I had always walked around with my nose in the air when it came to befriending certain people at school. Call it self-righteousness for the sake of being popular, or whatever, I had an arrogance that did not allow me to be the considerate person I always thought I was. Sure, I had plenty of friends, but there were a few in my class who rubbed me the wrong way.
I particularly resented “Piggy.” He was the kid whom my group of friends and I would allow to tag along only so we could pick on him, or make the night more entertaining by poking fun at him. He even got his nickname because we made snide remarks about his weight. Thinking back, the only reason I really felt it was okay to hang out around him was because if I could make myself look better in a crowd by using him, it would make me happier.
As it happened, volleyball season came around and, for the first time, Piggy showed up for practice. One day after school, my friend and I were sitting in the coach’s classroom. We had been having a good time telling jokes and were laughing so hard that we started to cry. Then, Piggy came over and slapped my back.
“You’re the best, Mike,” he said, choking on his own laughter. Still laughing and carrying on the funny mood I asked, “What are you saying, Piggy?” He looked at me and grinned. “You’re my best friend, man. You keep me entertained and everything!”
Those words could have killed me. I did not treat him with the respect I should, yet he thought I was his best friend. Needless to say, my cheery attitude crumbled. After those words struck me like a bullet, I vowed to treat him with respect. I will admit I took small strides; for
instance, his nickname went from “Piggy” to “Gary” because of his last name and I encouraged him with volleyball. I got to know him better and finally realized that he was a lot like me, just lacking confidence.
Then, one fateful night, this person I thought so little of became permanently bound to my life. After a volleyball game, I offered him a ride home. As I was making a turn, a speeding car hit us just behind my door. I panicked. Noathing but curses and frantic pleas for help left my mouth. There was a maelstrom of confusion, really, and it was Gary who ultimately made the situation as good as it could have been. He put the car in park, allowing the two of us to get out to talk to the other driver.
She wasn’t very pleasant; in spite of my panicked state, she yelled at me with animosity. I kept my face hidden, denying that this had happened. And, out of nowhere, Gary stepped up and stuck up for me, calming the woman and doing what needed to be done. I had put that kid through the ringer and probably made him feel pretty trashy countless times, yet he had it in him to be a great friend to me.
Through Gary, I think I’ve grown up. I’ve thrown all that superficial stuff out the window and while other people still judge Gary, I will not take part in immature stuff. Most importantly, I will stick up for him because I owe him. I could have killed him or myself and I would have died not completely happy because of the way I treated others. Now, because of Gary’s strength of character and loyalty, I, too, have become much more powerful and will never again falter in a friendship.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.