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A Familiar Face
I walked in the room, unsure of myself. The first day of school at a new school. I saw groups of people standing around each other, talking about their summers. It was easy to pick out the popular people, the “nerds”, and all other social classes. The popular girls kept tossing their hair around so it would look like a fan was blowing on them and making their hair fly. The “nerds” were isolated and so on and so forth. I scanned the room for a familiar face, wondering if I would see Faith or Joey or Ciana or Ashley. I didn’t see any of them, but I did see someone else. I was hit with curiosity when I saw him. Did I know him? I walked over to the seat next to him and set my books down. He wasn’t paying attention. Was he reading a book? I can’t remember. I poked him on the shoulder and his head snapped up to look at me. He relaxed when he saw it was only a random girl.
“Hi,” we said to each other, but who said it first, I can’t remember. We introduced ourselves. His name was Ryan. The beginning of our conversation is muddled. Did we ask each other “How are you?” Did we answer each other saying “I’m fine”? All I remember is this:
“Do I know you from somewhere?” I asked him, hoping he didn’t think I was strange.
“No,” he said, confused. He seemed lost in thought.
“Do you go to Prince of Peace Church?” I asked next, for that is where I believe I saw him before. It was a Catholic church. I saw him a long time ago, before I even started school. Or it could have been a dream…
“No,” he said. “I’m Christian, but not Catholic. Why?”
“I swear I’ve seen you before,” I said, taking a seat next to him. “I don’t know when but I know it was a long time ago at my church.”
“No, I’ve never been there before.”
And that was how our friendship started.
I preferred him over many others in my class, but I tried not to let that show because I didn’t want people assuming I liked him in a crush way, he was just a friend. I didn’t keep a lot of secrets from him and I don’t think he kept many from me.
We were both in orchestra. There were lots of events we had to go to. At those events, we played a song or two with a bunch of other schools. I had been playing piano for five years, so learning violin was easy and I was allowed to have a first violin part. At all these events, Ryan and I somehow got paired up together. And that never bothered me. I don’t think it bothered him either. I remember at the very first of these events, we were in the middle of playing a song and I swear I heard someone in the audience call my name. I tilted my head up towards my parents but they weren’t even looking at me. I tried to find my place in the music again but I couldn’t. On one of the whole notes, Ryan was able to point out where we were in the music. I resumed playing from my air-bow and joined in. At the end of the piece, a whispered thanks to him. He nodded and pretended nothing happened. That happened every time we had one of these events, too.
After the first semester, my schedule changed from Beginning Orchestra to regular 6th grade orchestra. Ryan was in my class now. And there was another event but this time it was only our school. It was Solo and Ensemble. After the competition part, we would have a concert. Ryan was in my ensemble group and another one of my friends was too. Her name was Ashwarya. I didn’t get lost this time and our group did really well. I remember Ashwarya and me teasing Ryan about being the only boy and telling him to do things because they were a man’s job and not a woman’s.
At our very last event, long before we started playing, I was telling Ryan he had paint in his hair and I was trying to take a picture so he would believe me. But Ryan was camera shy so I had to take the picture without him noticing. I had the perfect shot when one of our friends came over and pointed to me. Ryan turned just as the shutter clicked. “Darn it, Hunter! I was trying to take a picture of the paint in his hair!” I exclaimed. Hunter got all excited about the paint and started telling Ryan that there was paint there. Ryan was very mad at this point but he was having fun so it was okay. Then I looked at the picture and started laughing. They kept asking me what was up. “He looks like a bunny!” I gasped. Hunter stole my phone from me and confirmed it. In the picture Ryan’s teeth were sticking out like buck teeth. Then we had to start playing our music. I got lost again but Ryan was helpful.
My last day of school was two days before everyone else’s and I brought my camera to take pictures. I was leaving early because I was moving to the wonderful state of Texas. I wanted so badly to have a picture of Ryan. He wouldn’t let me take a picture of him in the class I met him and he wouldn’t let me take a picture of him in orchestra. Those were the only classes I had with him today because we had gym yesterday and I wasn’t in his study hall class anymore. But right at the very end of class, he turned around, called my name, and told me to take a picture of him. It’s one of my favorite pictures I took that day, even though it is terribly blurry.
The weird thing is, all three of us in our ensemble moved somewhere else the next year. I moved to Texas. Ashwarya moved to Illinois. Ryan moved to Ohio. So sometimes when I really want to talk to him, I can’t pull out the old directory or ask my friends for his number. That makes it even harder sometimes. And one day, I almost started crying in class because of how much I miss him.
I’m still in orchestra and one day we got new chairs. The boy sitting next to me was named Tim. We don’t sit by each other anymore but when we did, I got lost in the music. The last time that happened was when I was with Ryan. Tim noticed me air-bowing and pointed to the place in the music. When our teacher cut us off to talk to one of the other sections, I let my violin stand in my lap with my support. My hands were gripped tightly around the neck of the instrument. If it was alive, it would be dying of air deprivation. My eyes started burning and I was feeling all choked up. I missed him a lot and one small gesture, that was meant to be kind, had me missing him even more.
I still have no way to contact him. I didn’t miss him much when I was in seventh grade, but now that I’m in eighth grade, I miss him terribly and I wish he knew that.