His name was Jacob. I was in 6th grade. I had just moved to a small town in Kansas called Miltonvale. Don’t try to find it on a map, there’s nothing to see but dusty old memories better left in the past.
My 6th grade year was pretty amazing for the most part. Day one I sat at the “cool kids” table; i.e. the nerd table; but I lucked out I made 5 of the best friends you could ask for that first day of class. There was Treff, the chubby nerd with an arm for football and a passion for Sega. There was Daniel, a chubby nerd who played D&D and practices witchcraft. There was Patrick who lived in the country but had a Super Nintendo and lorded it over us Sega-owning peasants. There was me on the end, the dork with an unhealthy Transformers obsession. Then there was Jacob. He was the Spider-Man geek who also liked Sega and Power Rangers. Okay truth be told we all had Power Rangers and Sega in common. Heck we even had the Power Rangers video game *on* Sega!
Each of these boys, and a few others, make up a tale in my memories not far off from the glory days presented in the cult classic Stephen King flick “Stand By Me,” sure we didn’t have a quest to find a dead body to unite us but we were united nonetheless.
Through the thick of it all Jacob became my best friend. He lived on the far side of town, near the High School. In 6th grade he would ride his bike to my house to meet up. From there we’d bike down the road to grab Kimberly and ride together as a unit to the elementary school nearest my house.
The following year we went into 7th grade Jacob, who lived across the street from the campus mind you, still rode his bike all the way to my house to bike to school with his best friend. Except we’re getting ahead of ourselves in the story. Let’s back it up a bit shall we.
What stands out in my memories regarding Jacob was how unashamed he was of who he was. While Treff succeeded in transitioning to cool kid by joining the football team, I took a much darker and bloodier route to get there. I got my first taste of it when Sarah from California moved to town. She was the new, exotic flower from the far off land of California. This was Kansas mind you we were easily impressed by outsiders. In a story for another day, let me assure you it is worth telling, she ended up “going out” with me the remainder of the school year. This is central to the story. She was the first wedge that came twixt Jacob and myself.
The day she walked into our classroom the nerds instantly fell enamored. The so-called cool kids aka jocks/bullies, they weren’t impressed as California was land of the hippies. As a practicing witch among a pool of fellow practitioners I, too, became taken under the spell Sarah cast upon us that first day. Unfortunately Jacob was also taken for this girl as was Daniel. Treff never fell for her spell. She chose me of the three and it tore the group apart during the early days of the so-called courtship. Alas the budding romance to be, my first mind you, ended with a kiss. The day, last day of school no less, she landed a kiss on my cheek the other kids began making fun of me. I slipped into my old habit of telling them off, to which she became instantly angry saying I was ashamed of her. We broke up by the end of recess.
As the school year came to a close and my relationship with a girl came to an end, Jacob and I were thrust into the throes of summer side by side, best friends inseparable. Or so you would have thought. I ended up in summer school, as did he. Not because I flunked or anything but because mom couldn’t afford a baby sitter so my sisters and I were all forced into that as well as other day camps to occupy our hours each day. There were only three of us “boys” in that summer class. Jacob, me boy presenting, and Corey. The only thing you need to know about Corey was I had a crush on his sister Ashely and he was one of the jocks/cool kids. Being stuck in summer school together the three of us bonded somewhat. Thus we would unite, him, Jacob and myself at the swimming pool after school.
This is where things turn south. The bully of the class, his name was Jared Guy, a name I will take to my grave, showed up to the pool one day. He noticed his buddy palling around with two bona fide nerds he reminded said friend his place in the social hierarchy which meant he had to ditch us nerds. Not one to miss an opportunity Jared agreed to let me hang with him and become one of the cool kids, for a price. That price was I had to stab my best friend in the back.
I won’t go into details but I lured my friend out back behind the pool and with a crowd of onlookers cheering me I beat his ass. He walked away in tears, nose bleeding swearing he would get revenge. I sat there in shock. What have I done? I thought to myself. With the bully firmly planted himself on his perch having destroyed a perfectly good friendship I snapped. I turned my rage towards him and wrapped my hands around his neck. I had a tight enough grip the lifeguard hopped the fence, tore me off the kid and called the cops. I was banned from the pool the remainder of the summer.
I wish I could tell you my friend and I never saw each other again. I wish I could tell you he moved far away and I never heard back. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you the rest of the story as difficult as it was to relive in my mind.
The betrayal fresh in my mind but worse, the cops called to bring my parents down landed me in all kinds of hot water. Upon fishing the truth out of me my mother shamed me in ways I never thought possible. I felt about as tiny as an ant turd. She dragged me over to my former friends house to force me to apologize. Not having any of it hearing her sons side, the other mother rejected my sorry and told me to hit the bricks.
I walked over there on my own accord the next day. His step dad opened the door with a stern get lost and a slam in my face. Jacob saw me and crawled out the window to the back yard. He grabbed me by the arm and asked why I did it. With tears rolling down my cheeks I said I wanted to be cool. I begged him to forgive me. I begged him to be my friend again. In a twist of luck, no fate perhaps intervened, he agreed. We spent the rest of the summer inseparable as if nothing had ever happened. Like I said 7th grade rolled around and he demonstrated his loyalty to me, his best friend, by riding halfway across town on bike to my house just so we could continue our tradition of riding to school together, despite his house being literally across the street from the middle school to which we were imprisoned that 7th grade year.
I look back on my life with a pile of regrets tall enough to smother a horse. This is one of the few that sticks with me. The betrayal felt ten times worse after he so quickly forgave me. Of course he was one of those holly roller Christian kids and I was still converting to Christianity sorta so that may have played a hand in it. Either way I have learned over the years not to take my warm, fuzzy memories at face value. Every time I shine a light bright enough to tear through the fog of nostalgia I see the truth. In nearly every story I built up in my mind with a so-called happy ending I always find myself smack in the middle of being the villain.
I looked him up a few years ago on Facebook. He said he remembered me but quickly said the past is in the past. I knew right then he never forgot. How could he. I carry the weight of this and a dozen other similar tales on my shoulders. Today I feel a little lighter getting this pack of bricks off my chest.