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“So what do you think?”

What did I think? Well it was Friday, a special Friday. This Friday happened to be Halloween. I was in 10th grade so the biggest decision I had to make was whether or not I should go trick or treating that night. My eyes were wandering from the front of the room to the windows of my English class when that voice slowly pulled me back in.

“You wanna be partners?”

I was never big on group projects. I had a certain work ethic. So when my teacher said that our next assignment could either be an individual project or a group project, I immediately set my sight on how to complete this task by myself.

He wanted a partner.

Michael was the goofy kid in class. He wore oversized glasses, had a bit of a lisp, but a smile that everybody would identify as contagious. Most people called him Wolkis, few had the pleasure to call him Mikey; I was one of the lucky few. I had grown up playing on various sports teams with Mikey. We grew close over the years. Mikey was by no means the best player on our basketball team, but he worked as hard as anybody out there. One night he showed up just as the game was about to begin in a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Now if you don’t know the common attire for a basketball game, it usually consists of a tank top and shorts; that didn’t phase Mikey. As he stepped out onto the court, he pulled on his sports goggles, the icing on the cake. Well this happened to be a special game for Mikey. Either he drank some special juice before the game or just played his heart out because by the end of the night he scored over 20 points and had the referee hugging him in celebration. I can always picture the smile Mikey had as the referee squeezed the goggles off his head.

So how could I break it to this kid I had grown up with that I wasn’t really looking for a partner?

“I’ll let you know over the weekend, Mikey.”

A simple nod conveyed his acceptance; the look in his eyes expressed his disappointment.

The bell rang and English was over, the exciting weekend was about to begin. As I raced out of the classroom I caught up with my friends, but a part of me never left class that day.

We were walking around the town shopping center after a successful round of trick or treating. My phone rang, and I set down my full bag of candy. I heard my mom’s voice on the other side of the phone; it was trembling as if she had just been crying. That’s how I found out that Mikey had been hit by a car a couple hours earlier and that he was currently in a coma. The phone slipped out of my hand as the words came out of my mom’s mouth. Silence engulfed the area as the phone hit the pavement. My friends stared at me in confusion as my phone lay on the ground, but I didn’t know how to put it into words to explain.

As the days progressed the uncertainty grew. His brain was sleeping but his heart was as alive as ever. He had the biggest heart. As a class we wrote letters for him to read for when he woke up; mine was an apology. He never got a chance to read it. Five days later he was gone. The day I found out my voice went quiet. I just couldn’t open my mouth. As I sat in my house that evening I couldn’t navigate away from his Facebook. That smile was the only thing that got me through those next days.

Now I always wear a smile. Sometimes it’s my own or sometimes it’s one that I get from a memory of a special friend. It’s very simple; always take the time to appreciate all that you have and live with a big, shining smile upon your face, like Mikey.

So I go back to that classroom and listen to that voice as it asks, “You wanna be partners?” And without hesitation, “Nothing would make me happier.”



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