I was 14 years old when my family moved to Kalgoorlie.
I was going to be entering year 10 at a new school. Unlike most teenagers, I was more than happy to be leaving the few friends I had made in Perth.
"This is my chance to start fresh and make some friends," I smiled at Mum. She was thankful that I was getting away from the bullying I had endured over the years, since I'd recently been in hospital following an attack at school.
I entered the school grounds with my head held high and made my way to my first class. I knew no one – and no one knew me. What a great feeling.
Once in class, I was allocated a table shared with a boy I didn't know.
I smiled and said "Hello" as I unpacked my school bag and he nodded in reply.
As the year went on, we talked and joked around a lot.
We only had one class together, but we always got along well and had a good laugh, even though he was often away from class, though I never knew why. I nicknamed him Bastian, because he looked like the kid in the movie The NeverEnding Story.
Years later, once school was well behind us, I was set to go travelling interstate for a few years and a few friends got together and organized a going away party.
It was quite a turn out. I spotted my old friend sitting at a table, drinking quietly on his own. I sat beside him and smiled: "Heya Bastian, it's been a while."
He put his head down and groaned. "Please don't call me that, no one has called me that since high school. You know that my name is Michael."
I looked at him for a moment, lost for words.
"You know, I have no idea why I even came here." He moved to leave and I put my hand on his arm and asked him what was bothering him.
"You bullied me all through the last two years of high school, why on earth would you want to be my friend now?"
I was shocked. "I didn't bully you, I thought we got along really well."
"We never got along, you were always laughing at me and making jokes at my expense. Then you started that horrible nickname that I didn't get rid of until I left town. I even used to fake being sick, so I wouldn't have to go to that one class we had together."
I'd never felt so terrible. All those years I had been bullied and when I finally got away from it all, I had become the bully and had made someone else's life a misery.
We had a good talk and exchanged numbers, though we have never seen each other again. I explained to him that I never disliked him and always thought of him as a friend, but I don't know if that made any difference.