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Thin trees, limp and lanky, scatter the front yard. Thick, icy snow softly buries the tranquil landscape and all is quiet, as if winter has frozen time. White dust flickers across my cheeks and the frosty air brushes my dark hair. Gently stepping out of the blue minivan, I wrap a soft coat tightly around my body. My family and I tread through the snow and I press the small, plastic doorbell. The host family amiably slides open the door, welcoming us. The warm touch of a heater radiates from the house and I quickly stagger in. After stomping off the tiny snowflakes encrusted in my shoes, I slip them off and the hostess courteously takes my coat and hangs it in the closet.
In the family room, a giant Christmas tree is proudly glistening with myriad small, round ornaments, flickering with a string of dazzling white lights, and glimmering with the warmth lacking from the trees in the yard. Chinese parents crowd the room, chatting.
Ambling down the steps and into the carpeted basement, I find Michael. Just a year older than me at age sixteen, he and a few other boys are fixated on the flashing screen. Suddenly, he notices me and turns around. Shaking his dusky hair, he stands up. His tall, tan figure rises above me. Grinning, he says, “Hi Colleen.” I give a small wave and we sit down cross-legged.
We borrow a deck of cards from a nearby boy and Michael begins shuffling. Just as he bends the deck for the bridge, he turns his attention to something behind me. Curious, I twist around to see what it is and see a boy walking down the stairs. I have never seen him before, but I automatically begin to judge him by his looks. He comes closer, and I take in the boy’s short, jet black hair, thinly rimmed glasses, yellow and blue striped polo, and clean khaki pants. He is about as tall as I am. As he plops down beside Michael and me, I promptly conclude that he is just another boring Asian nerd.
“Hi.” He says it simply but cheerily. Despite his plain appearance, his voice resonates softly and beautifully. He waves, like he’s painting a big rainbow with his hand. The boy’s coffee-colored eyes fill with innocent exuberance and a wide, happy smile spreads across his face, revealing straight, ivory-white teeth.
“This is Tommy. He used to go to Mason.” Michael says, as if I cared. I can tell that Michael thinks that Tommy and I can be good friends. He is wrong because I can already tell he is entirely unlike me. His name is also weirdâ€”I have never met anyone with that name although there is a character in the Rugrats called Tommy. Politely, I smile back, “Hi Tommy. I’m Colleen.”
Clearly good friends, Michael and Tommy begin joking around and laughing. They start listing phobias: decidophobia, emetophobia, algophobia, anthrophobia, homophobia, and even hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. Tommy spews the words out so quickly that he seems to know the dictionary by heart. I feign interest, but roll my eyes; I am unsure as to how naming phobias is a fun game.
When we walk upstairs, I pause, noticing the tree again. “The Christmas treeâ€”it’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
He leans in closely, sparkling eyes steadily flashing into my own: “Yeah. Beautiful.”
Six months later, I find Tommy daydreaming on the russet bench outside the movie theater, waiting for me. I lower my sunglasses, and discern his own glasses, an azure polo, and gray shorts. As I get closer, I happily wave and catch his attention. He beams, exposing his pearly white teeth.
After purchasing tickets and snacks, we enter the theater with a bucket of fresh, buttery popcorn. Sliding into the velvety seats, we whisper covertly while the film plays. Seated under the large popcorn container, he patiently replies to my comments on the plot. I realize that I had judged too quickly. Tommy is always himselfâ€”something I’m reminded of as he rocks side to side in his seat. There is not a single person out there like the smiling boy in front of me. He is a superlative debater and a focused studentâ€”but still draws scribbled portraits like a two year old, like the one he is showing me right now. He has a PSAT score to be envied as well as an immense vocabulary for a seventeen-year old. Focused and studious, I consider him highly commendable.
Tommy stepped into my life, opened my doors, and became someone that I look up to. He taught me how to be a good person: someone who cares, who tries, and who perseveres. Tommy, the boy with the Rugrats name, the large wave, the wide smile, and the convivial voice, is the teacher who educates, the parent who protects, the older brother who understands, and the best friend who cares. I will always be okay because he will constantly be there for me. He is the greatest friend that a person like me could ever have. Tommy is the bright, beautiful Christmas tree illuminating joy and warmth in the yard of limp, weary trees.
The movie, as does my reverie, ends. I stumble towards the blue van for my ride home. On the way home, I slide my hands into my pockets and my fingers bristle against something crinkly: a wrinkled piece of notebook paper.
“All I Can Do” By Tommy
The only blooming rose in my withered flower bed
The calming voice of love inside my muddled head
Great Atlas, holding up my life
A constant, in this shifting world of strife
The lantern that dispels this blinding light
That gave this blind man sight.