“Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.” – Arthur Miller
In recent weeks, I found out that a person whom we should have been able to trust, a person that certainly should know the difference between truth and lies and all the gray area in between, lied to me and to Peyton’s father.
After Peyton died, we each had conversations with an administrator at his school. In both sets of dialogue, we were told that they were never able to identify the boy who had bullied Peyton the day before he took his life. We’ve sort of settled in to the idea that there are some things we will never have answers to. We will never know what Peyton was thinking. We will never know how long he had been considering suicide. And we will never know the name of the boy who was involved in the last bullying altercation. But now, 2 years and 5 months later, we’ve discovered that what we were told isn’t true.
You see, the administrator actually did know who the boy was and talked to him. He admitted this to the police detective who investigated Peyton’s death and they have it recorded. It’s in the public record of the investigation. But, for some reason, he chose to lie to us and told us that the boy was never identified. You may be wondering why it’s such a big deal. To be honest, I’m not sure I can explain it. It’s just that this betrayal adds insult to injury.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I had and have no intention of calling the boy out or even talking to him. But, in a way I wish I could. I want to tell him that he was not the cause of Peyton’s death. I want to let him know that, while I wish the incident had never occurred or that he’d been a little bit kinder, that the guilt is not his to carry. To know that this boy has dealt with that kind of guilt for all this time makes me sad. After all, that’s a pretty immense burden for a 13 year old kid to carry around. I wish I was able to ease some of that for him.
I’m not even sure I want to confront the administrator either. I’m pretty sure that he told the lie in order to protect the boy and maybe even us. He’s since retired and is off living his life, unencumbered by the daily reminders of Peyton’s death. It would be easy to blame him and to feel the need to scream at him or punch him in the face, but that won’t take away from the fact that Peyton is gone. It would be nice to have someone else to lay the blame on and it might make me feel better for a little while, but in the long run, it would only make me feel worse. It would only add another albatross that I have to carry around my guilt ridden neck.
But I keep coming back to this feeling of having been betrayed. Betrayal is such a loaded word. It stings of lies and deceit. It carries with it the resentment of lost ideals and the anger of what should have been. It’s fair to say that I simply can’t stand being lied to. Nothing good ever comes from telling a lie, especially one of that importance. I can, eventually, forgive this person as I come to find peace in what I assume are the reasons for what he did. After all, knowing the truth wouldn’t have changed anything. But it certainly makes me question his values. No matter what happens in the future, I will always remember this particular administrator as a liar. However, what I’ve come to realize in the last 29 months is that Peyton alone made the decision to end his life. Yes, he battled the demons of bullying and depression and anxiety, but in the end, the choice was his. His father couldn’t save him. This boy and the administrator couldn’t save him. I couldn’t save him. That’s enough guilt to last me a life time.