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Would someone please save the King? MAG
The first thing to know about me is that I didn't always value parental guidance. I always figured that my parents were hindering my success because sometimes they didn't let me do what I wanted, which I thought was dumb. Like when they wouldn't let me go surfing in Hawaii because a shark might chomp off my arm, or when I wasn't allowed to eat beef because mad-cow disease might make me go nuts.
So I guess this story starts in seventh grade. I thought I was some big deal back then. Really grown up. I had been skating at the skate park with no helmet, even though my parents told me I had to wear one. I was sitting on my board about to straight up devour some breadsticks when this kid skated over. I had watched him before because he was a great skater. I secretly looked up to him.
He had long bleached blond hair but only half of it was still blond. His shoes were tattered, just like mine, and as he sat next to me his grin was as wide as a sumo wrestler's jeans. I noticed that his skin was pimply and his teeth were yellow like kernels of popcorn. (He must not have known how to brush properly.)
“Hey, man, can I get a piece?'”
Of course, he could have anything. I tore off a breadstick and placed it in his disgustingly dirty hand (must not have known to wash his hands either), then I proceeded to curl into a ball because kissing his toes would have been far too forward.
“Thanks, dude,” he said, as he helped himself to some ranch sauce. “My name's Andrew.”
Andrew was like nobody I had ever met. He was all about messing with people. He'd make jokes about how your mom was a prostitute or tell you that because you're Asian, you only eat rice. Andrew was either really immature or a genius. I guess no one ever told him where the line was, but no one messed with him. Maybe we were all too scared. In a way, Andrew was our king, and if you piss off the king, you might get beheaded.
And so Andrew reigned the skate park. The half pipe was his throne and he would've worn a crown of middle fingers if he could. He'd tell us who to like and who to hate. If he got in a beef with someone, we would all turn on that traitor. He was the opposite of my parents: someone I believed in.
To me, Andrew was a hero, because he'd do what no one else would. One time we were swiftly skating down the sidewalk to I don't remember where. Andrew's semi-blond locks were floating mystically behind his head like in a shampoo commercial, and he was holding a soda from Carl's Jr. (no one ever told him fast food was unhealthy). The light turned red and the “Don't Walk” sign began to flash, but Andrew didn't care. He started to cross the street and this Volvo came skidding to a halt right in front of him and knocked him over.
Most kids would've been shocked, realized they weren't hurt, and run away. But as I said, Andrew wasn't like most kids. He jumped up like nothing had happened, but I could tell he had noticed. His brows furrowed, he pulled back his right arm, hurled his soda at the car, and screamed, “You f---ing idiot!”
That was Andrew, always breaking the rules, whether they were laws or manners or anything in between. He made his own rules. I wanted to make my own rules too.
To most of you, Andrew probably sounds like a nut, a real burden on society. So to really understand him, you need to know how it all started for him. According to Andrew, he grew up in Manteca – a real bad town. It's a part of California that's filled with pseudo-rednecks. Andrew had a mom and a dad and I know he had a couple of siblings, but I'm not sure how many. I'm not sure he remembers how many either.
Moving on, I guess Andrew was pretty happy living in Manteca with his family, and everything was cool until he was about 12. I'll admit I'm not 100 percent on the details 'cause Andrew really didn't talk much about it, but the story goes that his mom and dad were out at the store. She was sitting in the car and his dad got out to go do something. Surprisingly, his dad came back in handcuffs. He had murdered someone and Andrew's mom was arrested for helping him.
So his parents were locked up and Andrew and his siblings were sent to foster homes. It really made me feel bad for him, but when I heard the story, I couldn't help thinking how lucky Andrew was not to have parents. I know that's a terrible thing to say, but think about it in a different light: No one could tell Andrew not to eat beef now. No one could keep him from surfing the waves of Hawaii. Andrew could govern himself with complete and utter freedom.
He moved out to live in a trailer park with this guy Dave. I guess there wasn't enough room in the foster home. Now it was Andrew against the world. I had wished it was me against the world also.
Then one night my friend Dom called me up. “Dude, Andrew got kicked out of Dave's and he's at my house,” he said. My thoughts swirled into a McFlurry. Andrew had never needed help before, but here he was so vulnerable. Now the king was relying on us.
Andrew didn't move in with one of our families. Instead, he moved in with some 21-year-old guys from the skate park. They weren't exactly role models. And because no one told him not to, Andrew began to drink and smoke all day, and rarely went to school. His lifestyle became one of self-destruction, but Andrew didn't realize it. No one told him.
And in the end, those guys ended up not being so reliable. One of them moved to Texas because he wasn't paying child support. The other moved to San Jose, and now Andrew was a homeless 17-year-old, a poor kid with no one.
I really wished we had taken him in, but Andrew didn't know how to ask for help, so the idea never crossed my mind. You might wonder if Andrew died out on the streets (or some hopeless cliché like that), but he's not dead, although he might as well be.
Andrew moved to Mississippi to live with his mom who just got out of jail and might be a lunatic. I haven't talked to him since, and I'm sorry to say I haven't thought about him much either.
A day or two ago, I was on Facebook just staring at my homepage. They have this box in the upper right corner that tells you who you should be friends with. I saw Andrew's bloodshot eyes staring at me from that box. I saw his popcorn teeth glimmering. It said, “Reconnect with Andrew.” Now, I don't like a website telling me what to do, but I clicked on it because it was Andrew and he had been our king. I scrolled up and down his wall, which once had been filled with activity. It was barren except for one post.
Lexi: WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
I don't know a Lexi, but she was the only one who was there for Andrew, and even she didn't know where he was.
I looked at his pictures. I wanted to get another glimpse of the king. There was a picture of him eating a Big Mac. There were shots of him smoking and drinking. Then there was one of all of us with him, encouraging him. No one stopped and told him not to. Andrew made the rules and he didn't take advice from anybody, especially not parents.
Then I got to his last picture: he had that half-bleached blond hair, pimply skin, and those yellow popcorn teeth just like that hero who had eaten my breadstick four years before, but I knew everything would go wrong for Andrew just by looking at that picture. The funny thing is, he looked so normal, like he could have been me.
Suddenly, I had to go to the bathroom, and not because I was about to wet my pants. When I got there, I looked straight out the window of my two-story house, something my parents provided me that Andrew never had. My hands shook and my knees trembled. I kept trying to turn and face the mirror, but I kept changing my mind. Andrew was pushing me forward, and I was holding back.
I looked at my hands. They were disgustingly dirty. Hadn't my mom always told me to wash my hands? I turned to the sink and began to scrub as hard as I could. I reached under every crease, under every nail, and then continued to scrub some more, just like my mom said to do.
And then I looked in the mirror – the very thing I had been fearing. I looked into my eyes, and they weren't bloodshot because my mom always took me to the doctor when I looked unhealthy. I looked at my skin, and it was pretty much free of acne because my dad had bought me facewash.
Finally I opened my mouth. I remembered Andrew's picture. His staring bloodshot eyes. His damaged skin. But emerging from the image, more than any other feature, were Andrew's yellow teeth. I looked into my mouth and smiled. My teeth were straight, clean white erasers with no damage, and I knew why. Because when I was little, my dad would scrub my teeth every night. He wouldn't let me go to sleep 'til I had brushed. No one ever did that for Andrew.
I knew what my parents did for me. Now I wanted to do something for Andrew. So I went to his wall and wrote a message.
Mark: Andrew, I miss you. I'm just writing to say that no matter what happens, even when you have no one to turn to, I'm here, dude. And lastly, don't be afraid to accept some advice, some help, some guidance.