreal. I felt as though I was watching myself in an after-school special on ABC. Shortly after the initial shock wore off, I assumed it was some sort of joke. Maybe someone was hiding in the closet, or maybe she was recording me so that I would somehow sound stupid. But it wasn't a joke, she was actually sincere.
I forgave her. She thanked me. I went home, more than a little confused.
It all made sense a bit later. She had started going to youth group at a local church. Jesus had invaded her life. I went one night and saw her leading worship, and I was really happy for her. There was joy on her face and praise on her lips. She was exalting her Savior and was humbled in His sight. Her new beliefs were backed up by sincere actions. Jesus had made all the difference.
I haven't thought about my neighbor in a long time. As I was processing through some things during the past weekend, I began to think about our relationship. I got really angry. I don't think I ever fully felt that as a kid. It had just been my "normal." It was good to express how angry and demeaned I felt. And it is good to forgive her once again as my adult self. I thank God that she was part of my life, and that she is a part of who I am.
I heard that she walked away from her faith years ago. I don't know what is going on in her life now, but I pray that she would return to Jesus. It was amazing to see Him in her. I pray that He would invade her life once again and make all the difference.