Zander has a cool last name. I believe it is Swedish for “fancy”.
But when I first met Zander, I did not feel that he was fancy at all. It was the beginning of the semester and everyone was crowded up in the first-floor hallway. People were running into each other. Zander was standing at the edge of the crowd, holding his crotches, wearing his kneecap and having a big backpack on his back. He is a bit chubby, wearing glasses and had curly hair. He looked like any other ordinary kid, but the crotches made him stand out in the crowd, like a dot on a piece of plain white paper.
Still, I forgot him quickly.
It was a long time before I learned about him again. It was before Homecoming week, I finally got a small group of friends and everyone was planning on going to the Homecoming dance. Being the only Chinese kid in the group, I started to worry about having a date, so I made a pact with another girl in the group who did not have a date yet. We agreed to go to the dance as friends. After that pact, I learned that a kid named Zander asked her out and got rejected.
The name Zander and the face with curly hair and glasses finally matched up in my head. The next time I saw him in the hallway, I would recognize him as Zander. Even after he made a whole recovery, I still thought he was holding his crotches, wearing his kneecap and having a big backpack. The sound of the crotches stumping the ground was still echoing in the hallway.
What’s up, Zander?
How’s it going, Zander?
I always got no reply from him so I had to walk away awkwardly. Ran into him in the classrooms from time to time and no conversations could be made either. He would stare at me for a second from his corner of the room with some resentment in his eyes, and I would feel bad for stealing his date. He then became the inside joke between me and that female friend. And the failed proposal to the prom became a “plausible” reason for me letting him resent me.
The greetings in the hallway stopped eventually.
After the dance, a member of the group tried to be a drama queen and that eventually led to the breakout of the group. Suddenly everybody had their own secrets. Secrets are like walls and I am the unfortunate one who was restrained within the walls. I could not be friends with both sides, so all I could be close with was the true friends while the “fake” ones faded away.
One day during lunch, friends and I was sitting on the ground in an empty classroom. That female friend was there too. We were talking and laughing during that short lunch period as if one more minute of laughter was gonna make the rest of the day easier.
Then uninvited, Zander opened the door and walked in. He greeted every one of us, but none of us said anything, he then chose a corner and sat down on the round with us.
The conversation continued, just with an extra narrator on the side.
Zander tried to be a part of the conversation, but we did not agree on that. He made some bad jokes, we continued with our talk; he made a comment, we continued on our talk; he asked a question, we continued our talk; he stopped talking, we continued our talk.
The whole room felt the awkwardness. All I wanted to say to him is: “We don’t know you that well! Can you please go to the place where you belong? ”
Eventually, he tried to stand up. Maybe it was because of his knee injury, his legs were shaking while he was attempting to get up.
I finally said: “Gosh Zander, please go sit on a chair so you don’t have to sit on the ground and hurt yourself. ”
He said: “My legs were just asleep. ”
I stood up, opened the door to the next classroom and pointed at an empty chair, said: “You could go sit there so you don’t have to sit on the ground again. ”
With no response, he started walking to that chair.
The talk continued, with more laughter and messing around, and Zander was not in the room anymore.
I had a bad day.
Testing, applications and bad news from few away all came in one day.
I’ve been restless for sometimes.
Tried to talk to my friends. Jack said he had to work, Sia would not talk to me, Blue has her own problems to solve.
So I went to my best bro and my best girl friend, saying that the three of us should go do something together. Both of them went silent for a second, then checked their phones, had a quick glimpse at each other, then said simultaneously: “You need to go home. Go review for your test. ”
I took the hint quickly.
The best bro drove me back to my house. Then he turned around and went to my best girl friend’s house.
Back at home, the whole house is filled with silence. I could only hear the dripping sound of a leaking toilet.
After trying to fix it, I stood up and rubbed my numbed legs from keeling in front of a toilet for thirty minutes. And then I caught my reflection from the bathroom mirror. I looked helpless, sad and tired with black eyes from sleep deprivation.
Just like the way I remembered Zander, him holding his crotches, wearing his kneecap and having a big backpack on his back, crippling through the hallway.
More memories started to come back to me–I used to be the one sitting in the corner when everyone met up in the classroom and had lunch together; I used to be the one in silence in my corner; I used to be the one who was refused; I used to be the one at the edge of the edge of the crowd.
But I’ve forgotten those terrors over some assumed friendships.
And in the case when the crap hit the fan, in the case when I was in desperate need of a friend to talk to, all those friendships sailed away, and I was left with a leaking toilet.
My ignorance, my assumption of friendships and the fantasy of my life being a Netflix high school movie, forced me to push Zander out of the room, just like everyone else when they first met me.
That teensy bit of friendship lured me to into forgetting the horror of solitude.
I finished all my work in silence into the night. My phone did not buzz even once. Every friend knew I had trouble going on, none of them chose me.
But all I could think about was Zander. The Zander who would sit with us despite his hurting injuries, the Zander who took all his courage and strength to ask the girl he liked to prom, the Zander who was holding his crotches, wearing his kneecap and having a big backpack on his back, crippling through the hallway.
My silence to him was bullying.
My silence to him was my sin of arrogance and ignorance.
My silence to him was an unlucky life’s ruthless mockery to another unfortunate.
And for that, I feel ashamed.