We used to go out there all the time: Elliot and I.
Elliot was goofy but good. Really good. We were both goofy, together. Always together. So much so, that our families used to joke that we saw each other more than our parents, even though we lived under different roofs. They were right though, I did spend more time with Elliot than them. He was my childhood. They joked to cope with their guilt in being absent...all four of ’em.
I guess that’s why I was always so drawn to Elliot, and him to me. We had someone to give all of our attention to and receiving that attention was what we needed emotionally at our times of growing up alone. Alone, but around people. So, maybe not alone, but definitely lonely.
We got to be lonely together, suddenly making this feeling entirely foreign. After Elliot, there was no more loneliness. And because I knew him, I don’t think I can ever have that feeling again. He erased it from my body and mind. I’d like to think I did the same for him too.
Elliot moved to town when I was in Mrs. Giliani’s class in second grade. He was the new kid, and I was the good one; the “always in line” one, the “never acts out” one, and the “silently smart” one. Needless to say, we dealt with our loneliness differently. Being the new kid, Elliot was immediately named the class clown. And like the teachers did every year, they put the kid with “bad behavior” next to me...hoping that I would rub off on them.
This time, it only did the opposite.
Maybe I mellowed him out a little, but boy did he break me out of my shell.
He would whisper comments to me while the teacher was turned around and I would hush him and kick his foot under the desk...but he was the only one to ever make me crack. He made me laugh during silent reading.
This was a big deal. I took my silent reading very seriously. Definitely too seriously for a 7-year-old. However, there was this one time that I was reading Judy Blume’s Superfudge–that’s right, I was a whole two years above my reading level–anyway, I was reading intently and Elliot started making this face behind his book. It was this face that he did a lot and it made me laugh every time. It’s a little hard to describe: almost like googly eyes mixed with a Trix the rabbit smile and in a way that was also serious? My words don’t do it justice.
This one time, I must’ve been slap-happy from a lack of sleep, that I just could not stop laughing. Elliot was so shocked that I made a noise above a whisper and started cracking up too. And there we were, the two of us cry-laughing in the middle of a stark silent library, with all the other students staring, and Mrs. Giliani’s ears bubbling with smoke.
I had never met anyone else like him before and I still never have.
After a few weeks, we started to walk home together. We don’t exactly live close: his house was about a mile behind mine in a straight line.
I guess we didn’t really walk home.
Right in between our two houses was an old, abandoned barn–that’s where we would walk to after school.
We stumbled upon it one rainy day when we were covered up to our knees in mud, still exploring.
I’m setting the scene as if this barn and this place were creepy. It was not at all. Although it was old and a little run down, there were wildflowers in purple and orange all around it and the paint was chipped but still a bright red.
I wonder if I remember it this way because of him. A barn full of life and happiness. Or if it was actually creepy and I never perceived it to be that way.
All I know is I was never scared to go in it. Frankly, that place felt more like home than my own did.
Over the summer months, we would meet there every day. Slowly, so our parents wouldn’t notice, we brought out little things to make it our own personal treehouse...but not in trees. I guess you could call it a playhouse.
I snuck out the rusty blue lanterns from my dad’s shed and Elliot brought some old potato sacks that we made into bean bag chairs from hay and leaves.
Looking back, it’s a little gross...I mean there were probably bugs inside the chairs but that didn’t bother me. More so, it excited me. I liked experiencing things, understanding the way the world works, the way love works.
This must sound like I was in love with him. That I had this massive juicy girly crush on Elliot. I can assure you, this was not the case.
It was simply love and companionship. I was truly myself with him, and he was his goofy and kind self too...though, I do wonder if I would’ve thought differently if we had the opportunity to keep growing up together. If I would’ve developed one of those massive juicy crushes on him.
Him on the football field, me in the stands with a poster of his face in the face he always made. I guess I have thought about this. Maybe I developed a crush on him when he was no longer in my life? That I did romanticize our past? But romanticized it in a way that reminded me of home.
I mean, I’m doing it right now anyway. I’m telling you all about him, aren’t I? In a way this is romanticizing all of it.
But I’m telling you about him because his story deserves to be heard.
Whether or not he would agree with me. He deserves to know how he touched my life...and that every single person who came into my life after him could never compare to him. Different, yes. But there was never anyone like him. No one like Elliot.