“Things are never quite as scary
when you’ve got a best friend.”
I will tell you the story. It may take a few days, but we can get though it together. It started a couple of summers ago, the summer Max found the Orb.
“Come on Jac, you are not even trying.”
“Max, my hand is little bad today.”
“Oh. Okay. Do you want to do something else?”
“No, let’s just talk.”
Max tosses the X-Box controller at the floor then jumps up from sitting Indian style on the floor. He props the pillows and reclines on his bed. I use the desk chair to stand, then sit, slowly spinning the chair to face Max.
“Are the kids in middle school going to be mean to me?”
“Jac, school does not start for another few weeks. What are your worried about?”
“It has been better since you talked to Bobby McMurtry. He stopped being mean to me. Lillian says they will beat me up every day in middle school.”
“You know that is not true. Lillian is just being mean. Stop being a baby. No one is going to beat you up. Middle school is different, everyone knows they need to be nice and get along. The schoolwork is harder. People don’t have time to be mean. You are going to meet a lot of new people and make a lot of friends.”
“Yes, Jac, you will make friends. Lots of them. There are so many more people. The girls are prettier too.”
“Yes, you know what girls are, right?”
Max is laughing at his own joke. I wait. He stops and does what he always does. He makes me feel better.
“Have you been doing what the doctor suggested?”
“She is a counselor and, yeah, I suppose.”
“That means no. Jac, you have to tell people about it. Stop trying to hide it. Everyone knows and the people who don’t know will ask you about it. You need to do what the counselor told you. Tell them about it. What did she say…? She said: You need to own it. Own it, Jac”
“But, Max, sometimes my words don’t come out right.”
“No, they don’t but that is okay too. It doesn’t make you any less smart, or less funny. People don’t know you are funny. I know you are funny but no one else does. Make a joke. Get people to laugh while you tell them about it. You know the answer. Why are you being stubborn?”
“I am not stubborn… Max, do you think middle school will be better?”
“I know it will be better. But you have to be better too. Stop being shy and afraid. Let people know the Jac I know. Funny. Smart. Kind. And, you are a terrible dancer.”
Max waits while I laugh because he knows he has just made me happy. Standing, I try to do The Watusi, but it looks more like The Mashed Potato. I get exactly the result I wanted. Max is roaring. I stop and head home. Mac’s mother hollers from the kitchen as I am opening the back door to leave.
“Coming back to tomorrow Jac?”
“Yes, maybe in the afternoon.”
Walking across the yard, the back gate, I see Max watching me from his upstairs window.
When I come back to Max’s house, I forget to call first. I walk the two blocks, only to have Max’s mother tell me he is not home. He, and Jamie, and Mark, and Randall have gone swimming at the old mill pond. I walk home, thinking about owning it. Max knows I can’t swim so he didn’t invite me. That is a kindness. I’ll come back tomorrow. I’ll own it.