When I was thirteen, there was a boy in my class named David. He was shorter and skinnier than most of the other kids in my school, and he had been born blind. He had pale blonde hair that was always wildly messy in the mornings and neatly combed in the afternoons, probably due to the intervention of his tutor. Most of the other kids didn't like David, because he very obviously listened in on all of our conversations; I think he probably knew and remembered more about each of us than even our own friends cared to.
David had a huge crush on me, which reinforced my belief that I was ugly; as I would say to my friends, "The only boy who likes me is blind!" He said he liked the sound of my voice and he enjoyed the things I talked about.
David was an automatic outcast because of his disability, but he had such a strong personality that I don't think it bothered him that much. In fact, I think he must have felt like he was observing all of us, just sitting back and listening to our conversations. In a way, he was regal. Nobody liked him but, because he was so different and therefore mysterious, nobody dared to say anything to his face. He was respected out of the fear of all things strange.
I remember a conversation I had with him when our class was touring Washington, D.C. for graduation. We were sitting on the bus; David was in the seat in front of mine, turned sideways so he could better hear my conversations with my friends. A thought occurred to me while we were discussing dreams and I asked David, "Do you see anything in your dreams? People.. shapes.. anything?" and he replied, "No. I can't see anything, but I hear everything. I've never seen a face, or a tree, or a triangle. I wouldn't know how to imagine those things." We talked for a few more minutes, until he asked me if I would French kiss him, and that was when the conversation reached its end.
At our graduation dance, David sat alone against the wall the entire time. I'm not sure why he came, but the guy had a lot of guts. A girl in my class approached me and said, "Why don't you go over and talk to David? He really likes you and this is the last time he's going to be around you. He wants to dance with you, but even if you just went over and told him he looks nice, that would be enough."
I was too embarrassed though, and ended up not saying a word to him the entire night. It's been five years since then and I still feel incredibly guilty. A little over a year ago I told my then-boyfriend about it, crying and saying what a horrible person I was for not even saying hello to David. He said that I was just a kid then and that at least I had learned something from the experience. He was right; the lesson I learned was that I could have learned a lot from David, but didn't. If I had spent half as much time talking to David that I had obsessing over the boy I liked (who ended up being expelled for bringing fireworks to school), my junior high experience could have been much more enlightening.
I've always been a bit of an outcast myself, and David showed me that there are other people like me who probably have bigger problems than I do, who are generally very happy and gutsy people. I still can't believe how brave David was when he knew how many people disliked him. He is the kind of person I now respect the most; the ones who say exactly what is on their minds, are completely honest about themselves, and are absolutely unafraid of being judged.
Unfortunately, his lasting opinion of me probably isn't as nice as that; and while I'm sitting here lamenting over him, he's probably already forgotten that I ever existed. Nevertheless, it's ridiculous to feel guilty over things like this. I was younger and less experienced back then, and it's not like I did anything horrible to David. I simply didn't acknowledge how special he was.