Monday, August 2, 2010

No Name #1

My friend fell. He was on the way out to the playground after lunch. He just laid there while half the school passed him on the way outside.

“Get up! Why don’t you get up?” they said.

Another said. “You’re faking. He’s faking.”

They went out and they never came back. I still remember where he fell. Everything seemed big then, in the way that large important buildings are big in the adult world. You moved down the hall away from the cafeteria, past the vending machines, around the corner. Another left down the stairs--concrete clad in gripping rubber-- and the landing, and then the long flight down into the dark.

You move through the dim hallway that was dim in sickly fluorescent light. It turned black when the people ahead of you opened the door wide in to the bright sunlight facing south.

We had laughed a lot at lunch. We almost ran down the hall, forgetting rules, forgetting everything. His big legs frenzied down the stairs like we had done together a million times. He jumped the last steps. He fell, and didn’t get back up. He shouted and I came back to see what was wrong.

“Can you get up?”

He wasn’t crying. “Just give me a few minutes. It just really hurts right now.”

I looked at him and someone opened the door, letting the light into the long dark hallway. I left and joined them.

I wandered around the playground. I came in on a game of foursquare, then waited in vain to be picked for kickball. I toyed with tether ball alone. I trotted slow and alone from this game to that toy, like a kid in a nickel arcade waiting for his ride home. I thought of my friend again and I went back. Nobody else had.

He still laid there. “I’ve tried to get up and I just can’t,” he said.

I tried to lift him on one side. He was always heavy. On the day of our physicals I watched silently, invisble as I could be as the other kids laughed at him.. One hundred and fifty pounds in third grade was unforgivable. He didn’t look very fat. He was heavy, and fell from my hands when I tried to lift him..

People had stopped coming through. Lunch was over.

He tried to slip his leg under himself and shouted in pain, his voice echoing down the dark hallway.

“I’m getting a teacher,” I said.

The paramedics arrived with flashing lights, parking near the opened door at the end of the hall. Everyone gathered and watched in a circle and pretended they cared about him.

His face was dusty with the tracks from size 8 tennis shoes that had been brand new in September. They had his ankle braced tight and loaded him into the aid car like bread into a truck.

When we were gathered and corralled inside I turned invisible in the back corner of the classroom where my desk was and brushed my fingers along the margins of my text book. I wondered if he was okay. I wondered if he would leave me alone there, and if he would come back and try to do for me what I had done for him.

The next morning I cried and lost control and told my mother that I wouldn’t ever go back to school again.

It was another week before we saw him again, and we all pretended it hadn’t happened in our heartless way.

We didn’t go to the same high school.

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