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  • He was my best friend. He lived up the street from our place on Midland Street, and I spent a great deal of time at his house, playing with Jeffrey and his little brother and sister, Steve and Rhonda. We would have so much fun. We all laughed easily, and we always had fun together. I would learn later that he was mildly retarded, but that never seemed to matter to us, then. I was too young to know that made any kind of difference. We were friends, and we had fun doing all the things that kids do. I just remember playing games in their backyard, and in the house when it rained. It seemed like we did things with a reckless abandon, there. His Mom was one of the coolest mom’s I knew. I always liked going over there – I always felt welcomed. His parents and mine were best of friends.

    Then, when we were both around 5 years old, it happened. I wasn’t there, but I heard about it. Jeffrey and Peggy and Sheila were riding down the hill at the end of Midland Street in a wagon. The street ended onto McNeilly Road, a somewhat busy thoroughfare with more cars and occasionally trucks than Midland ever saw. As the wagon picked up speed, flying down that steep hill, Peggy and Sheila saw the big 18-wheeler rumbling down McNeilly and jumped out of the wagon well before it reached the bottom of the hill, and screamed for Jeffrey to jump out, too. But, Jeffrey stayed the course, and rode that wagon right into that 18-wheeler – who knows what he was thinking, or if he just didn’t act quick enough to jump out? He just rode it right into the oncoming truck, which must have seen him at the very last minute, and jammed on its brakes, much too late to keep from running him over.

    They said his head had wound up jammed between two tires. By some sort of miracle, he survived it. But, he was never the same after that. He was away for a long time – maybe five or six months - an eternity at that age. By the time he came back home, everything had changed. He was more forgetful – he asked more questions, the same questions, over and over and over again. It was no more fun to go over to his house to play. He wasn’t the same Jeffrey I’d known, he was very different, now.
  • I’d found other friends. I wanted to still be friends with Jeffrey, but it just wasn’t the same, now. I knew now that he was different. I treated him more condescendingly, like his brother and sister had started to do. It was too hard to deal with, to try to understand, what had happened to my best friend. I eventually stopped going over there, altogether.

    I always felt shame over that. I always felt like I should have stayed by his side, and been a real friend. But, I just didn’t understand what had happened to him. He wasn’t the same Jeffrey that I had known before. He had changed, or I had changed, but whatever had been there before was now just like a disassociated shadow, that we couldn’t quite reconnect to ourselves, to each other.

    It was a long time before I ever made another “best friend”. I always had friends, but none were quite like the friendship I had had with Jeffrey, up to age 5.

    I’ve never written about Jeffrey before. I’m not sure why he came to mind just now, but I do remember the horror of hearing what had happened, and the difficulty of trying to understand why it happened. He had been my best friend.
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