The nature, culture and living in a small village in Japan just after the last world war, reflected through the boy’s eyes.
Chapter14 Mental Conflict – a Timid Spirit(1960)
Yoshiharu Otsuki (Sendai, Japan) and Yasufumi Otsuki (London)
(The main character in these essays is denoted in the third person, but the first person is used in this chapter, which is of a very personal nature.)
- Bullying in School
I was never bullied again after leaving the primary school in the village. However, the trauma caused by the bullying had a lasting effect on my emotional development. I made many efforts to overcome it in various ways but was always unsuccessful due to my weak will. At best, I somehow managed to hide my inferiority complex while I lived and worked. I’m ashamed to say that trauma induced by bullying has governed my whole life, and I was not able to confess it to anyone until I loosened up a bit with age.
According to my own experience, I thought that school bullying in the village, or at least in my generation, was not common. However, school bullying has become a nationwide problem recently. I would now like to briefly look at the statistics related to it,
A. Violence by students
< statistics (2016)>
(According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)
Total number of violent incidents in primary, middle and high schools per year: 54,242
Number of cases per 1000 students: 4
Number of truants in primary and middle school: 122,902 (1.21% in students)
Number of truants in high school: 53,154 (1.67% in students)
Number dropping out of high school before graduation: 53,403(1.5%?)
Number of suicides in primary, middle and high schools: 230
<details of violence>
(Elementary course medium grade department education child student section, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT))
Number of cases; 11,468(primary school), 35,683(middle), 7,091(high)
Violence against teachers; 8,835
Violence between students; 32,423
Violence to others: 1,452
Damage to property; 11,532
Number of schools with cases of violence; 9,343(25.5%)
Number of schools with students committing violence out of school; 2,6547(7.4%)
Number of wrongdoers; 10,808(primary school), 35623(middle), 8,484(high) 54,926(total)
<Number of bullying incidents and details (2014)>
(Elementary course medium grade department education child student section, MEXT )
Number of recognized bullying incidents: 188,057 (13.7 / 1,000students)
(breakdown) 122,721(primary school), 52,969(middle), 11,404(high)
(details) Teasing, abuse, threats, saying unpleasant things:121,248
Actual hitting, kicking, pretending to hit: 41,829
Bullying through use of a computer or mobile phone; 7,898
(According to the latest information published by MEXT Oct.22,2020:
violence; 78,787, bullying; 68,563, suicide; 317, which are all record highs.)
It is thought that the actual numbers of assaults and incidents of bullying are far in excess of these statistics. Bullying, particularly, often takes place away from the classroom in areas outside a teacher’s jurisdiction, so incidents are inevitably underreported. This suggests that the problem is far from uncommon in schools. Moreover, many suicides caused by bullying have recently been reported, leading to an acute sense of the seriousness of the problem in educational circles.
When I was bullied, I sometimes wished that I didn’t exist, but I never thought about suicide. The novel, ‘The tomb of Hotaru’ written by Akiyuki Nosaka, expresses the severe actuality caused by the war with a story in which a small boy and his younger sister suffer extreme poverty. They are ignored by the people around them and the girl dies of hunger (or illness caused by extreme hunger) – she doesn’t resort to suicide. However, suicides as a result of bullying have been widely reported in the media recently, leading to some victims of bullying seeing suicide as a way out of their problems.
On the other hand, having to deal with the situation when conflicts arise with others is an unavoidable part of life, and people may need to experience it in order to get used to handling stress and to grow as a person. Bullying, however, is beyond the reasonable limit that people might be expected to cope with. Looking at it another way, some animals might usually cooperate and help each other under normal circumstances but eat their own kind in extreme situations. Sacrificing weaker individuals to endure might be instinctive: the survival of the fittest. Human beings are not exempt from this, as I remember a man who’d been in the army explaining to me.
In the writer’s opinion, even if bullying originates from man’s primitive instincts as an animal, society as a whole should try to control it through our collective wisdom, and parents should try to discourage it in their children. The Chinese Confucian scholar, Mencius explained, ‘human-beings are essentially kind-hearted, helping others in times of crisis and never harming them. In order to make people behave in this way all the time, it is necessary to build a peaceful and safe society.’ However, it’s easier said than done. Whenever I think of the pain that the victims of bullying must put up with, and however earnestly I wish there was something I could do to help them, I’m left feeling guilty at my complete lack of any idea how to do so.
B. Harassment by teachers
The number of teachers punished for physical harassment in public primary, middle and high school, according to the publication by The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau.
|Number of disciplinary dismissals by reason of physical punishment||
|Number of reprimands by reason of physical punishment||
|Total number of disciplinary dismissals and reprimands by reason of physical punishment||
|Total number of disciplinary dismissals and reprimands by reason of acts of obscenity||
*The number in parenthesis is the percentage of offenders compared to the total number of all school staff: principal, deputy head, chief teacher, teacher’s consultant, regular teacher, school nurse, dietary teacher, assistant teacher, lecturer, assistant school nurse, trainer, and dormitory staff in public primary, middle, high and special support education schools. (at the time of May first, 2014)
The number of disciplinary dismissals and reprimands in 2013 is much more than in 2014, which is attributed to the result of an emergency investigation carried out in 2012, and acted on in 2014. Following from this, it can be seen that thousands of teachers have been punished annually. It is not clear if this number can truly express the actual number of physical punishments administered by teachers. Even if this is assumed to be about two thousand, this is much less than teacher casualties of student’s violence: 8,800. When I was in primary and junior high school, it was inconceivable that students should use violence against teachers in the way mentioned in the YouTube version. Maybe teacher harassment was more common than at present.
It is definitely not right for teachers to physically punish students. However, recently it has sometimes been reported that parents criticize teachers who reprimand children even lightly, and some really spoilt individuals take their parents defense of any behavior as an endorsement to carry out further misconduct. Education in schools is truly facing some difficult problems.
- Power Harassment
I was glued to the computer screen, checking my email just after returning from an Italian restaurant near to my hotel.
The first mail said, ‘Mr. X died. I just wanted to let you know. When I know more, I’ll inform you.’ from Mr. S.
I had been working at the American subsidiary company of the company I was with at the time. Mr. S was one of my most reliable colleagues at my former company, which I had left two months before. At that company, Mr. X had moved to my research division from another section two months before I left. I had only known him for two months but I had been anxious about him ever since leaving. Still trying to digest the terrible news, I sent email to everyone who might have more information about him.
The second mail, ‘I heard he committed suicide.’ From Mr. A.
This had been my worst fear. My head ached unbearably and heart raced as I recalled my memories about him.
About one and a half years ago, Mr. B, the director of another development division, suddenly dropped by to see me. As his business field was different from mine, we had never worked together before, and this visit was the first chance we’d had to talk. He told me that one of his development projects was now ready for a practical trial production run, and he would conduct it with Mr. Z as the manager of this project team. As Mr. Z used to be in my team, Mr. B felt obliged to explain his decision to me. I answered, “It’s very good of you to let me know but he’s not a member of our team anymore, so you really didn’t have to. However, if I were you I’d check his personnel information and consult with the personnel division again – he’s a slightly peculiar individual.”
Half a year later, Mr. B visited my office again. I guessed he wanted to ask me about one of the other engineers in my team, but it turned out that he wanted me to accept Mr. X joining my team. The only knowledge about Mr. X I had was that he was 35 and one of the most able engineers in my company, and that he had obtained excellent results in his field. I could not understand Mr. B being willing to let him leave his project team, because he was a key person in respect of the engineering the project involved. Moreover, though Mr. X and I were in totally different engineering fields, he wanted to join my team. I asked Mr. B. why but he just said, “Please allow him to join your team, and then ask him why yourself.” I told him I’d think about it and get back to him.
Back in the hotel, hoping to take my mind off things, I switched on the TV. As usual, there was some drama with people shooting each other. I can’t understand the liking that Americans have for homicide dramas. Anyway, it just made me feel worse, so I started surfing the channels and finally settled on an American football game, which is one of my favorite sports. Victory is achieved by a game plan that gets the right mix of offense and defense, and also the occasional unforeseen incident. This seems similar to the ‘assumption and verification’ process that I go through with my work, so I can really get into American football. However, not even the many exciting scenes of trick plays by quarterbacks, long throws and runs, turnovers etc. could make me forget the email. In the end my eyes drifted back to the computer screen and I just waited for more email, oblivious to even the sound of the TV.
The third mail, ‘Mr. X had seemed much more cheerful since he came to our division four months ago, so I can’t understand why he killed himself.’ From Mr. C.
Mr. C was an engineer with my former team. I was a little disappointed that there was no mention of any possible reason for Mr. X taking his own life, but at least Mr. C said that he had known about my decision to accept Mr. X’s request to join our team. That gave me some small comfort, but my mind was still in turmoil about his death.
After Mr. B left my office, I phoned and mailed people to try to find out the reason why he had requested his transfer. The results of my enquiries can be summarized as follows:
+ Two years ago, under the direction of Mr. B, the project of a new production process finished the basic research phase and moved to practical trial production. Mr. X was the chief engineer in the basic development team.
+ One and a half years ago, Mr. Z joined this team as a manager as mentioned.
+ One year ago, Mr. X suffered from manic-depressive psychosis.
+Half a year ago, Mr. X came back to his job after recovering from the sickness. This was the time that
Mr. B came to my office to request his transfer.
What had caused his illness still weighed on my mind and pushed me to find out more. There was talk that he had been harassed by Mr. Z, and this might have become the trigger for his illness. Of course, this was only hearsay, but I could believe it. This was because I’d had to step in to rescue engineers he was harassing when he was part of my team. It wasn’t so much a problem of his personality, rather it was the inflexible style of his approach to management. For example, whenever he got a report citing experimental results different from his expectation, he reproached the engineer as he probed the differences. He hadn’t developed this style himself but adopted it after it had been used on him by a previous boss. As our paths often crossed, I was familiar with his method. His directions depended on the subordinate’s ability. That is, he left the overall experimental procedure to an able person and relied on that person to get a result without interfering very much. On the other hand, he gave very detailed instructions to ordinary engineers and then scrutinized their reports closely and was often critical. He sometimes spoke to me about what he considered to be the efficiency of his management style, and I was very impressed initially. I thought he could become the director of central research in a nationally well-known company, and then go on to make his name with an important invention in some field, but Mr. Z had only understood and taken on one part of his previous boss’s management style.
I do not have the ability and confidence of Mr. Z’s previous boss, so I always had deep discussion with engineers and hoped to achieve results harnessing their different abilities. If the result unfortunately differed from our expectation, we used to discuss the reason why. The only way I know is the method of ‘assumption and verification’. If an experiment gives us an unexpected result, I would rather believe that it might lead to something new, which might show what a bad engineer I am!
Mr. Z’s method was readily accepted by people who needed to be told what to do, but it was much harder for people who were capable of thinking for themselves. Timid engineers, especially (I’ve often wondered why the R&D division tends to have more such people more than other divisions) could not bear his harsh reprimands.
Having this in mind when Mr. B consulted me about making Mr. Z his supervisor, I advised him to think very carefully about his decision. Subsequently, Mr. X, who had developed the new process as a leader, then had to endure the unreasonable criticism of a recently arrived inexpert manager, so I could well imagine how such a situation might have induced the onset of his illness.
Of course, in a business situation it is usual to reject people whose ability to perform duties, for whatever reason, is in question. Accordingly, Mr. B had decided to try to get rid of Mr. X, and it was also easy for me to see the logic of not accepting him. On reflection, however, I made the conclusion that he might get back on track if Mr. Z weren’t around, which would be good for both Mr. X and the company, so I accepted him. (During my time at many organizations over the years, I accepted people with mental health problems (especially psychoses) to work under me many times, which is no doubt down to my own experiences in childhood.)
Now it was after midnight. The sound of loud voices and heavy steps outside in the corridor intruded into my room, making me feel even more depressed. Having turned the volume down, I had forgotten the existence of the TV, on which the football game had already finished and another drama with cruel scenes of brutality was on. I couldn’t help thinking that programs like that were at least one reason for the violence that besets America and other countries around the world, and my depression deepened further.
I still couldn’t understand why, just as things had seemed to be going better for him, he had decided that taking his own life was the only way out, and I continued sitting in front of the screen waiting for more mail. But no more mail arrived. Perhaps people were hesitant to send in-house information to somebody who had already left the company, and maybe other people just didn’t want to get further involved in such a tragic affair. I was so desperate to know more that I stayed up all night just staring at the computer screen. But still no mail arrived. In the morning I took a shower and absent-mindedly ate the usual breakfast of muffin, yogurt, banana and coffee in the hot and humid dining room. I returned to my room and just when I opened the door to go out again, I heard the sound of email arriving on my computer.
The fourth mail, ‘I heard that Mr. Z joined your old team one and half months ago.’ From Mr. E.
Mr. E was a member of my old team, but being in a different section now, he could not get detailed information. I still needed to know more so continued waiting, hoping somebody else would contact me. It was time to go to work but I felt I couldn’t even drive in that condition, let alone work, so I telephoned one of my colleagues to say I wouldn’t be in that day.
The fifth mail, ‘Mr. Z joined my team one and half months ago. I’m sorry, I can imagine how much all this must have upset you, but it is not clear if his suicide is related to this or not.’ From Mr. F.
Mr. F was one of my most trusted colleagues, so he had known how deeply concerned I was about Mr. X after I left. He wrote carefully choosing his words, so as not to make me jump to conclusions.
There might have been another reason for Mr. X’s tragic decision, so at that time it could not be assumed that Mr. Z joining the team directly resulted in Mr. X’s suicide. However, it could be easily imagined that Mr. X, having experienced harassment before, must have felt very uncomfortable about Mr. Z’s mere presence, even if they didn’t have the direct relationship they’d had in the previous job.
I had already decided to leave the company before Mr. X joined my team, so I was not sure how much I’d be able to help him to recover from his illness and get him back to working normally again in the short time we had. The most important thing was to keep him as far away as possible from the cause of the original harassment. I was confident I could do that, and I had some other ideas about how I might help him, so I decided to accept him. When I left the company, I wrote the following, highlighted as the most important item in my job report to my boss, Mr. G:
It looks certain that Mr. Z will request to join my team after I leave, but I strongly recommend that you refuse to allow it. Mr. Z’s harassment was the cause of Mr. X’s breakdown, so there’s a good chance that Mr. X will relapse if Mr. Z joins the division. In the worst-case scenario, it is not impossible that he will commit suicide. I urge you to think about this matter carefully before you make decision.
My report was based on the information I got that his old boss, Mr. B, had wanted to get rid of Mr. Z, because their working partnership had broken down soon after he joined Mr. B’s team.
I am afraid this story might lead you to think that Mr. Z was an awful person, but he was quite ordinary. I think people have many different aspects to their character, the balance of these qualities making somebody suitable for a particular kind of job. He possessed sides to his character which were certainly superior to mine: he was always able to win over very different kinds of people, had a very clear way of thinking about things and was totally confident, which made him unwavering in the face of opposition to his ideas. These are definitely qualities I do not have. However, he didn’t seem so good at tasks requiring creativity or flexibility, making him unsuitable, I felt, for the development or sales divisions. Therefore, I wanted to assign him to the information investigation team, for which I thought his character was well-matched. However, Mr. B didn’t take my advice, and this resulted in Mr. Z becoming unhappy in a position he wasn’t suited to.
The sun was heating up the town from early morning as usual. The cooler was working noisily, sending out only a slightly cooled stream of air. It was more than 40 degrees Celsius in Arizona county even before the summer. The hotel’s outside wall was roasting, causing the inner walls to emit heat like electric heaters.
The sixth mail, ‘Of course, I am not sure whether Mr. Z joining our workplace caused Mr. X’s suicide, but I heard a rumor that Mr. Z requested Mr. G for a transfer to our team immediately after you left.’ From Mr. A.
The information in his mail made my blood boil and caused me to shout out, “You idiot, Mr. G! You took no notice whatsoever of my report and effectively passed a death sentence on Mr. X. The responsibility for his suicide lies squarely on your shoulders!”
Being a timid person. I calmed down almost instantly and started to blame myself: ‘I shouldn’t have allowed him to join my team in the first place – I should have withdrawn my resignation and waited until I had seen Mr. X was safely settled in – I didn’t explain the situation to Mr. G sufficiently.’ These thoughts made me feel awful but I realized in the end that whatever I’d done, the outcome would have been the same. Mr. G only ever read reports superficially, and even If I’d stressed that it was actually a matter of life or death, it wouldn’t have made a difference. I remembered that whenever I made detailed reports for him, he invariably asked me to send a summary in an email, and he made his decisions based on the abbreviated reports. Recalling this made me angry again and I couldn’t stop myself sending an email to him about the matter.
I sent the following mail: ‘I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear about Mr.X’s suicide – you will remember that I expressed how worried I was about him in my report. I feel so angry that you obviously didn’t attach much weight to my concerns. You will forever have his death on your conscience – I hope you can live with it.”
(I’m embarrassed now to admit to using such aggressively accusatory language; it is the one and only time in
my whole life that I have done so.)
As soon as I pushed the return key, I found myself having second thoughts: ‘I should look at my own faults and reflect on my own decisions and actions before blaming others. Whenever I feel compassion for somebody in unfortunate circumstances, I go through terrible frustration, because I can never communicate my feelings or take any action that might help. I am truly a weak person.”
I honestly thought it would be better for me to walk into the Arizona desert, get bitten by a rattlesnake and die. However, all I did was to wipe away my tears with a hotel towel.
- Violent Teacher
In the front of the blackboard, the teacher was striking a student repeatedly on the face and head. The boy watched terrified, feeling each blow himself as the sound reverberated in the room. It sent a shiver down his spine and his mind froze. It was a home economics class in his first year of junior high school. Most children started working just after graduation from junior high school in the 1950’s, so they needed to learn the practicalities of everyday life. The boy’s school was in the country side, where students were taught mainly how to live as a farmer through lectures and practical instruction in farming, carpentry, cookery, sewing etc. Farming and carpentry were taught by male teachers, and cooking and sewing by female teachers.
Today’s lesson was about the cultivation of vegetables and was being taken by a male teacher who had a reputation for being rough. Knowing there was no way he would be able to become a farmer, the boy lost interest in the class soon after it started. All of a sudden, the teacher’s loud voice filled the room and jarred the boy out of his daydreaming. The teacher was pointing at one of the students and shouted,
“Hey, you. Come here.”
The student being singled out was an average boy who was better at sports than academic subjects. He was always well-behaved, so the boy could not imagine why the teacher was angry with him. He rose from the chair, went forward and stood in front of the teacher. The teacher fixed him with a fierce glare and then suddenly shouted,
“You are an insolent boy.”
His face turned red and his anger burst; he slapped the student hard on the side of his head. All of the students in the class were terrified and the room became as silent the grave. He hit him again, his anger appearing to increase the more he beat the student, and his now beetroot-red face made him look like an ogre. The violent beating seemed to go on for ever.
More than 10 years before, just after the second world war, a Western-style liberal democracy was introduced to Japan under the auspices of the GHQ (General Headquarters), but feudal social relationships based on Confucianism still largely remained. Teachers had absolute power in the class room and students had no rights, so the student put up with his treatment uncomplainingly. Almost all the other students couldn’t force themselves to look, and some girls even covered their ears with their hands. The boy’s mind was conflicted: he was overwhelmed by fear at first but then started to think how he might help the pitiable victim. However, nothing occurred to him. With each new blow, he tried to stand up and instinctively made to confront the teacher but stopped himself by grasping the edge of desk with his hands. Looking back on it now half a century later, it seems probable that trying to stand up to the injustice is something he had learnt from his parents. On top of that, the short temper he’d inherited from his father might also have had something to do with it.
-Whenever his father reminisced with the boy about his childhood, it was apparent that even as a child he quickly used to get angry and violent about the slightest thing. For example, when a guy from a neighboring village accidentally bumped into him at a festival dance, he went round to the guy’s house with a Japanese sword. (He did it many times and was stopped by his elder brother each time.) And the boy’s mother recalled to him many times that when his father worked for the police, he often used to have a party at their house. Towards the end, quarrels about which branch of the military was better would always break out between those of them who’d been in the army and those who’d been in the navy. The rest of the family had to run out of the house barefoot in order to escape from the drunken brawling. –
It has to be admitted that a basic fear of violence was one reason that held him back. Even if he had tried to stop the teacher, he would have been too weak to do it, and it would only result in him getting a beating too. However, there was a more powerful reason for his inaction: it was his poverty. He thought that if he did anything against the teacher, the teacher would surely tell his mother, who worked at the same school, and the whole school would soon know about it. If the worst came to the worst, his mother might have to resign, and that would result in financial hardship for the family, which depended solely on her income. You might find it difficult to believe that a twelve-year-old boy is capable of such deep understanding, but children are often well aware of the constraints that poverty places on a family.
His mind was in turmoil as he tried to control his temper and think of a way out of the situation, but he could only wish that the class would end without the teacher resorting to using the iron rod that was always next to the black board. His whole body became stiff. Finally, the bell rang and the teacher left the class room.
The student who’d received the beating was immediately surrounded by his friends. The boy didn’t know him so well, so he just remained at his desk, sitting with his head in his hands. He hated himself for being so spineless.
On the following day, the student came to school with his face swollen and red. The boy admired his courage, while feeling ashamed of his own timidity.
(At that time, it was only fifteen years after the war, so society might still have been a little raw and somewhat inured to violence. Many teachers had fought in the war but not all of them were violent, although they tended to be strict. Nevertheless, in his whole life the boy only came across one like the teacher who beat the student that day. Related information is included in the home page version. According to the statistics, there is still a lot of school violence even now, but probably extreme cases like the one described above no longer happen.)
- School Bully
It was the start of the boy’s junior high school life, and he was feeling like he had just been released from a concentration camp, because his last year of elementary school had been hell. At the beginning of the first term of that last year, the teacher divided her class into several groups. The selection of the members for each group depended completely on her liking for particular students, and this was based on their ability. For example, the top group was composed of all the exceptional children, and another consisted of less-gifted but hard-working children. There were several other groups, including one in which she placed a special group of particularly delinquent students, and assigned the boy as its leader. As a result, he spent a whole year always being at their beck and call. The teacher adopted a military-like rule of collective responsibility, so he always got the dressing-downs when anybody in the group misbehaved. The hardest task was the daily cleaning of the classroom, which was done by each group in turn. The other boys in his group always got out of it, leaving the boy to do it all almost by himself. Consequently, while some girls got sentimental and shed tears at the graduation ceremony, he just felt relieved that the year was over.
On a fine, windy day in the spring, he ate in the classroom at lunchtime and then walked alone to a flower bed in the school garden. He saw a group of three chatting girls coming towards him. When they approached each other, the girls’ chatting suddenly ceased. Turning his eyes towards them, he noticed the girl in the centre of the group blushing fiercely and looking at him. He immediately recognized who she was. Instantaneously, the last two years of his life in the village flashed through his mind, which deeply depressed him. He passed them with his head down.
Four years before, he was in the PE class of the elementary school in the village, practicing an American style folk dance. (That might have been something that was introduced by G.H.Q. as well.) In this dance, boys and girls in pairs holding each other’s hand rotate several times in step then change partner in sequence.
After the boy had changed partner several times, he was paired with a girl that he had recently noticed being bullied by her classmates. He did not know the reason why she was being picked on. He started to feel sorry for her, as he had also been picked on and humiliated by other children. He wanted to express his sympathy and solidarity with her by holding her hand, something other children never did. They approached each other gradually and he began to have second thoughts: “Is this really a good idea? Maybe if other people notice us holding hands it will only make the bullying worse for both of us.”
He also worried that she might take his act of sympathy as uncalled-for meddling.
‘Are you just going to ignore her like everybody else? – you’re pathetic!’ he said to himself but still couldn’t muster the courage to offer his hand to her.
‘Coward!’ he said to himself, biting his lip in shame. He glanced furtively at her face while they were dancing. She had no particular expression, just seeming to accept the situation, but the boy felt she must be thinking, ‘You’re just the same as the others’, and he hated himself even more.
And now, here she was again: the girl who he’d danced with. After being bullied in the village primary school for four years, he escaped when he moved to the town. Fortunately, he was not bullied in the new school, but he could not overcome the damage to his personality that the painful experience had caused. He did not have any knowledge about how things went for her after he left the village. Anyway, she had apparently just started a new school life and made some close friends, and then she came across him. The moment he saw her reddened face he thought, ‘It’s still painful for me to recall my experience from that time, but she had to put up with it two years longer than me, so it must be worse for her – and now here I am appearing in front of her and spoiling her happiness by reminding her of it. I am so sorry.’
He was afraid to say anything that might reveal her miserable past to her friends, so he passed them nervously looking down and no words were exchanged between the two former classmates. Fortunately, their paths didn’t cross during his two years at the school (he went to another school from his third year) but maybe that was because when there had been a chance of them coming across each other, she’d made a conscious effort to avoid him.
More than the hurt he felt from the experience of being bullied himself, he was ashamed of not being able to offer his help to someone in similar circumstances.