Little Things

March 2, 2012
By , Manitowoc, WI
“What we call little things are merely the causes of great things; they are the beginning, the embryo, and it is the point of departure which, generally speaking, decides the whole future of an existence. One single black speck may be the beginning of a gangrene, of a storm, of a revolution.”
-Henri Frederic
The fluorescent digits on the smooth surface of my watch blatantly refused to count another agonizing second. I began to feel my tired eyes glaze over as the numbers bored into my skull. With tremendous effort, I stiffened my arm and lifted the delicately polished timepiece to my ear; my suspicions confirmed when the telltale tick of time passing no longer reached me. It then came to mind that digital watches make no such sound and I violently sighed. My legs, now devoid of strength, gave out and I collapsed heavily onto the soft, welcoming sofa reaching out to envelop me in its luxurious glory.
Nearly an hour and a half had passed since my close friend Tim was to arrive at my house so we could go to the local YMCA for a game of racquetball. The courts filled up very quickly on Saturdays, and that day was no exception. I’ll have to wait for someone else to finish if Tim doesn’t get here soon, and that could take just as long as waiting for him to finally get here, I told myself. Ten minutes. That’s all I’ll give him. The seconds slowly dragged on again, each minute becoming an eternity.
I gazed at the chrome-rimmed wall clock as the doorbell chimed throughout the house. I forced myself to get up off of the comfort of my couch, shaking off my tiredness, yet unable to shake off my anger. I padded over the ragged beige carpeting to the front door. There Tim stood expectantly, his blue eyes smiling, wearing the usual lopsided grin that often cheered me up.
My face told a different story.
When he noticed the enraged expression I wore, his smile lowered and one thin eyebrow rose in question. As he removed his beanie and revealed his scraggly, eternally unbrushed hair, the inquiry left his puzzled face and he apologized, mentioning that he was a bit late.
Now it was my turn to be puzzled.
“A bit late? You turn up at my front door nearly two hours after the time we planned and all you can say is that you’re ‘a bit late?!’” I blew up, a little too harshly. “What little chance of a racquetball court being open we had earlier is now gone!”
Taken aback, Tim threw another weird look in my direction, jerking his head gently to flip his hair out of his eyes. “Dude! Don’t flip out on me! I forgot to clean my room and I had to rush it as it is. If I had tried to come earlier, my mom would have grounded me! And besides, it’s okay. We can just swim or something if it doesn’t work out,” he explained, shrugging to accent the last sentence. He just didn’t get it. I was really looking forward to hitting the courts that day, but obviously it hadn’t mattered to him whether we even went to the Y or not.
After a few hours of swimming, we heaved our sopping wet bodies over the side of the pool. I tried to suppress my laughter as Tim cracked a joke on the way through the cold hallway to the locker rooms. It was kind of difficult to remain consciously angry with Tim after all we’ve been through together.
I went back to that frigid day in December. My fingertips were numb, and my breath lingered in the atmosphere like puffs of smoke from some ornate hookah. I grasped the crisply frozen edge of our wooden toboggan, questioning the safety of the aged beast. The blaze orange dragon my father had painted on the slab had faded drastically, and the streaks and scratches on the underbelly were too numerous to be counted. Tim stared defiantly down the face of the mountainous drop we were to take, determination ringing in his bright blue eyes.
The snow was untouched in this area, as no one was courageous-or stupid- enough to think that they would have a chance of coming back in one piece. The immense trunks of white pines impeded the progress of any to pass, jutting out randomly as if they were the jagged incisors of some grotesque behemoth. We gritted our teeth and readied ourselves for the ride of our lives. It was a day to remember, when we made it to the bottom with naught but a broken arm and a bloody nose.
We had had a perfect time, but just then I remembered something else about that day. We had planned to go sledding at 3, and Tim had arrived no earlier than 4:30. My anger stirred. I reminisced of other events we had planned, only to accentuate that Tim was rarely punctual. That bowling party we went to? He barely made it. The day of the Packers game that I was looking forward to for weeks? I had left without him and made it late as it was. But the track meet he invited me to watch? I was right on time! My pitiful anger burst into a full-fledged internal rage. It may have been difficult to remain angry, but it wasn’t impossible.
After Tim slipped into his ragged, striped sweatshirt that he wore everyday and I donned my navy blue beret, we meandered over to the front doors and started the walk home.
“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Tim inquired, showing he wasn’t entirely ignorant.
“True, it was fun, but you know I was really looking forward to racquetball,” I pointed out politely, failing to cloak my anger.
“We can still do that some other time. It’s not like the YMCA closes today.”
“We can’t always put everything off, though! If we always say we can do it tomorrow, it will never get done!” I wondered if he even cared.
“We can’t always do everything right now either! Some things have to be delayed!” I sighed at his comment.
“You just don’t get it, do you?” I shouted. We stalked along in silence, Tim occasionally casting confused glances in my direction. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to keep on walking or turn back, so my filthy white sneakers kept on pounding on the concrete sidewalk.
“Slow down, dude! You’re going too fast! Come on, be reasonable,” Tim hopelessly croaked the last words. I stole a quick backward glance to see his bright blue eyes clouded with shock as he stood there, his hair blowing in the gentle breeze, his jaw hanging down like a door off of its hinges. I didn’t even slow down.
That night I sat in my room and pondered over whether I had made the right decision. I could have just lost a friend over a stupid argument that could have been solved easily if we just talked over it, but I had to overreact and blow it. I berated myself for being such a nutcase. I thought some more and remembered that Tim was the one that had gotten us into this dilemma with his tendency to be absurdly late. It wasn’t my fault that he had no sense of time. Maybe it’s good that I walked off like that, I reassured myself. If he didn’t want to change his ways, I would find someone else who would actually arrive on time. I looked then at the other side of things. He’s been my best friend since first grade, there through thick and thin. There’s no way it could suddenly be over after all that we’ve been through together.
My mind swam in circles. I had absolutely no idea what to do. This had been our first major fight. I hadn’t gotten nearly as angry when he landed on me and broke my arm sledding, and this was a pitiful reason to end our friendship. I could apologize, but there was no reason for him to forgive me. I looked at the situation some more and decided that it was worth a try.
My alarm clock screamed in my face, evil blasts censoring out some obscene phrase it muttered to get my attention. I shifted my weight and flung my arm onto the snooze button, waiting a bit longer before turning off my alarm completely in case I might have fallen back asleep. I remembered what had happened with Tim, and I just wanted to sleep again and forget it ever happened. My inability to communicate had caused this problem, and I feared that if I tried to fix it, my efforts would only make it worse. I sighed. The only thing to do now was get ready for school.
A shower, three toaster waffles, and a bus ride later, I arrived at school to find that Tim wasn’t in the library like he usually was. No surprise there. His first reaction to a problem was to hide and avoid blame. I supposed I would see him throughout the day, since we had most of our classes together. I settled as comfortably as possible in one of the hard plastic chairs by an open computer. The time flew as I played online flash games until first hour.
I snatched up my binder and books and logged off of the computer. As I hurried to first hour English, I frantically glanced to and fro to see if Tim was even here. I couldn’t just let our friendship end like that. But my supposed best friend was nowhere to be seen. I shuffled through the doorway of my English class, sliding my cargo into the rack beneath my desk. I plopped into the seat and patiently waited for class to start.
The bell rang and I looked up from the book I was reading. From a quick glance around the room, there was no trace of Tim. I wondered if he had gotten sick or just decided to come late again.
As our teacher was greeting us, the door burst open and Tim sprinted in, dropping his ripped homework through his nearly destroyed binder. His hair was all over the place and his clothes were all messed up and mismatched. I wondered what his story for sleeping late would be this time. He unfolded his crumpled pass from the office. “This is the fourth time in a row you are late for class, is it not?” the teacher tapped her foot impatiently.
“Yes, Mrs. Johnson. I’m sorry. I’ll try to come to school earlier tomorrow. My alarm clock is broken again,” Tim explained hopelessly.
“Well, it doesn’t matter now because there won’t be a next time. You’re signed up for detention after school every day for two weeks.”
“Ok, Mrs. Johnson,” Tim replied, staring at his untied, grimy shoes. He stalked over to his desk, right next to mine.
“Why are you really late this time?” I inquired, trying to start a conversation. Tim just stared at his desk and acted as if no one addressed him. I nudged him with my elbow, sending his limp form slightly to the right. Still, he refused to respond and gazed off into space.
“Hey! Dude! Wake up! Hello?” I whispered, prodding Tim with my pencil and receiving a sour look. As he stared up at me, I noticed his eyes were clouded with anger. He slowly averted his gaze back to his desk and resumed ignoring me. Quizzically, I returned my eyes back to the teacher. I guessed he wasn’t ready to accept my apology yet. I wondered if he would.
As soon as the teacher announced that it was work time, I went over to see if I could get out of this mess.
“Tim, I’m sorry about what happened the other day.”
“I don’t care,” he replied with venom dripping from his words.
“I know you have no reason to forgive me, but hear me out. This fight was my fault. I was getting really mad at you for turning up late for everything, and I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to make you mad or anything,” I reasoned. His expression softened a bit.
Tim sighed. “I’m not really angry. I’ve just been getting bored hanging out, and I didn’t want to offend you. I started coming late on purpose because I knew it would make you angry,” he explained, spilling the beans all over the floor. “I’d still like to hang out with you, but I’m just not interested in the same things anymore.”
“Well, you didn’t have to do that! We could just do something else together that we both enjoy,” I said.
“How about we do something different this weekend? Like go to a monster truck derby or something?” Tim asked, having dropped his angry sham.
“Sure! That sounds like a lot of fun,” I agreed. I grinned as we went back to work.
*
*
*
A deafening roar shook the stadium. I could feel the massive output of the engines turning inside the underbellies of the beasts. As the trucks veered up ramps and obliterated smaller cars, they reminded me of immense rolling pins, slammed down by some brutal cook with unthinkable force to roll over the unsuspecting dough and crush its dreams.
“So, how do you like it so far?” Tim asked, his eyes aglow.
“It’s amazing!” I exclaimed. “I’ve never seen anything like it before!” Another roar sounded off into the air, but this one was my stomach. “Hey, mind if I go get us some nachos?” I asked, indicating the concession stand.
“Sure! You know I can’t resist the hunger-defying power of cheese,” Tim replied, leaning back awkwardly in his seat and rubbing his belly. We laughed. I stood up and stretched my legs. Occasionally glancing at the arena, I jogged over to the concession stand. I took my spot in line and tapped my foot impatiently, wondering what I was missing in the show. Finally, the line shortened so that the girl in front of me was up next. She sighed.
“I hate getting popcorn in the middle of the show, but my friend is always late,” she complained, jerking her head gently to flip her hair out of her eyes.
I shoved my hands into my pockets and smiled.





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