9: I Really Do Care

9: I Really Do Care

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

I Really Do Care

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.

~Euripides

Mary had always been my close friend. She was part of our inseparable clique of four. At the beginning of middle school, there was nothing that could touch us four. We were incredibly tight. Then, as the year went on, Mary got a boyfriend. She started to spend more and more time with him, and less and less time with us. Soon, she was acting different, being mean and dramatic. She would wave us off and walk away if we approached her. She was saying and doing things that weren’t... well, Mary.

We were still always there for her, but she never seemed to be there for us. After a while, our friendship began to drift away. A few months later, we were total enemies, always glaring at each other, never talking anymore. We were no longer friends and I told myself there would never be another moment when I felt compassion or sympathy for her. Never.

Then came that Friday in May when I proved myself wrong.

It was a very foggy Friday, near the end of sixth grade. Tarra sat next to me in art class and we were talking as usual. Conversation soon turned to Mary.

“I feel sorry for Mary,” she said in a half whisper.

“Why?” I asked in a tone that implied, “Why would you feel sorry for her? That’s exactly what she wants—she’s just looking for attention.”

Tarra’s eyes filled with worry as she answered my question. “Because she tried to kill herself last night,” she whimpered. I probably looked as if I had just been zapped by lightning. I stood frozen, my face full of shock, trying to speak but unable. It was like a horrible nightmare where you know you need to run but you can’t feel your legs. Flashbacks of all the good times I had with Mary rushed through my mind as I tried to breathe without hyperventilating.

“W-w-what?” I managed to stutter, still trying to stay quiet because Mary was nearby.

“I know,” Tarra sighed, disapprovingly, shaking her head.

I finally sat down, slowly, and put the paper I had been folding back down on the table. Then I stopped myself. Why do I even care? We’re not even friends anymore! But then I pushed that thought away. I knew that this was bigger than friends. This was about someone’s life and I wasn’t about to let some small argument get in the way. I squeezed all the details of the incident out of Tarra. It was horrible to hear, and I almost wished I hadn’t asked. She said Mary had cut herself all over. Her wrists were scarred and she had a long cut down her left cheek. Apparently, she had used a kitchen knife.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I glanced over at Mary—at her gorgeous hazel eyes, stunning red hair. Yet she wore a huge gray sweatshirt and sat slumped over the table, sketching with a pencil and never looking up. What I was hearing about Mary wasn’t the usual Mary news. Normally, information about Mary had something to do with her refusing to dance with her boyfriend, or getting into a fight with her mom. This was news I never thought I would have to hear—at least, not in middle school. And then it hit me, hard. I felt compassion and love for her even though I never thought I would. I felt sad and helpless. Was her life really so bad that it had resulted in this?

The biggest question flashing through my head was “Why?” She was beautiful, had great grades, tons of friends, and a loving boyfriend. Why would she try to kill herself?

I wasn’t the only one wondering why. There were rumors about guns and harassment and I didn’t know what to believe. Everyone I heard whispered things to me and told me not to tell anyone. But I had to. When you know that your friend is in that much pain, even if she is your “ex-friend,” it bubbles up inside you. All the secrets and lies crush you under their weight. So I told her group of friends. I was worried that one day I would come into school and instead of finding her in her usual seat, I would hear the news that she had tried again... and succeeded. I would think to myself, “You could have saved a life, but no. You were too afraid of what your friends would think of you for telling.” I shuddered at the thought, and I told my mom.

Mary has been getting help ever since the incident. Rumors were cleared up and things started to settle down. I still don’t understand why she tried to kill herself. I probably never will. I thought I knew Mary, but I had never really looked deep enough into her to understand who she really was. We continue to make small talk on the way to classes, but I don’t think our friendship will ever be the same. Still we are building it together, block by block.

On the last day of school, we were signing yearbooks. I came to Mary’s yearbook and paused. This is what I wrote:

Mary,

I miss having you as a friend, and I want you to know that I am still always here for you. And I really do care.

Love,

Jos

~Josy Hicks Jablons

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