I recognised him at once. It was Julian Booysen. When I had looked at the names of the people I was interviewing I had thought it might be a coincidence. There might have been more than one Julian Booysen. It was common surname. But when he walked in the door a wave of something I hadn’t felt since high school made my stomach turn. I felt ill, like I had been punched in the guts. But it only lasted a few seconds. I took a deep breath. I was interviewing him. I was on the right side of the desk in this office of accountants where I worked. We were interviewing interns. They would start right at the bottom, like I had, and the diligent ones would work themselves up to higher positions, like I had. As he entered the room I saw a flicker of recognition cross his face; a mixture of emotions that I found hard to read. Was it anger? Fear? Disbelief? But he didn’t say anything and neither did I. And by the time he sat down it was too late for either of us to say anything. That moment had passed.
He had put on some weight, but he was clean cut, and dressed well. I had also changed, filled out and grown taller. I wasn’t the skinny boy I had been at high school. Things were different now. I was the boss. But I had to be professional. He looked nervous, sitting in the leather chair, across the desk from me. He was trying to compose himself, to breathe, to stay calm. I knew what it felt like. I had been in that chair not that long ago. I had a choice as to how this could go. I was in control now. And for a few seconds I thought of revenge. It was perfect. He was helpless. I was the boss. I could make this interview unbearable for him. I could humiliate him, just as he had humiliated me, every day for three years.
Julian Booysen – the school bully and my tormentor. He was sitting there now and he was nervous. He wanted this post, I could see it on his face. He was trying not to let it show, but I could read it in his eyes. He needed this post, it was the only thing that mattered to him. But there were ten candidates. He was not alone. And I would have to make a decision. He was the last one that day.
I looked down at my sheet of questions: Tell me about yourself? What do you hope to achieve as an intern? What makes you the right person for this position? I had asked them nine times that day. But there were a whole lot of other questions that came rushing into my head. Questions that I had wanted to ask for years. That I had wanted to shout at him. That had filled me with anger. Now I had the chance. I could make him squirm as he sat there. “What made you pick on younger, smaller kids at school? Did it make you feel powerful? But you are weak. Do you know that? Bullies have fear in their hearts. “Did you enjoy it when you pushed my head into the toilet and flushed it? Tell me now, Julian Booysen. Are you the man, now?”
I had to be professional.
I looked down at my list of questions. I found myself gripping my pen tightly as I asked the first question. “Tell me a little bit about yourself, Julian…”
“Well,” he hesitated. “I went to school at Patterson in Port Elizabeth…” I waited to hear his story. How he would spin it. In those moments before he began, when he hesitated, my high school story came flooding back…