By Sean Callahan
If I were able to say two words to him before I moved to Virginia, it would’ve been “thank you.” Not because he submitted to listening to my insane Transformer theories, dreams, and stuttering. Not because he played video games with me until eleven at night, and participated in plastic lightsaber duels with me on weekends. And it wasn’t because he was the only nerd who understood me for who I was. I’m thankful for all of those things, but they don’t compare to the truth.
I’m thankful for Joshua’s choice to break off our friendship. I’m thankful for the end of his visits, the declined PlayStation friend request on my TV screen. I’m most thankful for the day in sixth grade when he shattered my heart into glistening shards of frosty glass with his venomous parting words. Because it was the day I realized I had a heart all along.
I didn’t have one before that day. While we found joy in our video game nerd-outs and Lego wars, I didn’t know how much I’d been hurting him. His other friends slipped into the picture frame of our friendship, and I didn’t like it. For me, our picture frame could only hold only me and him, and no one else. I didn’t like how they’d tease me when I pronounced a word wrong, how they’d ridicule me for being too oblivious in a game of hide and seek. Joshua would join them, and I’d start crying. In the days that followed, Joshua would have silent talks with his father behind closed doors. Sometimes I heard him cry.
I wouldn’t find out until years later why Joshua had these talks with his father. He didn’t know how to react to my breakdowns properly without hurting my feelings, so he’d been consulting his father for advice. So he kept these feelings built up inside, until the day he decided to cut me out of the picture frame.
I’d been playing video games. My eyes were fixated on the TV screen, watching the PlayStation 3 brighten to life. I went to my friend list. Josh was not on it. I thought it was a small mistake, and restarted my PS3. The list loaded again, and my chest began to tighten. Josh still wasn’t on it.
After seeing my attempt at a friend request had been deleted, that’s when I wrote, “why did you delete me?” I wanted to be sure it actually happened. After all… Josh wouldn’t have dropped me without telling me why… right?
“We’re not friends,” was the message that proved me wrong the following morning. I tightened my grip on the controller and shivered where I sat. Already my fingers were slippery on the buttons as I responded. My anger increased as I got more and more negative responses. “Have you thought about the way you’ve treated me? Ever?” He finally messaged. I stopped messaging, turned off my PS3, and began to cry.
I then knew why he’d said what he said. Why he’d managed to penetrate my bulletproof ego with just a few digitized words on a TV screen. The times I cried when he or his friends would tease me, the times when I would break Joshua’s toys as a younger child when I got angry. The times I would embarrass him in front of his friends when I break down crying from the littlest joke. The time when he got me a book for my birthday, using the little amount of money his family had. And my ungrateful, venomous reply. “Uh… a book?”
My arrogant ego blinded by my lack of emotion was not compatible with Joshua. It only caused me to fade out of the picture frame even more, away from Joshua’s friendship, until I couldn’t see him any longer. Until he couldn’t see me as anything but an irritating little dot in the distance.
I wish I could tell him that he helped me learn from my mistakes. I wish I could show him that I hold no grudge against him anymore. I wish I could tell him: Thank you.