"Grow up!" Alan says to me. He's been telling me to grow out of being upset about other people. He tells me that a lot. Alan Brewer was like any other kid. He played lots of sports, hung out with his friends, played video games, and was very smart. He has dark skin and curly hair. I’m his best friend, Luis Gulio. We live close to each other in a small town. I’m a lot like him because we spend so much time together. We hang out every day and do sports together. We’re inseparable. Even according to the other kids at our school. We have each other’s backs for everything. We promised to be friends forever, no matter what. Communication is key. Until one day this very school year when we were playing. It was a break, which is what our school calls lunch, and whatever else we want to do for twenty minutes. We can play on our phones, play sports on the field, talk to our friends, relax, do homework, and do whatever else we may want to do.
“Hey, you!” We looked at each other, and then at the speaker. The school bully, Gerald Whitman. He was big, tall, and looked like he could beat anybody up. A lot of kids bend down to him and got out of his way. He has detention and gets suspended a lot. Or, he’s not here. You would be surprised how much he skips school. I’m shocked he passes. He’s really late for school usually. I’m pretty sure he’s been held back a few times because he looks more like fifteen than twelve. The teachers don’t tell you who has or who hasn’t been held back, but everyone is pretty sure he is. The teachers won’t tell us, and no one is friends with him. I felt sorry for him. Until he started bullying people and I noticed. Then I really no longer wanted to be friends with him. I like making friends, but not with bullies like Gerald.
We roll our eyes and go back to our game. He steals the ball from Alan. “I was talking to you! Don’t roll your eyes at me!” We look at each other again. The secret look that only he and I share with each other. I know this is code for walk away. So I walk and he does too. But Gerald Whitman is back on our cases. “I heard you talking about my girl, Lisa.” We look at each other again. Lisa is not his. In fact, we asked her. She was last year. She’s really nice and smart. “Now I have no other choice but to beat you up.” We walk away from him, but he jerks us by our collars. This really surprises us. We usually aren’t in trouble when it comes to bullies or Gerald Whitman in particular. So being yanked by the collar is very new for us. Alan and I look at each other again. We had no clue at this point on how to deal with him now. I don’t want to, in fact, to be honest, I am scared of Gerald. He looks like he’s at least two times my size.
We turn around to look at him. “Look, we don’t want any trouble,” I say to Gerald. He looks at me like he’s used to people saying that to him. “We talked to her and said she was your girlfriend last year. She’s not yours. And for your information, we were only talking about her because we said we felt sorry that she had to go to soccer practice in the rain. That was what she told us after we talked about you. But you would only know that if you were actually with her, huh?” Then we run off and head in. Here, in this hall by the main office, we’re safe. But then he follows us. He grabs us by the collar again and tells us to listen up, listen up good. This strikes fear in me, but I tried to play it cool. But Alan Brewer being tough as nails looked like this was a stroll in the park. He always seemed really tough to me in all honesty. He is very cool, and that’s probably why he was the first friend I’d ever made.
“Tomorrow, 3:00 after school by the flag pole. Meet me so I can beat you up, or else.” We nod, scared. Well, I nod scared. Alan looks like this is more boring than math class. But then once he leaves everything goes back to normal. I ask him what we’re gonna do. He shrugs. He tells me we’re not gonna go at all. I nod, smart thinking. But then I remember the “or else” part. I remind him. He looks at me like I’m stupid. I hate it when he looks at me like this. He makes a really ugly face and walks away. I’m scared, and it must show on my face because Alan gives me a weird look. Then he starts to talk to me. He wasn’t even breaking a sweat over the matter. Well, minus the sweat we worked up from playing earlier. Which wasn’t much. We did not play for very long because Gerald interrupted us. Alan looks like he’s annoyed at me. I know why, but I am afraid of Gerald. He’s huge compared to me!
“Bro, relax. It’s just Gerald. He’s dumb anyway. I mean, he’s been held back in school so many times now. You shouldn’t be worried. We just need to ghost him until he forgets. Besides, he’s so dumb he’s probably going to forget why he’s there or where he has to go or forget altogether. I’m surprised he remembered to threaten us anyway,” he says. I’m shocked. He’s never said something like that about anyone. Even about Gerald. I’m shocked. But then he smiles, and I know he’s serious. It’s like he’s possessed. A totally different and changed person. This makes me feel very alone. I was losing Alan over Gerald Whitman. Alan had started to do this recently. He had become more and more distant. He was starting to be a bit tougher. But I hadn’t noticed a severe difference. Until today. Well, I had. I just chose to ignore the little moments that this happened. It was just easier that way. At least I had time to think. Not much time, but enough to think all these things through. I went to class and pushed it out of my brain for my studies.
Late that same night I wanted to cry. I was going to be beaten up by Gerald with Alan by my side, who was more like a complete stranger to me, more than ever before. It was like he had become a completely different Gerald. Like he was possessed. Like he was another person. And then he texted me. He wasn’t even going to be in school tomorrow! He told me to find my own solution to deal with Gerald. He told me I’m probably such a wimp it wouldn’t even matter. I texted him back that he can find a new best friend, that I didn’t need him anymore. Then I cried myself to sleep. I wish Alan would be the person he was before. It was like he was different than before. I wished that Alan can just be my friend again like we always were. But some part of me was telling my brain I was just lying to myself. I was just trying to keep Alan and I couldn’t forever. Even if I tried. This was the pushing urge for wanting to cry. I’m able to not cry and get into bed, hoping that nothing else will make me feel worse.
The next day rolls around and Gerald comes up to me. Alan’s not here today. Part of me thinks is my fault, but he has an unexcused absence. I wonder if Mrs. Brewer knows. Gerald then shakes his head at me and comes up to me. “You.” He points at me. “You look like a nerd. Where’s your little buddy anyway? You know, your sidekick.” I don’t answer. It would hurt too much to answer. Especially if I had to truthfully. “I’m going to beat you guys up. Make you pay for saying stuff about Lisa.” I tune out. Some kids are staring at him, some kids are staring at me, but I’m staring behind him. I see Lisa hugging another guy and he kissed her nose. “I told you the details,” Gerald says. But now I really don’t care. I try to contain myself from giggling or laughing at him. It does not work because I’m probably smiling really big. It’s probably clear I’m trying not to laugh too because he probably looks stupid.
He looks like he’s expecting me to say something now. I look at him and start cracking up. Lisa had found another guy anyway. “What? What’s so funny? Why are you not looking at me!” Gerald asks me barking each word at me with a growl on his face. In my opinion, he looks like a bulldog from a cartoon. One that the main character is trying to get past, but is afraid of. Because the main character is like a mouse and tiny compared to the huge bulldog. Actually, that scenario is pretty accurate. Now that I think about it, it was accurate. And all the birds in the trees are pupils in the school watching us. I am kind of embarrassed. I hate when I am the center of attention. It makes me feel like I have to hide, even if I don’t want to. But laughing is clearly making him embarrassed too. I can tell because he is going flush while people look around, figure out why I’m laughing and why Gerald now looks extremely silly in this scenario. It’s obvious he has the wrong guy to beat up. He may need to beat me up, but Lisa’s new boyfriend really needs it.
“Well,” I start after finishing laughing, “Lisa found herself a new boyfriend. Look behind you. You got the wrong guy. Maybe you should beat him up instead.” I cracked up all over again. The other kids start laughing at him too. Gerald had the wrong guy to beat up. He looks furious and beats him up in front of her. She protected the guy. She had his back. I felt happy. I could have been that guy. I could have been beaten up by the school bully, Gerald Whitman. I have faithfully avoided him, without Alan. I don’t need him. I just need me. At the same time, I miss him terribly and I want to know what’s wrong with him. I feel fine until the end of the day. I forgot about him until that point. I felt so lonely without him. Alan would have been much cooler than the way I did it. But I had done it without him. I felt like I had climbed a mountain and I was at the top. I pushed that out of my head too, all the mixed-up feelings, and put them away so I could focus on school once more. I decided to go to Alan’s house after school to tell him the good news.
I go to his house after school. I knock on the door and go upstairs. I then run into his room to find him by himself in his room relaxing. Alan never did this before. He loved school. Now, he was skipping! I thought he was my best friend. I run out. I run back in. “You! You knew that today would be hard! You knew I needed you there and you ended up hanging out with someone else? When were you going to tell me you didn’t want to be friends with me anymore? That you want to skip school. I don’t want to be friends with you anymore. I’m done. You’ve been really mean recently. It stretches far beyond Gerald. Like two weeks ago and last Friday. We’re not friends anymore Alan.” My voice cracks. I scowl at him and leave. That’s all I could do without crying too hard. Showing him that he was affecting me. I’m pretty sure I did anyway, which made me want to cry even harder. What video game was more important than me or going to school.
I hear him running after me and his mom stopping him. “Don’t run in the house. What happened?” I hear her ask. I break down crying and go to my house. I locked myself in my bedroom. My mom tried to talk to me, but I wouldn’t let anyone but my dog in. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying. I didn’t want anyone to be a witness. To attest to the fact I did indeed cry. Why should I be crying anyway? He was never there for me. He didn’t care. He just wanted to be my best friend and ditch me. Someone who I thought was inseparable from me. Who I thought cared. Never mind. Stupid of me to even think that. He just turned out to be like Gerald. And I couldn’t keep just sweeping it under the rug anymore. I cry harder. I blubbered into my dog like a baby about it. I thought of myself as a baby. I no longer wanted to go to school. I wanted to stop everything. I had lost my best friend. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be anyone’s friend anymore. I felt stupid for thinking that Alan really was my best friend. For not seeing what was happening in advance.
The next few days were hard. In fact, I had to stay away from my ex-best friend, Alan Brewer. Who was like a stranger, having fun with other people. And because he was so popular, he was able to turn everyone around me, against me. I felt very lonely without Alan. I realized how good of friends we were until his change in behavior. Three weeks after what happened, I decided to tell him that I was fine with his new lifestyle. I shouldn’t hold a grudge. Alan is growing up, and he doesn’t want to be like me anymore. I decided even though we couldn’t be nearly as close, or we couldn’t be exactly the same as before, we could still be friends. If we were still friends at least, maybe my life would be at least a bit better. A bit more closure could help me move on. Alan missed a lot more school. In fact, he had never missed so much school or had been late like this ever.
But about three weeks later during a break, I saw him again. “Hey, Alan!” I said. He turned his back on me. I kind of expected that, but I didn’t expect to be as hurt as I was about the matter. “Well, I just wanted to tell you that I’m really sorry for how I acted. I didn’t mean to say the things I did. I only did it because I was speaking out of emotion. Please forgive me! I shouldn’t have said those terrible things. I didn’t think you would want to be like that. I know we can’t be best friends anymore. Especially because you are getting so popular. But please, can we at least be friends? We have been friends for years now. I don’t want to leave you after all this time. Please let me at least remain your friend?” I beg. Alan turns and scooches over from where he was sitting. He lets me sit next to him. He looks a bit distant for a second.
Then, Alan looks up at me. I was about to repeat myself, but I didn’t because he had started to speak. “Apology accepted. Luis, I’m sorry too. I should have told you sooner. I didn’t mean for you to find out I didn’t want to be your best friend anymore. I didn’t want to be the way I was before. But I didn’t want to lose you at the same time. I’m really sorry, Luis. I wish that I had told you sooner. I really am very sorry. I’m going through a lot of change mentally right now. My parents are getting a divorce, and I don’t know who I am going to live with. But, we can still be friends if you want to be. I would like to still be friends with you. And I’m also really sorry for pulling all your friends away. That was really wrong. Especially because of how loyal they were to you at first. I’ll tell them that I was lying if it would make you feel better.” I smile. I can’t be mad at him forever. Especially not because we’re growing up. I knew that we were meant to be friends from the moment we saw each other for the first time. He was always going to be my best friend. I knew it from the time we met. Alan is standing up now, so I stand up too to tell him my official answer. He’s smiling at me, so I smile back at him.
“Yeah,” I say, nodding. “I would enjoy that. There’s still time left in break. Would you like to play tennis? I’m so sorry about your parents. Do you want to talk to me about it?” He nods and gets out the stuff to play tennis. For the rest of the day, we played together and talked and laughed. Through tough times, we’ve had each other’s back. It’s never easy to lose your best friend. As I said in the beginning, communication is key, to any open friendship. It’s so important to communicate, and we don’t forget it.