71: A Boy Named John

71: A Boy Named John

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

A Boy Named John

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

~From a headstone in Ireland

There are moments in your life that you will remember forever. Over time these memories may become fuzzy and altered, but the important parts always remain intact.

I had no idea that Saturday night would be so important. I had no idea that it would be this moment that I would later treasure with all my heart. I had no idea it would be the last time he would make me giggle.

One Saturday night, I ventured to my friend Katie’s house. Our night started off normally. We watched a movie, ate pizza and talked about boys like twelve-year-old girls do. We were in the middle of arguing about who was hotter, Chad or David, when Katie’s older brother, John jumped out from behind the couch and scared the living daylights out of us.

I had always been a big fan of John. Throughout elementary school, he had served as a constant entertainer for us younger girls. Somewhere in between second and third grade, boys had lost their cooties and become something of interest to me. John was one of those boys. I developed a huge crush on him one day during carpool when he shared his Starbursts with me. If nothing else, John was definitely an added bonus to being Katie’s friend.

“We should totally have a séance,” John suggested moments after scaring us. “That’ll really scare you.”

I’m not completely sure why a fourteen-year-old boy wanted to spend his Saturday night with a Ouija board, two scented candles, and two twelve-year-old girls, but he did, and Katie and I were intrigued. So we sat in a tiny closet, hand in hand, attempting to decide who we wanted to bring back from the dead.

“Elvis, definitely Elvis,” Katie suggested.

“Stupidest idea ever,” John replied.

“You’re stupid,” Katie responded.

John shook his head and turned to me.

“Wanna see something cool?” he asked.

I nodded, thinking perhaps John had some sort of trick up his sleeve. That, and I couldn’t turn the boy down. I sat waiting to be impressed, when there in the crowded closet John lifted up his butt and farted right into the candle. In the movies or in an immature boy’s head, the fart would have ignited a large flame. In real life all that happened was a suffocating odor quickly took over the small closet we were sitting in.

“Disgusting!” Katie yelled as she slapped her older brother. “That’s it! This was such a stupid idea.” And with that, Katie marched off. I, on the other hand, had found the entire thing to be amusing and was balled up in the corner laughing.

I don’t remember what happened next. I’m sure I eventually followed Katie to her room. Her mom would probably later bring us a snack and we would stay up too late talking about nothing in particular. I probably agreed with her when she talked about how weird her brother was, while I was secretly naming our future children. In the months that followed, Katie and I drifted apart, partly due to my inability to keep in touch with friends and partly because the two of us were entering that angst-ridden adolescence.

And then one day I got a phone call about a boy, a thing called a brain aneurysm, and finally a funeral. Later, I found myself, thirteen years old, standing in a cemetery, listening to someone play “When The Saints Go Marching In,” knowing that I would never see my crush, Katie’s brother, again. I would recall that Saturday night and the disgusting odor that suffocated me as I lay laughing in the corner of a dark closet. For a brief moment, the tears stopped. For a brief moment, I smiled at the simple memory of laughing with John. It would be gone later as I sat with Katie watching home videos of her and her brother. I’d forget it when I saw their mom in the grocery store, sad and grieving, yet continuing on with everyday life.

Years would pass and the memory would be pushed further and further away. But every once in a while, without notice or reason, I remember a boy who made me giggle until my stomach hurt, and I’m taken to a time and place where it seemed like each of us had all the time in the world.

~Kathleen Ingraham

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