Allen Kurzweil looks back on his school days not with nostalgia, but with pain; he was bullied at boarding school, when he was quite young. For most of his life, he has wondered about this former schoolmate. Where is he now? Does he remember what he did?
When Kurzweil was 5 years old, his father died. He took his father's wristwatch with him years later, when he was sent off to a boarding school in Switzerland at the age of 10. As young boys and men will do, Kurzweil and his three new roommates set to sizing each other up. One of them, a 12-year-old named Cesar Augusto Viana, made sure that Kurzweil was at the bottom of the pecking order.
Kurzweil was forced to eat hot pepper sauce until he cried. His most important possession — his father's wristwatch — was thrown from their window by roommate Paul, though when asked if he had a hand in it, Cesar smiled. Cesar re-enacted part of "Jesus Christ, Superstar" in their dorm room — the whipping scene — and whipped Kurzweil on the back repeatedly as part of the "performance."
Then, suddenly and without explanation, Cesar vanished from the school. No explanations were offered. Kurzweil managed to keep his curiosity on the back burner for years, but over time he began thinking of the bully more and more.
Even with the Internet, though, Cesar proved to be a difficult man to find. The search took Kurzweil further than he'd imagined he would go — not only across the world, but deep into his own fears and the reasons why it had become so important to find him.
In "Whipping Boy," the central question isn't whether or not Kurzweil tracks down Cesar — it is who he will find once he does catch up to him. Is he the Cesar he knew then, or an entirely different man?
The answers he finds are revelatory, and like the rest of this book, they shed light on how we can be lost and found again in the eyes of those around us.
Matthew Tiffany is a writer and psychotherapist in Maine. http://condalmo.com