We stood there together, sharing his pain. The sincerity of the moment had brought us closer than we ever were before. The poison had been coursing through the veins of Andrew’s arm for several minutes now, and the burning sensation was growing sharper. He fell to one knee, overwhelmed by the pain. With one hand, he covered his face to hide his tears even though his sobbing was audible. I stood idly by, unsettled by his visible anguish. I felt sympathy for my friend. I needed to help him. It would be cruel not to, but it meant crossing a sacred boundary. These moments of adversity always make me appreciate the value of our friendship.
I remember meeting Andrew in the fifth grade. I had just moved back from Mexico and I didn’t know anyone or how to approach anyone. I hadn’t spoken to an American in three years. I was inevitably awkward to be around. Andrew could see past that. I remember how Andrew and I became close. Despite my quirkiness, Andrew was personable. He was critical of personality and not appearance. He was more intelligent than the others. I wasn’t pressured to dumb myself down for him. I remember the moments when we bonded. When my father died, he simply listened to what I thought or felt instead of giving me support I couldn’t use. I remember when my mother welcomed him in our household as if he were another child of hers, and a brother of mine. I remember the trips he went on with us to my home country, Chile, and to Ireland. We roamed the streets of Santiago, talking about religion and faith, and he would listen to what I had to say. We drank Guinness and talked until the morning light shined through the little wooden windows of our Irish cottage. I believe friendship is life-affirming.
I also believe friendship takes sacrifice. There he knelt on the sand before me, waiting. This situation was new to us. We were trying an untested facet of friendship. He extended his poisoned arm so I could get a good aim. Still holding back the tears, he shielded his vision from my genitals as they dangled in the air only a foot or two from his face. I checked one more time to make sure no one could see, and I proceeded to urinate. The lifeguard told us that urinating on the afflicted area would temporarily alleviate a jellyfish sting if proper medical attention was not immediately available. I drenched his entire arm, from wrist to shoulder, before we hopped in the car to go to a clinic down the road. Andrew was somewhat hesitant to thank me on the way. That night when Andrew sat in a bathtub filled with doctor-prescribed ammonia, I stood nearby to console him. He swears still to this day that my stream of friendship actually made the sting worse. I laugh when he tells the story, and I am grateful.
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