Robert passed away suddenly in December 2012.
Wayne Moriarty wrote a great story in The Province about Robert, check it out: https://theprovince.com/opinion/wayne-moriarty-saying-sorry-to-a-man-i-never-knew
Wayne Moriarty: Saying sorry to a man I never knew
Published in The Province newspaper on December 13, 2012
As someone in long-term recovery, I am compelled to reflect often on “crap I’ve done to others.”
This day, “crap I’ve done” brings me to Robert Rutley.
I went to Lord Byng Secondary School with Rob, Class of ’74. Rob was something of an outsider. Easy prey for the pack. He presented as a suitable victim, though God knows he likely never saw himself that way.
Rob had his friends, of course. Derek Milton, his best friend. Doug House, an admitted “nerd.” There were others.
As for myself, well, I chummed around with a modestly popular collection of sometime-do-wells. Derek told me the other day he thought I was cool in high school. I wasn’t cool at all. I only wanted to survive whatever the day was going to throw at me.
Like, the 2.2.
In Grade 12, at Byng, calculus was tough. The 2.2 was tougher.
The 2.2 was a gruelling run of 2.2 miles from Crown to Blanca and back along the 16th Avenue boulevard. I don’t know what high school is like today, but my guess is students train harder than we did in my day. They certainly could not train any less.
Often the 2.2 would unfold during the first class of the day, which happened to be gym. Along the run, more than a few of us would be coughing up toxins from the night before: booze, tobacco, pot.
World records were never threatened. In fact, in retrospect, it seems only the impenetrable resilience of youth kept most of us from dying somewhere between Trimble and Sasamat.
None of this was a concern for Rob Rutley.
Rob didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs, and he could run like Sebastian Coe. On a good day, he would be 500 yards ahead of the pack by the time the pack got out of the schoolyard. Rob could easily run the 2.2 in between 11 and 12 minutes, while the rest of us would require cheating to make it in 20.
Sadly, Rob never ran the distance in 12 minutes. At least not during gym class. We wouldn’t let him.
Having been the first to make the turn at Blanca, Rob would have to run the gauntlet through a pack of assholes, myself included, who would grab him, tackle him, punch him, pick him up and carry him back to Blanca. Sometimes we would loosely tie the sleeves of his shirt to a post in order to attempt the seemingly impossible: make him come in last.
He would get angry. He would swear. He would fight.
I felt terrible. Can’t say I enjoyed one minute of it. I bullied Rob because the pack was bullying Rob. I was a coward. If there are 10 things I’ve done in my life I profoundly regret, treating Rob as I did in gym class is one of them.
I asked Derek Milton why he thought Rob was bullied. “I have no idea why people treated Rob that way. He was a super athlete, good looking and the funniest guy I knew.”
Doug House, who has no reservations describing his caste in Byng as “nerd,” grew close to Rob because Rob had the strength of character to see something in Doug others did not.
I left my conversation with Derek and Doug no closer to answering the question, “why was Rob bullied?”
It then became clear I wasn’t asking the right question. Certainly I was not asking the more important question. “Why was he bullied?” suggests Rob did something wrong. Clearly he did not. The real question remains, “why did we bully him?”
Envy, undoubtedly played its part. I know for me it was fear. Fear of not getting involved and, as a consequence, becoming the next victim.
For 30 years I promised myself that I would apologize to Rob when the chance presented itself.
Rob died last month of an aneurysm. For someone I barely knew, his passing has had a significant effect on me.
“I wish you got to know Rob,” said Derek.
God, brother, so do I.
Derek, Doug and I spoke for an hour on the steps of Byng last Friday. We arrived in the cold with a thick stew of rain and cloud overhead. Five minutes in, the sky cleared and the sun shone down upon us.
At long last, Rob is getting some well-deserved respect. My higher power is good with the man who could run and run and run.
On Sunday at noon, I will be on the front steps of Byng. I will walk the 2.2 in honour of this fellow I never knew. I welcome any and all company.
Wayne Moriarty was editor-in-chief of The Province.
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