I know a boy. He wears t-shirts with holes and pants with fraying hems. He listens to indie folk and psychosocial. He speaks with his hands and his eyes (if you can ever make them out from beneath his bangs). I’ve known this boy a long time. I’ve loved this boy a long time.
In the fourth grade he was my hero. I thought he was the ultimate authority on anything and everything. After all, he read the metro. I looked up to him because he argued with teachers. And not only that, but he always won. I was a meek child, never one to resist power. I tried too hard to have everyone like me, and as a result no one did. I could only ever dream of having the same influence as this boy.
Then was the sixth grade. I still worshipped him. I wanted to be him. I wanted to have him, and not in a romantic way – I just wanted him to know me and to know him in return. But, to my great despair, we weren’t friends. We ran in the same circle of friends and we had all the same classes, we just didn’t seem to have anything in common. Instead I watched from a distance, I laughed too loudly at all his jokes and smiled too widely in greeting.
The eighth grade was the year that changed everything, as it always seems to be. I was finally worthy of his friendship. I had grown an opinion of my own and a personality that didn’t bend to the whims of others. I guess he noticed. He sat behind me in French class and we laughed too loudly together and smiled too widely at each other. To me he was the same boy from elementary school, too well read for his own good and always eager to provoke a debate. The only difference I could see was that his voice now rumbled when he talked.
We became closer and closer. I counted him amongst those who knew me the most intimately and in turn I began to learn him. We shared our thoughts on everything and our thoughts on nothing. I wrote about him in my journal. My heart started to flutter when I first saw him in the mornings. My eyes sought him out around every corner. I was as much in love with him as my twelve-year-old self could be.
And then he fell from grace. Or I guess I shouldn’t put it like that; to this day we still talk about stubbed toes and music and sadness. Maybe it’s better to say that I reached a deeper understanding of him. I realized that he was real. He wasn’t a character that I had made up in my mind, and he wasn’t my perception of him. He had feelings and pain and secrets. And I recognized in him a loneliness that was all too familiar.