Believe me, I know why Catholics go to confession

There’s a UK web site called Friends Reunited. You can sign up and list the schools you went to, and other people from school can find you, see the information you’ve entered about where you are now and what you’re doing, and (if they pay a fiver) send you e-mail. It’s been incredibly popular, a real national phenomenon.

Today I gave in and registered. Not because there are any old friends I desperately want to be reunited with, but because of an event long ago.

I’d spent the afternoon with a kid from school. We were friends, I suppose, though not really close. Perhaps we could have been. Except that while his mother was driving me home, with him in the car, I tried desperately to make polite conversation. Not thinking carefully enough, I said something which I realized later must have hurt them both incredibly. I can only assume they thought it was deliberate taunting. I never talked to the kid again; I couldn’t face him. He didn’t talk to me either.

It’s now a quarter century later. That careless comment is one of the two, maybe three things that I’d give anything to be able to go back in time and change. Every year I think about it. Every year I search the web for his name, hoping that I’ll find an e-mail address. If I find one, I’ll write and explain the whole thing, explain that it was all the most ghastly accident. But as far as I know, he’s not on the net. No web page, not listed in any e-mail directory. Sometimes I have the awful thought that perhaps he’s dead.

I’ve forgotten so many things over the years, but somehow every cruel thing I’ve done is burnt into my memory. Every moral failing, every failure to act, every thoughtless mistake, every hideous embarrassment. I wish it were like an SF movie, and I could pay someone to erase those pieces of my past that haunt me.

Does everyone have a sadistic conscience that never forgives? Looking at a newspaper, apparently not. How did I end up with one?