(aka, highlighter head, Apollo’s Beard, man with two or fewer brain cells…)
We have debated writing or sending you this letter for a very long time. Ten years, in fact.
Each time we thought we should send you this letter, we were put off by the thought that your obnoxious self would read it. But the older and more awesome our friendship grew, the more we realized we couldn’t let your stupidity get in the way of our gratitude.
You see, we need to thank you for being the catalyst of our friendship. It was you, ten years ago, who brought us together.
It was the second or third day of our freshman year of high school. Picture day, as usual. There was no Physical Education because the gym had been taken over by photographers and their equipment. Thick cables snaked across the floor; white umbrellas cast flashes everywhere but our good sides (assuming we had good sides). We were warned away from all this as soon as our photos were taken, told to amuse ourselves on the far side of the gym.
We don’t know whether it was because of the lights or the sheer concentration of juvenile idiocy, but the gym was hot. Very hot. And even if it wasn’t, we wanted nothing to do with the gossiping crowd. One of us sat closer to the door to get away from the crowd, watching as the rest of the class made gigantic fools of themselves. We noticed you — highlighter head — talking at the top of your lungs about who-knows-what — and even before we met, we wanted to strangle your slender neck.
You called out to D, still debating where she should go to minimize the pain of the whole experience.
Honestly, she can’t even remember what you said to her. But it was dismally stupid and annoying. Right up in her face, you staring at her stupidly. It might have been a request to borrow money.
“No thanks, Scott,” she said, or something to that effect. She hastily exited, moving toward the open door onto the outside. Bright sunlight streamed in, and the promise of a breeze. Someone else had had the wisdom to sit here. D kept a polite distance.
F noticed D sitting close by. She’d seen that face before. Was it a mutual friend who’d introduced them? But as someone who was naturally shy, she said nothing. And you were making such a splendid fool of yourself. You were too lazy to reach out to where we were, so we observed you in all your glory.
We’re sure the thought was simultaneous. How did the world let you get away with your stupidity? We watched you as you teased the little guys — boys who hadn’t yet reached their growth spurts. We watched you tease the groups of girls who somehow appreciated it. We watched with disgust and it was a silent connection, holding us to the far end of the bleachers.
We don’t remember who it was, but someone said, “What an idiot.”
And a friendship was born.
While you gallivanted like a long-limbed colt, we found common ground. You were an idiot, a nuisance, a nitwit. Your yellow hair, dyed to support your favorite team, was so damn bright it could glow in the dark. No, neither of us really knew you, but we knew enough to want nothing more to do with you. We were sick of boys like you, sick of middle school and loudmouthed boys, sick, already, of high school.
The conversation turned to other things. Books, probably. Our new classes. How much we hated picture day and PE. What time we had lunch.
The photo session ended, and we were called to line up. We drifted back, still talking, still feeling out this new connection. And then there you were again, intrusive as always. In D’s face again, blathering about something inane.
We both wanted to tell you to fuck off. And we think we did a herculean job of ignoring you, but if we knew then what we now know, if we were bold enough then as we are now, we would’ve actually told you to fuck off. But we have to be very, very glad that you were around to piss us off. If you hadn’t, who knows if we would have ever found each other?
Later we found out that a mutual friend introduced us the summer of eighth grade. But we were too caught up in our whirlwind lives, too preoccupied with plans of idyllic summers to pay attention. But Chaos threw us another chance, and this time we took it.
We found that we had so many common interests. We both loved books. We loved to write. We loved worlds far, far away from our high school, worlds we could build and hold and touch and sculpt. We had a very similar sense of humor. We filled each other’s educational gaps — F, for instance, had never heard of Monty Python! Ach! — and we enjoyed the process of learning from one another.
As we navigated the tricky friendship waters of ninth grade, we encountered more than a few barriers. Mutual friends — D’s mostly, as F had no real friends to follow her into high school — preferred one friend over the other. So many lunch periods were spent away from mutual friends, planning and plotting and scheming away on new worlds we built for ourselves.
It would have been easy, understandable, if one or the other had caved to peer pressure and given up on the friendship. Too hard to maintain, too many barriers. But we stuck with it, because we knew we had found something special.
We survived ninth grade. We survived tenth, when enough of D’s friends began to accept F that she became a fixture by eleventh grade. Come twelfth, our spheres had joined into one larger group, a hodgepodge that swore eternal loyalty to one another. We have photos from that time, a scrapbook we never finished. It was a good time, though not without its dramas.
You, Scott, remained ever on the periphery, more background noise to tune out. Every so often you would wend your way to us, usually to ask for money.
We’re not sure if we ever gave you money. Alas, if only we had been keeping a good-faith record of our time together that wasn’t lost, stolen or purposefully forgotten. (The remaining D & F Papers are hopelessly smudged now — Dammit, why did D write in pencil!?)
F did see you once before we graduated, though. You were a subdued version of yourself, standing on N St in front of the test-prep center we both attended. Your hair was a duller blond and you were pensive, staring at the road, waiting for whomever was going to get you. F tried her hardest to ignore you, of course, but you noticed her and struck up a conversation. And this calm, reasonable version of you made it even stranger. It was the one moment where the game could have been up, where she could have told you what you had actually managed to do.
You should be proud of yourself. You did create a beautiful friendship.
Maybe one day, in the distant future, we will tell you this and we’ll all have a good laugh over it. But we’re still wary of inviting the old you into our lives. We also don’t want to hurt your feelings, if they’re still as sensitive as they could be back then.
So today we’re going to send some positive thoughts into the universe. Thanks for driving us together.
D & F