I guess no matter how old you get, you never forget your childhood best friend. I certainly didn’t.
I had a lot of friends as a kid. There was Timmy, and Tommy, and Jimmy, and Jommy. But none were as close to me as Elliott was. Elliott became my best friend when we were in the third grade. I was the only one who would laugh at all the rude things he would say about our teacher, and our teacher was the only one who would laugh at all the rude things he would say about me. We were two peas in a pod, a regular pair of pals, two elephants in a diaper.
Elliott had a hard time fitting in at our school. He was “the new kid,” since he had been born so recently, and he moved to our town when he was eight. The other kids would make fun of him for his weird out of town haircut and weird out of town glasses. He said in the town he grew up in, everyone had haircuts like that, but no one believed him.
But I could tell that beneath that ugly haircut and ugly glasses, there was a nice kid who wore some ugly t-shirts. I let him sit at my table during lunch, even though he always ate some weird out of town food called a “sandwich” and drank “milk.” Where some other kids might have made fun of him, I was accepting, eating half of his sandwich to prove to the other kids that it wasn’t “gross” or “weird.”
One day, during recess a bully was picking on him, and I said that if he wanted to fight Elliott, he’d have to fight me too. During the weeks we spent recovering in the hospital, Elliott and I really bonded, and from that day forward, we were inseparable. That bond carried us all the way through elementary school and into middle school.
Every afternoon, we would play video games at his house after school, and every night, we’d call each on the phone while we played video games at our respective houses. Eventually, other kids began to see how cool Elliott actually was. He wasn’t just “The New Kid” or “Wally’s Loser Friend” anymore. He was “The Old Kid” and “Wally’s Cool Friend.”
Elliott always had an ear when I wanted to share my theories about our teachers. Like in the fourth grade, when I thought our teacher, Ms. Dork, slept in a coffin at the back of the classroom after school, but that wasn’t true. She slept in her car. Then there was our sixth grade teacher, Mr. McGrew, who I thought was a vampire, but it turned out he just always had blood around his mouth.
During the summer in between sixth and seventh grade, Elliott and I didn’t get a chance to see each other at all, because he was away at science camp. So when I went over his house for our weekly “Friday afternoon hangs,” I would have to hang out with his parents instead. They were nice, but they never wanted to play Nintendo or see if we could buy tickets to an R-rated movie.
When he returned in September, however, Elliott had changed. He said he had met some new friends at camp. Everything about him was different. He walked differently, with more confidence and without doing our patented “Best Friends Skip.” He dressed differently, too. Gone were his old ugly t-shirts and in their place were new ugly t-shirts. He even talked differently, using strange new expressions and slang like, “What’s up?” and “How are you?” I barely recognized Elliott anymore. In fact, he stopped going by “Elliott” and started calling himself “Greg.”
Soon “Greg” had no more time for me. He spent all his free time hanging out with his new friends and his new parents. I saw him one time in high school, wearing his cool guy sunglasses and doing some cool guy homework. I tried to remind him that we were best friends once, but he pretended not to notice me, no matter how loudly I sang our “Best Friends Theme Song.”
As years went by, Greg and I drifted apart. We went to different colleges, got different jobs, and married different women. I often wondered what happened to him.
One night, I decided to look him up on social media. I was shocked by what I found. It turns out the reason that Elliott and Greg seemed like two totally different people is because they actually were two different people. Greg was just another kid that went to science camp. He wasn’t Elliott at all.
That’s why he acted and talked and looked so differently. And why he would say things like, “I’m not Elliott” and “Who’s Elliott?” and “I think that Elliott guy is over there.” I thought he was just speaking metaphorically.
I couldn’t believe my luck. It turned out that Elliott wasn’t a jerk after all.
After all these years, he and I reconnected and have decided to start over right where we left off: playing videos games in his parents’ attic every Friday afternoon, sharing “sandwiches,” and worrying about Y2K.