Staying This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The other day, I stayed after school to finish up a lab for AP Chemistry and after doing so, I had some time left over to walk aimlessly around the school. Nobody seemed to be around, so I went outside to wait for activity period to end. It was a cool fall day, but the absence of wind made it bearable to go out with a light jacket on. I sat on the steps and watched the ants scurry about on the pavement. Two ants seemed effortlessly to carry a large piece of bread on their backs. Soon one ant stopped and darted away, leaving the other one to lug the bread all by itself. Just then I heard a voice from behind me.

"Hey, Drew," said the voice. "How ya' doin'?"

I turned around and saw someone I used to know. It was Chris. We used to be best friends. Now all we do is exchange pleasantries and go on with our lives.

"I'm okay I guess," I responded. "How about you?"

He is so different from how he used to be. He sat on the railing laughing with some of his "new'" friends. I watched as they complained about how hard their day was and how awful their teachers were. Chris used to make fun of people like this. Now he was one of them. He reached into his jacket pocket and took out a cigarette. He felt for a lighter but was unable to find one. One of the others offered him one. Chris was the last person I would have expected to take up a horrible habit like smoking. He used to swear he would never smoke like his brother.

I remember back in kindergarten when we first met. Our mothers knew each other, so it was inevitable that one day we would meet. It just happened that he was in my class. We became instant friends. He was quiet and introverted while I was social and a troublemaker. We worked well together. His shyness kept me out of trouble, and my tendency to be outgoing helped him out of his shell.

This relationship continued through elementary school. We invited each other for sleepovers, and he would always invite me to their family's yearly boat trip.

One boat outing in particular stays in my memory. Chris's brother tried, unsuccessfully, to get me to try water-skiing. He said it was perfectly safe. "Watch me," he said. "I'll show you how safe it is."

He got on the skis and went out into the water. The boat started up, and Chris and I watched in amazement as he navigated through the waves. Suddenly the boat turned and he started flopping around like a fish out of water. Chris got worried, but I could see that his brother was laughing. We stopped the boat and Chris and I joked about how safe and easy it was to water-ski as Chris's brother plopped back onto the boat.

In middle school we didn't see each other quite as much. Chris was held back a grade just as I was going into sixth grade. He still invited me on boating trips and other outdoor activities, but not seeing each other in school caused us to grow apart. The few times I did see Chris in school, he was now with his friends he had met in his grade. I felt awkward talking to him when he was with a bunch of people I didn't know. Maybe it was just me, but Chris didn't seem to enjoy his new friends. I could tell he wanted to be back in my grade.

In high school, things changed a lot. He no longer was friends with the people he was hanging out with in middle school. Instead, he fell into the "bad" crowd. He still invited me over to his house once in awhile, but when I came over I found myself spending more time with his brother than with him. He just wasn't the same person.

I've heard from some people that I was the reason he turned out the way he did. I should have stayed friends with him in middle school, but I didn't. When I look back and see how he wanted to be friends, I wonder why I didn't notice what was happening. The social taboo of being friends with a kid in a lower grade was prominent in middle school, but that shouldn't change things for true friends. I had let him down.

I looked back at Chris as he played with the cigarette in his hand, laughing with his friends. There was no use trying to become friends again. He had changed, and there was nothing I can do about it now.

My bus rolled to a stop by the curb and I got on. As we drove off, I looked out the window at Chris as he continued laughing. Then I turned and faced forward, trying desperately to remember the homework I had to complete for English. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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otherpoet said...
Dec. 31, 2011 at 9:19 am
Wow this was really good! You perfectly relate the awkward-ness of the situation. I thought it was interesting that you don't blame Chris for how he turned out - instead you blame yourself when it isn't your fault. Keep writing - This was excellent!
 
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