When I was in kindergarten, I sat next to a happy brown-haired boy. On the first day, he sharpened my pencil without being asked. On the second day, I asked him to marry me. He said sure, and later brought me a plastic ring to seal it. He wouldn't let me play on the seesaw at recess because Marie had broken her arm falling off, and he worried. He had a smile I can still see. We were best friends until I transferred schools about a month later.

Ten years later, worrying through geometry class new kid stumbles in, late and gawky and weighed down with books. Mrs. Barclay - Berkley - Barkface - waved him to a seat in the back. As he staggered past my desk, he paused and looked. I hadn't stopped looking at his face.

After class.
"Are you - ?"
"Yes! . . . are you - ?"

Trey was in my chem class too. We were lab partners the rest of the year, made more interesting by the fact that he had Tourette's syndrome. Nothing big, just occasional sneezing or jerking which he couldn't control. You never saw so much singed hair. He always wanted to work the burner, and I let him. He was calmer around me. He was a gentleman.

Last year my mom called to tell me he was dead, that he had sneezed himself into a head-on collision. I went ahead and mourned him before she called back to say it had only been small-town gossip, that he was just in the hospital and would be fine.

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