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The Boys

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I can see them all standing in pews with their parents, hands together and heads looking down. I can see their wrinkly dress shirts loosely tucked in, their nice shoes always a size too small.

I wonder when boys stop being boys. Surely these sad-looking men with serious eyes aren’t the same kids from the sledding wars and monkey bars. Surely those boys are somewhere else, forever running as fast as they can to the edge of the playground, to home plate, to where the sun always shines like July. I miss them, and the little girls we were too. I miss everything about who we were.

Now they ask us all these questions but we don’t have any answers. Now there are only ever goodbyes that hurt in a way that’s anything but good. And it all rushes by like the houses did out the school bus windows, the kind we’ll never ride in again.

I watched them, with their newly tall frames uncut hair, and thought about if it was a different time how they would leave to fight far away, as they do in all the best old stories. It never stopped being strange, how young and how old they seemed to me.

They boy who rode bikes with me in circles, over and over; the snowball fight on Christmas with another; and of course the one with the notes and the almosts and the mess.

But my favorite boy, for no real reason, was one with skinny arms and a goofy and too-big smile. Just because he was my first best friend, and through all of the bullshit of growing up he only ever smiled at me with that same goofy smile, as if our whole lives were the punchline to a really great joke.

The point is that seeing those boys stand there all in a line, starring death in the face as they lowered down a man they knew too well, I knew more than ever that we weren’t those kids anymore that we so loved to be.
We walked back toward the parlor, each step more careful than usual. The ground seemed much less stable than before.



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