AN: I don't own any of the sport teams or bands that are mentioned.
I didn't know his name.
I knew he liked the New York Giants and the Duke Blue Devils. I knew he liked the Chicago White Sox and the New York Rangers. I knew he loved listening to the Beatles and Breaking Benjamin. I knew he liked football, hockey, baseball and basketball.
But I still didn't know his name.
Everyday at exactly 10:18 am on the dot, I would pass him in the South hallway at our high school, right by Mr. Vann's literature class.
He always wore blue jeans and a weather appropriate top. He always had his iPod playing loud enough for me to just barely hear it as I passed him. He wore regular sneakers that were faded and worn, that probably should have been replaced fifty wears ago. His t-shirts were often times the only clues I had to what he liked, besides the music I could make out playing on his iPod.
If he had friends I never saw them with him. It was always just him, listening to his iPod, carrying his books for Calculus and American History under his arm as he went to his next class.
He was good looking, but not in the conventional way. He didn't seem the athletic type, though he clearly enjoyed watching sports. He was perhaps a little too skinny, his hair a bit too long, and his skin slightly too pale. He had brown hair that wasn't exceptionally dark or exceptionally light, plain brown eyes, and wore a generic blue backpack.
He couldn't be labeled. He wasn't a jock, or a nerd. He wasn't emo, or punk, or Goth. He wasn't a chess geek, or a math wiz. He wasn't a prep, or a poser. He just was himself.
Maybe he liked the color blue. Perhaps he enjoyed watching crime dramas or maybe sit-coms. He might have liked reading or video games. Maybe he liked action flicks or horror films.
He could have been born on Halloween or Christmas. Perhaps at one point he lived in Florida or in Washington State. Maybe he had seven siblings or maybe he was an only child. His parents might have been divorced or maybe one of them had passed away when he was a young boy. He could have been Jewish or Christian, democrat or republican, Italian or French. Maybe he was distantly related to the President or had a well-known ancestor.
Maybe he did well in school or perhaps he was failing all his classes. He might have had several close friends or a huge crowd of them. Maybe he was able to quote a famous politician or perhaps he had a nice singing voice, or could even play guitar.
He walked gracefully, never tripping over a book or his own two feet. He didn't walk too fast or too slow, too loud or too soft.
Yet I still didn't know his name.
During the 42 seconds I saw him every day, I tend to learn a little more about him. Its surprising how much you can learn about someone for 42 seconds a day, five days a week, one hundred and eighty days a year, even just by observing them.
But you still might not know their name.
He was never absent. Not once in the one hundred and twenty six days of school we have had so far this year as he missed a day. Maybe he never got sick or perhaps he cared enough about school that he came, even when he was sick. It seemed like something I could always count on— seeing his medium brown hair, pale face, skinny body walk down the South hallway with his blue backpack, blue jeans, and New York Giants t-shirt, listening to a blaring Breaking Benjamin on his white, classic 30G iPod.
I saw him Monday wearing his typical blue jeans that didn't seem to be so loose and low that one could see his boxers, but yet not tight either, and he had on a Duke Blue Devils t-shirt that hung loosely from his small body. His hair was neatly combed, his red lips in a thin line, and his average brown eyes staring straight ahead at his destination. His iPod was on and I could just barely make out the sounds of Breaking Benjamin.
Unable to help it, I let out a hiccup; then another one, and another one, attracting the attention of several students nearby me.
Including the boy, whose name I didn't know.
He looked over at me and smiled, releasing a slight chuckle that was so soft and light that it went unnoticed by the rest of my peers. I lightly smiled back, trying to force the end of terribly annoying hiccups.
So the boy had a sense of humor--- you learn something new every day.
Still, I didn't know his name.
I wasn't surprised Tuesday when I saw him at 10:18 am in the South hallway, by Mr. Vann's literature class. He wore another pair of casual jeans and a New York Rangers professional hockey t-shirt. His hair was a little messed up, his lips slightly chapped, but his eyes focused and determined. I swear I could make out one of the Beatles' songs playing gently on his iPod.
I sneezed. I sneezed and everyone once again turned to look at me.
Even the boy whose name I still did not know.
He looked over at me, gave me a small, barely there smile, and gently said, "Bless you."
I couldn't help but smile back. That was the first time I had ever heard him speak. His voice was deep, but soft and gentle--- almost soothing in a way.
The boy had manners--- you learn something new every day.
But I didn't know his name.
On Wednesday a Chicago White Sox t-shirt that looked a size too big for him accompanied his blue jeans. He had circles under his dull brown eyes and his hair was even messier than the day before. He had his iPod earphones in, but the music was too soft for me to make out. His pale face looked troubled and distant as he made his way to his next class.
This was proving to be an interesting week, for the next thing I did was let out a rather loud and annoying cough. Followed shortly by another one.
Why does everyone insist on looking my way whenever I make a little too much noise?
Including the boy whose name I had yet to know.
He started shuffling through his backpack and pulled out a red and white box. He got a sealed tablet out and handed to me.
A cough drop.
I took it with a grateful smile and muttered a "thank you."
The boy was prepared--- you learn something new every day.
Somehow though, I still didn't know his name.
On Thursday the patterned continued. He wore the basic jeans and the New York Giants t-shirt. His hair was a complete and total disaster and the circles under his eyes were dark and evident, his lips chapped, and his mouth forming a frown. His mind seemed distracted, even has he stared in front of him, heading for his next class. His iPod was blasting Breaking Benjamin louder than I have ever heard him play it before it.
Something seemed so very off.
In all of the off-ness that seemed to be going on with him, I failed to notice a larger, older boy run into my side as he walked past me, pushing me forward and causing me to drop the books I carried.
He had already been watching me before the boy ran into to me. Without much hesitation he took a few steps forward, bending down to help me gather up my books.
"Thanks," I muttered, my mind still trying to process everything that had happened in the last few seconds.
He smiled at me, though it didn't quite reach his eyes, nodding his head in acknowledgement, though no words escaping past his small lips.
The boy was polite, I'll give him that--- you learn something new everyday.
Yet, I still had no clue what his name was.
If Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday seemed weird, Friday was a million times more so.
The boy who constantly wore blue jeans and a t-shirt displaying his favorite sports teams; the boy who looked ahead, focused and determined; the boy who was polite, prepared, had manners, and had a sense of humor; the boy whose name I still did not know, was not at school.
But he never missed a day before. He was always in the South hallway, just outside Mr. Vann's literature classroom at exactly 10:18 am every school morning.
I checked my watch.
How was he not here?
Was he sick? Did something happen? Was his last class held late? Was his dog sick? Did he have a family emergency? Was he skipping school?
I don't understand.
He wasn't coming.
The boy whose name I didn't know wasn't here.
Friday seemed to be a little less interesting, a little longer, and a little more depressing without him.
But I still don't know his name.
I always liked Saturdays; sleeping in, relaxing, not doing homework or any forms of schoolwork for that matter. It was just a time for me to relax, hang out with friends, and catch up on the latest movies in theatres.
It was already pass ten am when I finally crawled out of bed. I was never one to sleep in late, so sleeping in to ten was almost an accomplishment for me. Almost.
I poured myself a cup of black coffee, grabbed a blueberry muffin, and settled down at the kitchen table with the newspaper. Skimming it I saw how it was suppose to be cloudy and rainy for the rest of the week, the New York Yankees had just won a game, and some government official was involved in a scandal…. Nothing new.
And then I saw it.
I saw him.
And I froze.
What was his picture doing in the newspaper?
The boy whose name I still didn't know.
I looked up at the top of the page to see what section I was looking at again, before looking down at his picture again.
Well, I finally knew his name—but this wasn't the way I wanted to discover it.
I skimmed the article about him; both his parents were alive, he had two brothers and a sister-- all older than him, he lived in New York his entire life; he did well in school and loved playing hockey, the drums, and video games.
I normally skipped this section, but for some reason I didn't today.
He was no longer the boy whose name I didn't know.
His name was Xavier Edwardson and I would never see him in South hallway, by Mr. Vann's literature class at 10:18 am every morning, again.
His name was Xavier Edwardson.
You learn something new everyday.
EDITED: June 23rd, 2010