I believe I heard it in some movie in my teens. Probably a Hollywood flick about a quirky female lead and a super hot guy who is not in the least weirded out by her eccentricities. Or vice versa. All I do remember is one of them asking the other, “What’s the worst thing you have ever done?” What a way to begin a conversation, I thought to myself wryly. But after a while, the idea started appealing to me.
People can tell you their goals, ambitions, mistakes, even make a list of their good and bad qualities but this is a question that may stump them or, worse, scare them. We are asking them for a glimpse of what they consider their inner demon. I say consider because it is not necessarily the worst of their qualities, but a singular incident that holds the darkest place in their hearts. The answers can be anything from surprising to deeply disconcerting. A prank that went wrong. Cruelty to a creature. Refusal to help. A wayward comment. Abuse. Something or the other that each one of us wishes we could undo. We all have them. And since mine does not qualify as a federal crime, I thought I’ll share it with you.
I was in the 9th grade at the time. My closest friend and perpetual companion happened to be the class monitor. We were good at a lot of things but punctuality was not one of them. In fact, we could be counted on to be late for any occasion. During the lunch hour it’d take us ages to finish eating, as we plodded our way through discussions about the books recently read, new TV shows and obviously our solutions for all the current affairs plaguing the world. This continued long after everyone left, and we inevitably showed up late for the next lecture.
Our English teacher had previously come up with some exercise for us all to do. A play probably. It so happened that he asked the class to assemble in the school hall for the same after lunch and instructed my friend, the monitor, to make sure everyone got there on time. He was very particular. The scatter brains we were (and still are), we forgot about it entirely. As usual, we had our lunch amid a million stupendous thoughts and slowly made our way back to the class room. Which was empty. Realization dawned. Oh the horror! We ran as fast as we could and were shortly in the presence of 48 bored students hopeful of some action and a very VERY angry teacher.
Now, up until then, I was always the good student. The one that got great grades, followed every stupid rule, never lagged in attendance or assignments and was adequately hated by everyone else. I did not like the idea of being in trouble. As we approached the class it occurred to me that it was actually my friend who was responsible for the situation, being monitor and all. She was the one answerable. So as she moved towards the teacher mumbling an excuse, I took my seat among the others. I can still see her face as she turned back to look at me – a puzzled look when she could not locate me, and then back at the teacher, eyes wide and scared as he unleashed all wrath upon her. I sat and watched him admonish her severely in front of the whole class, trying to silence the voice inside me reproaching what I’d just done. I could not.
Trust and loyalty are words that are thrown around quite casually in relationships, but they are not the easiest to attain. I always imagined myself to be a great friend, and had been sure I’d stand up for her no matter what happened, but when the circumstance presented itself, I chickened out. It was the easiest thing in the world. I failed to realize then that loyalty is not standing up for someone when you’re safe and secure; trust is not keeping a promise when you have nothing to lose. It is holding your own while helping someone up, but willing to go down with them if need be. To not let go when you feel the ground tremble.
Maybe it is the darkest part of my heart because I proved to be an unworthy ally. Maybe because that was the first time I realized what a coward I can be. Maybe because of how she never questioned me for what I did. Whatever the reason is, it burned my soul and left a scar to remind me never to do that again.
Oh my, I’ve been rambling. Enough about me. So tell me, what is the worst thing you have ever done?