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Asshole, Part 2

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The Redemption of a Former Jackass 


Irving Flashman, asshole no more

They may not have taught you this in Hebrew School, but the number forty is the gematria , the mystical numerological value, for the Hebrew word for “asshole.”  I know this because I’m a former asshole myself.

She moved to my town for the start of junior year. And so began my serial transgression of our sacred commandments.

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. But what if a particular, rather humorless stranger just tumbles in from the boonies with a giant stick wedged up her scrawny behind? And honestly, does it really count as “wronging” said stranger, in the true, biblical sense, if you merely slap her books out of her hands and kick them across the floor at the bottom of a crowded stairwell? During her first week in a new school?

You shall not be a gossipmonger among the people. What the hell does this mean to a high school asshole—part baseball jock, part AP geek, but complete jerkoff? That I was supposed to get a fucking DNA sample before trafficking the rumor (starting the rumor, perpetuating the rumor, let’s not split hairs) that she banged the stud linebacker in the school library?

You shall not stand idly by while your brother’s blood is shed. Of course not. But if I stood idled while my friends wiped boogers on her pizza that night at Buffo’s, it wasn’t out of indifference to her gustatory suffering (at least not total indifference); it was only because I was paralyzed by laughter. Oh get over it, I don’t even think she kept kosher.

Luckily for me, you don’t need a conscience to earn a diploma; and by the time we graduated, I had broken easily one-third of the commandments over her clenched ass.

The former things shall not be remembered. Or maybe they shall. I saw her only once after that, seven or eight years later, in downtown Highland Park, a few blocks from the scene of the crime, the scene of my crime. We made small talk. Very small talk. I remembered. And she remembered. How could we not?

And the wolf shall dwell—or at least kibitz—with the lamb. Then one day, maybe five years after that encounter, she sent me an email. I paraphrase:  “I’m bored  today. I googled you. Are you still an asshole?” Stalker? Post-Traumatic Jewish Stockholm Syndrome? Neither, as it turns out. Just someone wanting an answer. I responded by saying I was sorry. No excuse, no explanation. Just an apology. And maybe a taunt or two, for old-time’s sake, but mostly an apology.

And while we would later debate (Did I mention that we’re best friends now? That we debate now? Mainly idiotic things like the utility of such words as “ass face” and “douche bag,” but that we debate now?) the difference between apologizing and asking for forgiveness, the truth is that she had given me a pass a long time ago. A pass I didn’t earn or deserve.

Is there a lesson in all this? I think there is:  Don’t be an asshole. People can change. Cherish your friendships.

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