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Half of Ben

“… mostly the white kids hung out with the white kids and the Mexicans hung out with the Mexicans,” Ben Huerta was telling me. I nodded, and he continued. “It’s nothing like out here. Out here everybody hangs out with everybody. Down in California, it was people just stayed in their groups. And like sports? If you did football, you just did football. If you did basketball, you did basketball. Girls who played volleyball didn’t do track. You know?”
“I think I know,” I said, trying to picture it. “So do you like it better here or there?”
“I don’t know.” Ben paused for thought. “There was no drama over there. Like today, how Hannah was running through the halls crying because Milton’s visit was delayed? Just bawling. They didn’t do that stuff there. There was nothing like that.”
“Wow. I bet that was probably nice.” Hannah’s constant outbursts were common. We had all gotten used to them.
“So are you going to the prom, Mary?” Ben asked.
“I think so.” I slapped my computer screen, which had frozen up. I smiled at him. “Are you?”
“I think so. My sister wants me to go, and because she can’t drive yet I might have to go, just so she has a ride.” He laughed. “My mom and dad might make me.”
“Well, I think that’s good. Things like dances aren’t the most important thing in the world, but they’re good memories after it all. It’ll be your last high school dance, huh?”
“Yeah.” Ben is a senior, a nice senior who doesn’t try to scare the lower classmen. I’m just a freshman. He stared off into the distance of my frozen computer screen. “I made a lot of mistakes down in California, when I was a freshman. I was a good boxer, but then I got into trouble.”
“Like, fighting trouble?” I could see Ben as a boxer. He’s got the grace for it.
“Yeah, like my friends were kind of a gang, a little. We got into drugs and stuff, and it was bad. That’s why I don’t box any more – it reminds me of all of that.”
“And because we don’t have a boxing club,” I added, trying to lighten the atmosphere. I really didn’t see it in Ben, getting into drugs and gangs. He’s so kindhearted! “You’re a good wrestler, though, huh?”
“Yeah, wrestling’s fun.” The bell rang, but my screen stayed frozen. “Do you want me to call Mrs. Starbuck to fix it for you?” He asked, looking at the screen.
“No, that’s okay.” I smiled at him. “See you later. It was nice talking to you.”
“See you later,” Ben waved. As we walked out of the library, I couldn’t help but be glad Ben is my friend. I’d hate to see graduation come. Ben’s been a great friend to me. He’s always waved hello, he’s always come up to chat, he has always taught me things. He tells it honest. He’s a great role model too, if quieter than most.
Ben might not be the most popular guy in school, and he's not the most outstanding by far, but I can't imagine freshman year without him. We rarely see each other outside of school and we don't have endless conversations, but the ones we do have stay with me. Ben teaches me so much from our simple conversations. Like just now: he taught me that even nice people can get into trouble, but he’s proof that you can get right back out again.
He might not be a shining example of a college-bound senior, but Ben makes up for it tenfold. People who don’t know him very well may not agree, but if I become even half of what Ben is by the time I’m a senior, I will have something to which nothing else can compare.



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