The Final Game

January 13, 2018
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“I’m leaving.” The words sounded cold and empty. Not what I was going for. Silence filled the air, and a feeling of awkwardness grew.
“I’m moving to Illinois…” I mumbled.
“Hmm.” Only a nod of acknowledgment.
“When are you leaving?”
“Tomorrow.”


This was my last day of school with my friend Dylan. This was also the beginning of the last conversation I would have with him. I was going to move to Illinois, so this was my last chance to talk with him. I could have a few final words with him before I left.


It all started in the morning. Last night, on Thursday, my parents unexpectedly told me that we would be moving on Saturday to Illinois. This was a complete shock for me. Dylan would think that I would be on Monday, but I would be in a completely different state! I knew that I had to talk to him, or the last memory that I would have of him would be when he was sick. He was a dear friend, and I needed to say goodbye.


Dylan and I had been friends since third grade. We had both moved from a different school and were new students. I was walking down the hall when I had accidentally bumped into him.


“Sorry, sorry,” I muttered hastily.
“It’s okay. So, did you move this year?” replied Dylan.
“Yep.”
“Which school were you in before?’”
“Downtown Elementary.”
“Same!” And just like that, we were friends. We had so much in common. We liked basketball, food, and a million other things. He was the goofball, but I was the good student. Every year, we either had the same study hall or the same homeroom. Dylan’s favorite pastime was pulling pranks. Once, he messed up our history teacher’s board, Mrs. Spain. When she noticed what had happened, she got so angry you could see her face turning a shade of bright crimson. He was never caught, but after that, he stopped joking around. We had many good times together, and if I could, I would try to stop my family from moving.


I had to find a way to talk to him, but he was in none of my classes. The day flew by as if time was taken away. The used-to-be dreadful and grueling 40-minute classes seemed to be only ten minutes long. I still didn’t know what to tell Dylan. I tried to find something, anything to say, but my mind was blank, like a freshly wiped chalkboard.


I tried to talk to Dylan at lunch, but that hadn’t gone too well.
“Hey Dylan, can I…”, I started as I sat down at the table.


But he was busy talking to Tom, one of our classmates. He was only an acquaintance to me but was a best friend to Dylan. They were busy talking about our social studies project with Mrs. Spain. This was one of the biggest assignments that she had ever given. We were studying World War II and had to make a presentation about what a specific country did during a certain time in the war.


“We were going to do Germany, but Japan seemed easier,” Dylan began.
“Really? I chose Britain,” retorted Tom. “It looked way easier.”
They kept talking on and on, and by the time they were finished, lunch was over.


My parents wouldn’t be picking me up today, so I had to go to aftercare. Dylan was always there, so this would be my final chance to say goodbye to him. I still didn’t have anything in mind about what to say. I went to the school gym, where the aftercare was held every day.


The gym was a pretty small space, with not a lot of room. There were gigantic mahogany bleachers on the far left and the gym teachers’ offices were on the far right. There was also a boiler room near the offices, tucked away in a corner of the room. Kids would dare each other to quickly dash into the room and pop out when no one was looking.  The middle was a basketball court, and the baskets were always folded up. Near either of the remaining walls were tables and chairs, with board games on them, like chess and Connect Four.


The gym was void of people and looked barren, so we must have been outside today. I walked through the back door, desperately racking my brain. I walked out, the cool fall breeze rushing over my face. I put down my backpack, the grass kneeling down beside it.


I surveyed the entirety of playground. Little kindergarteners were running around willy-nilly at the base of the play structures and the jungle gym. The rest of the kids were playing a huge game of tag. Screams of “Over here!” and “You can’t catch me!” echoed in the nearing twilight. The counselors were playing Uno on a bench, just outside the rolling sea of chaos and confusion.


“Did you hear about the car crash on the highway?”
“No, what happened?”
“It was supposed to rain today.”
“It’s a good thing it didn’t. The kids were...”

“UNO!” Grumbles everywhere, except for the person who won, a mad grin on their wrinkled and creased face.

 

The counselors were all old ladies, and most kids thought that they were from the nearby retirement home.
I breathed in the crisp, cool, fall air. It smelled fresh and relaxing as if it could calm me. It softly whispered an incoherent babble of words into my ears. The cracked court was split and exposed, with small tufts of light green, hair-like grass. An assortment of pebbles and small rocks, all different shades and hues of silver and gray, were randomly scattered across the tar. I bent down and fingered the court. It was rough, sandpaper rough, but also felt a little soft. The grassy hair danced in the gentle wind, moving in small, faint, steps. Off in the distance, I could hear the quiet chirps of a robin. There was a complete silence that filled the air.


I walked to the basketball court, the familiar lines crisscrossing the tar. The rusty metal giants stood on either side, mouths open wide. Their white tongues were frayed, close to falling off.


Most of the kids were on the playground. It was a Friday, so no one had homework. Dylan was at the court already, ball in hand, practicing his free throws. I walk to the court, the sun close to setting, a fiery red ball in the vast sky.


I still didn’t know what to say, my mind as empty as a hole. I’ll just think of something on the fly, I thought.
The ball bounced up and down, and the metal giants looked down below. A few birds came down to a tree next to us, silent as the night.


A few minutes later, the score is five to five, tied. I decided to bring it up to him.


“Hey,” I say, “I need to tell you something.”
“I’m leaving.” The words sounded cold and empty. Not what I was going for. Silence filled the air, an occasional spout of laughter breaking the ice. A feeling of awkwardness grew.
“I’m moving to Illinois.”
”Hmm.” Only a nod of acknowledgment.
“When are you leaving?” 
“Tomorrow.” After a deep breath, I spilled out the whole story seconds later.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you my parents just told me yesterday-y…”
“Whoa, whoa, slow down!” said Dylan. I stopped suddenly.
“So, you're leaving tomorrow, and then we’ll never see each other again?”
“Right.”
“Then why are we wasting time now when we could be enjoying this last day together? We might as well just make the best of it. Now, let's finish this last game.”


Dylan was right. Even if it was the last time that we would see each other, we should embrace it, not try to fight it.


Early next morning, my family packed up, and we left, bringing all of our memories with us. My last thoughts on our old life before we crossed the border was Dylan. He was a good friend and taught me many things. But the thing I remember the most about him was what he taught me on our last day of seeing each other. Friends are important, and it is a pain to leave them, but it is important to make new friends. They may be hard to get – and believe me, it’s very hard – but new friends mean new memories, memories to keep for life. As H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said, “Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.” So try to make new friends, and remember all of the memories that you have made with old friends. It will help you go through life, all the way to the end.






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