“Why do you care what that dick says?”
Chris had a point. As we were walking home, I had told him about the talk I had with Andrew. Chris had a way with words; he could really put things into perspective.
“I mean, fuck him.”
Eloquently said, I really couldn’t argue with that.
“I know,” I mustered.
Chris stopped and turned to me. “Listen, I know you’re all messed up because he was dead and you didn’t know, but really, it’s not like he was our best buddy. He lived down the street from Steve. He was around sometimes, but we didn’t really know him.”
“Yeah, but, he didn’t have anyone else. I just feel like somebody should be sad for him, or miss him or something.”
“Look, I’m sad the kid died, but come on, he’s dead. If he was alive you’d probably spend the same amount of time with him as you do now.”
I couldn’t say that Chris was wrong. Chris and Steve and I had been best friends for four years now. People had come and gone from our circle of friends, and we had a couple of other guys who we were cool with, but the core group was always us. And the transition to high school was jarring enough that I might have completely lost track of Jeremy if he were alive. What Chris was saying was completely right, even though it felt completely wrong.
Steve caught up to me in school the next day.
“Hey, I heard what that Andy kid said to you. You want me to smash him or something?”
Steve, as a general rule, did not go around smashing people. But since he was the big guy of our trio, he seemed to be compelled to defend Chris and I, even when it wasn’t really required.
“No, it’s cool. I mean, I don’t know why he had to be so smug about it, like, I was just trying to reach out, ya know?”
“Yeah, I know. You’re cool shit. That kid’s a turd for flipping it on you.”
That made me feel good, in the moment at least. But when something’s under your skin, no one else can really get at it. You have to scratch that itch yourself. And Jeremy dying and what Andrew had said, that was a way-down, deep itch, way in the guts. Like most of the problems a fourteen-year-old had, I could only seem to express the surface feelings. Those way-down, deep-in-the-guts feelings were too strange to comprehend and way too deep to deal with.
Dan Pullen lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children. He writes stories about simple people and their complex lives.