Why did you do that?
When we were six you said no to me. You said you didn’t want to play with me when I shyly approached you, blocks in hand. You said it loud enough for the whole class to hear. I clenched those blocks, and I was strong and stoic like the sanded, painted wood. I think they were green and blue. The blocks, I mean. When you said it, you didn’t look at my face. You didn’t look me in the eye. You looked at the blocks. I’m pretty sure they were green and blue. You looked at the blocks and you looked like you wanted to play with them. You did play with the green and blue blocks. Later. By yourself. But I didn’t ask you to play with me again. Why did you do that?
When we were ten you pushed me so hard I fell to the ground and skinned my knee. It was during recess. You got in the way of a game of tag with the friends I made instead of you. They came to my aid. My friends. You bully, they shouted, arms crossed. I willed them to stop because I could tell you didn’t mean it. I saw your eyes bug out when my blood dripped from the fresh scrape on my knee and down my leg. You didn’t want to push me, did you? You wanted to do something and you just didn’t have anything else to do. The girls only saw the boys behind you, laughing. It was a dare, you said. But as your cracked lips formed the words I’m sorry, Teacher pulled you away by your pale, bony wrist. I stared at your wrist, the strip of skin and bone at the edge of your long sleeve t-shirt. Why would you do that, the girls yelled after you. My friends, I mean. They yelled at you. Why did you do that?
When we were ten I waited for you after school. Your plain black hoodie was yanked over your head so no one could see your cavernous eyes. You did not walk in twos or threes like everyone else. You walked alone. After four years, I approached you again. You were shocked, but you humbly pulled back your hood and you let me peer into those caves. I’m not mad, I said. That you pushed me, I meant. You considered this, kicking up dust at your feet. I didn’t mean it. You said it casually but I could tell that you were really begging for forgiveness. And something else too, but I was too young to tell what it was. I know, I said. Want to come over? I smiled at you. I can’t, I have to go home. You sealed the caves and didn’t look back. Why did you do that?
When we were eleven we worked together on a partner project. It was about the rain forest. I think we had to do the canopy layer. You were so smart. And you listened to me, you really did. We didn’t divide up the work. We did everything together in that corner of the library. I’ve never had a partner project like that. It was beautiful and neat, with a bubble letter title. I made the bubble letters and you colored them in. We got an A and Teacher said we worked well together. You smiled and I said you could take the poster board home but you gave it to me. I don’t understand. You were so proud of it. And you knew so much about it, I could tell when you talked to all the parents. Why did you do that?
When we were eleven I waited for you after school. Again. You wore the same black hoodie, only now it was more frayed around the edges. You saw me, off to the side. You came to me. You lowered your hood. I don’t think you knew. That it made me so happy, I mean. Tomorrow, you said, and melted into the November shadows.
Tomorrow came and you were there. After five years you were there. You lowered your hood. No more caves. You gave me a little paper crane. I think you made it out of a gum wrapper. It was a beautiful piece of delicate magic. I swear it quivered with life in my hands. I’m so happy you did that. I think – I knew – it meant we were friends now. After five years we were friends. I giggled and then you giggled and then you said let’s go for a walk. We walked around and around. You talked a lot about your life, your thoughts, and your dreams. I listened a lot. I think I know why you did that. I understand now.
Accompanying Artwork by Meital Sztokman
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