This I Believe

Abby - Chevy Chase, Maryland
Entered on December 12, 2007

I’d been waiting in front of the middle school for over an hour and half. Shivering, I remove my backpack. I take out my sketchbook and a pencil. I sketch a tree. I look and see Peter coming out of the building, skateboard under his arm. He stops, puts down his skateboard and propels himself towards me.

“Hey, you’re in my math class.” He says, peering at my sketchbook, “Nice picture.”

“Hi, I mean, yes, I mean… thanks.” My cheeks get hot. The cold air nips at them, as if to say it can see me blushing.

“Math sucks,” he frowns. He is failing math. His mom is one of my teachers and likes me, and sometimes she worries out loud to me about Peter’s grades.

I’d like to say ‘I’ll help you, and oh by the way I really, really like you,’ but instead blurt out, “Yeah, it really sucks.”

Then there is a honk. My mom’s minivan has arrived.

“I have to go.” I say, wishing I didn’t.

“See you around.” He smiles. His grey green eyes seem to light up. I can’t help staring into then but quickly turn away.

I pack up and leave.

That was the first time I talked to Peter. I ended up casually tutoring him in math that year. I say casually because he only agreed to meet with me if we didn’t call it ‘tutoring’. Tutoring was for stupid people, he would have said. He was smart -even if he didn’t think so – funny, and good artist. He used to pass me little cartoons of our teachers during math class. I used to tell him that he should pay attention instead of drawing, but I still kept every one. I wouldn’t say I loved him; I was too young for that. But I loved his company, and his charm. I never told him any of this.

Peter and I stopped hanging out when we got to high school. He started smoking weed and drinking, which, at the time was a carnal sin in my book. He hung around with a group of boys who considered themselves ‘bad asses,’ honestly though, they were just mean. They changed Peter and I think he knew this. Once in the hall, when he wasn’t looking I glanced his way. I noticed the spark in his eyes was gone. They looked tired and old, burnt out. I missed him and his spark. But not enough to say “Hi.”

On May 3rd, 2003 Peter committed suicide. He was fifteen. I used to blame myself. I was sure he had thought no one cared, and if I had only told him I did, he wouldn’t have done it. His death made me realize how critical it is to let people in your life who are important to know just how significant they are. I feel I am a better friend because I knew Peter and I’m so thankful that he was ever a part of my life.