By Perry Stearnes
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At a rather large gathering, a teenage boy named Arthur is approached by a young man named Kyle. “Well Kyle, I didn’t expect to see you here. I was wondering if you were going to come over here to see me. You look like someone just stole your girlfriend. Cheer up! I’m sure you’ll feel better in the morning.
I still remember when we first met in the third grade. Do you remember? Several of us were waiting in line to get on the slide. You walked up and cut in front of me. I didn’t mind though because I always thought you were pretty cool. I knew you had an image to keep in front of all the other kids. Things like that are important. I mean, after all, friends overlook things like that. We were friends right?
Then, in the fifth grade, you cheated off my test paper during science class. I felt pretty special knowing that you had the confidence in me to have the right answers. I knew you could have done it on your own, but you had baseball practice the night before so you couldn’t study. You never thanked me, but that was ok because I knew you didn’t want people to know that I helped you. That wouldn’t be cool.
Later that day, I thought we might go to the Y together, but you were busy with the other guys. I really needed to do my homework anyway, so it worked out for the best.
When we were in Junior High School you were starting to get a lot of attention from the girls. Man! You sure were popular! I was walking behind you down the hall one day when Lauren came up and put her arm around you. Was she pretty or what? When you asked me to go away, I knew it was because someone like you needed their space in those types of situations. I understood. I didn’t want to cramp your style in front of Lauren.
When I asked you to sign my yearbook, you said you didn’t have time. That was cool. It was pretty dumb of me to waste time on something like that anyway. You had more important things to do.
I used to watch the football team practice after school. You were probably the best quarterback they ever had. I was amazed at how far you could throw the ball. One day I was standing too close to the practice field when one of your passes hit me in the face. It broke my glasses and cut me under my eye. Later, when I was cleaning off the blood in front of the mirror, I understood why you and the other guys laughed at me. The cut on my face did look pretty funny. It was shaped a lot like a frown under my eye. I probably would have laughed too if I had seen it on someone else. I told my mom and dad that you and I were throwing the ball to each other and I stepped in a hole and fell on my face. They had to borrow the money to replace the glasses, but that was ok because I wanted some new ones.
Then came high school; we had biology class together. I was sitting next to Lauren and you were in the back. You didn’t like being back there, so you took my seat. I really didn’t mind giving it up to you. It would have been hard for you to impress her from way back there. I was used to sitting in the back anyway. Besides, it was easier to do my classwork back there because there were fewer distractions.
Even though you were only a freshman, you still were one of the most popular guys in school. You went to all the parties. I wished I had as many friends as you. It seemed like everyone knew you. You even made the varsity football team. I was on the yearbook staff and got to cover all the games. I knew you didn’t like it when I took that picture of you crying after the team lost to our cross-town rivals. If I had been thinking, I would have realized that it wouldn’t be cool if everyone had seen that picture. I guess that’s why you broke my camera. It was an old one anyway. My parents asked me how it got broken and I told them that I tripped over a helmet on the sidelines. They weren’t very happy about it, but I got a job at the Quick Freeze to earn enough money to replace it.
When you were a senior, you had the coolest car. Everyone wanted to ride in it. I knew you would have let me if I had asked, but I didn’t want to bother you with such a stupid request. You and Lauren went everywhere in that car, and made the perfect couple. I heard you used to win races on Old Ridge Road all the time and nobody could beat you. You were just too good. I really felt bad when I accidentally got blood on the car. Some of your friends were playing around and tripped me. When my face hit the bumper, I broke my nose. I didn’t blame you for yelling at me; I shouldn’t have been so close to the car. My nose never did heal right, but that’s not your fault. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in America with a crooked nose. The headaches didn’t even bother me as long as I took the medicine the doctors prescribed for me.
The night we graduated, a lot of kids went to the cliffs to party. I understood when you told me that you didn’t have room for me to go with you. You had Lauren and Judy with you and I’m sure you must have been picking up someone else or you would have let me ride in the fourth seat. I was kind of tired anyway and I had to go to work the next morning. I heard about it the from some guys in my neighborhood. They said everyone was there. I guess I could have borrowed my parent’s car and gone, but I didn’t really want to go by myself.
This summer I saved up and bought a car. I saw you around town a few times, but I guess you didn’t see me wave at you. You looked like you were always preoccupied.
I was glad to hear that you and Lauren got engaged. You two dated a long time and I think you will be happy together. She’s lucky to be with someone as popular as you.
She told me that there was going to be a big bash at the dam by the pier. I have to admit, I was a little surprised when you asked me to go to the party with you and some of your friends. I didn’t think you would think about me when it came to parties. It sure was cold that night. That was a pretty funny prank you and the guys pulled on me. I guess I looked kind of foolish when y’all held me down and took all my clothes off me. But, when you threw me in the river, all I remembered thinking was how cold it was.
Well, it looks like everyone is leaving now. I guess you will be too. You take care of yourself and my sister. I’m sure you’ll make her a good husband. Oh, and don’t worry about the river thing. There’s no way you could have known that I couldn’t swim.”
As Kyle walked away, a man closed Arthur’s casket.
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