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

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     This is a story about a boy and a girl, but it's considerably different from the standard fairy tale. Although it's often hard to recall the details from years of friendship, I still remember clearly the beginning. It was the prequel to a relationship, and the defining of a person. It was during marching band camp, the summer before freshman year. The air droned like an electric current, hot and clear as our squad stopped to rest on the wispy grass of the practice fields. My attention was diverted to a boy running across the field, a tuba hugging his middle and his work pin still attached to his lapel. His name was Chris, and he would be a senior that year.

We met over Duck, Duck, Goose, chasing each other around the circle, never catching up and never winning. Then practice resumed and I marched and sweated and played the notes I knew, so much the same on the inside and without any idea of the journey I would soon begin with this boy.

School began, and we talked more and more, mostly because I had a crush on his best friend, and also because of the way he rolled words around in his mouth before speaking in his trademark conceited drawl and always had the advice I needed. He was the kind of kid who turned heads and changed attitudes.

Chris and I had a back and forth relationship where we would only talk when an ear, advice or hellos were needed to confirm that the other was still there. When he graduated, I rarely saw him, except to go to Denny's and talk about our lives and the enormous things we wanted to do in the future, the beauty that we wanted to be part of. Our interests were so different, yet we were so alike in our passions that I knew he understood where I was coming from.

I remember when Chris was getting ready for college and we met again. It was at a friend's party, and the news of his arrival sparked seismic waves in my stomach. There was always that nervousness that would spread from my feet. I was going out of my mind and couldn't make sense of it. I had changed, and I knew it, but I couldn't decide if I liked the person I had become. It was there though, in the pit of my stomach, a firm hatred of my presence, a disgust as to why I couldn't go five minutes without being the center of attention, or doing something inane.

Then suddenly, there he was, taking my hand and leading me to the sidewalk. He told me to talk, and I did. We walked for what seemed forever until I started crying and he had heard everything. He told me I didn't need to be anything I didn't want to be, and that I had to stop trying to be something I wasn't, words I desperately needed to hear. He had been there and lived through losing onerself. I took his words to heart and wiped my tears. I changed after that day, slowly, until the person I didn't like melted away and a frail human emerged.

High school was so hard in the beginning. I was thrown into a world where I was surrounded by those who knew what they were doing and were satisfied with themselves while I floundered to catch up. Just when I thought I was close to knowing something to be true, I would realize I didn't know anything. It took days and many people befriending me before I began to realize that I couldn't be anyone but myself. Chris was the one I would find to help me along. It's not that he ever told me what to do, or how to act, or even tried to define who I am. One reason I respect him is because he never was (and still isn't) afraid to push me. Whether it's out of my comfort zone or away from him, he does it because he knows I tend to stagnate.

Chris has always been a fearsome opponent in a fight. He's stubborn, intelligent and knowledgeable. When I discovered this, I never wanted to argue with him. Yet now that we're so close, I've stopped holding back, especially if something's wrong. Sometimes we go months without fighting and other times it's every day. Recently Chris and I were arguing about a new guy I was seeing who Chris didn't like, but we faced the issue head on, twisting the other's situation to our advantage and throwing it back. As mean as that sounds, I've found fighting with Chris to be a unique opportunity.

Without him, I would never know the pleasure of winning a logical argument, or how to use my wits. He has taught me how to stay calm under fire, how to stop when enough is enough, and most of all, how to pick my fights. It was in our games of cat and mouse that I learned most definitively who I was, because that person was the one I would defend to the very end. Most of all though, Chris knows that without his poking and prodding, his arguments and accusations, I would never acknowledge the boundaries of my abilities and strengths, and, in some cases, weaknesses.

Chris is not only one of my closest friends, but also one of my best-kept enemies, and it is because of this combination that he is my hero. I couldn't ask for a better person to show me the way than Chris.

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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