I remember going over to Christian’s house for the first time when I was in fifth grade. We sort of sympathized with each other, we were going through our growth spurts at the same time and so we were roundly picked on by other kids as “those tall gangly lookin’ geeks.” We were both even at 5’11” by the time we both turned eleven, which was in the middle of the winter, and after Christian had come over for my birthday party, his parents decided they had to return the favor hospitality-wise.
It was strange that this was my first time being over there, or that my 11th birthday was his first time coming over to my house. We’d grown up together in school, and aside from 3rd grade we’d wound up having every year of elementary school together with the same teacher. We had been in Little League together, too. Hanging out at school, sitting next to each other during lunch—I guess it was just a matter of fact that Christian Harrington and Tommy Lafoy comprised an inseparable duo when school was in session.
We were just hanging out in his room, waiting for dinner to be ready, when I asked him if he was going to do Little League again this year.
“Nah, I don’t think so,” he said, scratching the back of his neck. All of his clothes, like mine, were a little bit constricting or too short. “My dad doesn’t really want me to, he says there’s going to be better opportunities in a year or so and I should just wait to get on with a high school team.”
“Same with my dad,” I replied. “Dad says Little League’s just a waste of time at this point.”
“Even though I like it,” mumbled Christian. He kicked at one of his shoes that was lying on its side, sending it tumbling underneath his bed.
We then heard his mom shouting from downstairs, and we sprang to our bare feet, trundled down the stairs like two barreling dogs and spilled into the dining room, sitting on our chairs. I remember being so ravenous for food, so hungry, and as we sat at the table, fork and knife in hand, I can remember leaning over to see when the food was coming, and instead seeing Christian’s parents discussing something in hushed voices over the stove. His mom looked adamant, while his father looked sort of frustrated. Angry, almost. And they were pointing to the food. Now, I’m not one for becoming involved in another family’s problems, especially when I was only eleven and clearly this was none of my business, but I couldn’t help but catch a little bit: “It’ll never be time,” I heard his dad say, and then I caught just a few words here and there: “a schedule,”
“too much,” and “alleviate.”
And I guess that was all the hint I ever got that something was off. And that was so long before that summer before college.
See, Christian and his parents moved away as soon as school was out—not too far away, but definitely not close enough for middle school Tommy to just cart over on his bike and hang out. Seven years passed, and finally, in June, one month after we both turned eighteen, I got a letter.
“A letter?” I repeated to my mom from the doorway. She was holding up the envelope for me, waiting for me to come home to show me. I immediately set down my duffel bag and jumped up the stairs to grab it.
“And guess who it’s from,” she said. Usually when you receive a letter from a childhood friend, your mom’ll be excited for you, but she sounded oddly trepidatious about me getting it. Still, she held it out and I took it, heading directly into my room to change out of my uniform.
I’d been a part of the T.H. Howell High School’s basketball team for a good couple years now. That growth spurt that both Christian and I had been on back in 5th grade? Well, it never stopped, really, and now the tallest kid in school at 6’10”, I was still something of a freak but a rather more popular one, being a basketball jock and all. I kicked off my size 15 shoes and peeled my basketball jersey off of my torso. For just a moment, I regarded myself in the mirror and remarked on how little of muscle I had ever gained since going through adolescence and all that. My abs may have been well-defined, but they were just there by virtue of me having absolutely no bulk on me. I was still the same lanky, lean, wiry kid that I always was. A hairless, pale-skinned beanpole who sunk baskets. I guess it was nothing to scoff at, but all the same, I was going to college that next year and not for basketball. So whatever.
The letter! That’s right. I left the mirror and went to the bed where I’d randomly tossed the envelope. Christian’s handwriting was masculine and sloppy, a series of scratchy all-caps letters. “That kid,” I murmured to myself with a little grin before attacking the flap on the back and tearing the paper out of the envelope, unfurling it, and reading it.
Hey! It’s been ages, ain’t it?
Saw picture of you playing basketball. You guys went to State—sorry you didn’t win, man! But great to see you still doing sports. I did baseball over here where I am, but it didn’t pan out so well. Tall and gangly isn’t so great, and I see you grew up pretty massive, too! Lookin’ great, Tommy. (Or do you go by Tom, now? Hell! I don’t know! Anyway, that brings me to the reason for this letter.
“I’d love to see you again, meet up, chat, shoot the shit, y’know? Some weird stuff’s been happening in my life and it’d be great to talk with ol’ Tommy Lafoy again. I’ll be in town June 27th-29th, that Friday through Sunday.
Your old friend,