My best friend throughout elementary and middle school was this dorky, chubby Eastern European kid with gigantic cowlicks in his hair. I thought he was the coolest person ever, and I couldn’t imagine anyone I would rather spend time with. Let’s call him Phil.
In second grade, I had trouble making friends. I remember being outgoing, but unable to communicate effectively with my classmates. My accent was very thick back then, and children rarely had the patience to parse my slurred and broken speech. I had my few friends, but I was regularly picked on by some of the popular kids. I became an introvert by necessity, satisfying my need for adventure with internal fantasy. I could stand on a manhole and pretend it was a portal to Disney Land, or I could convince myself that I was an alien with super powers. Though I often found myself alone, I was never lonely.
Still, when my second grade teacher introduced Phil to the class, I decided immediately that we would be friends. He sat close to me, and I ingratiated myself quickly. I hoped to keep him away from the cool kids, who would certainly turn him against me. Somehow, I was successful. We soon exchanged home phone numbers. Playdates were arranged. It was the beginning of something beautiful.