When I changed primary schools I didn’t expect to see one of the boys from my previous school in the playground. He came over to me and said hello and we lined up with the other new students to be introduced to our classmates. I wanted desperately to fit in somewhere and although I was a weirdo, I got swept up with the other new girls while the rest of the girls evaluated us.
William* was a weirdo too. He wasn’t into sports like the other boys and he knew countless random facts, which none of the boys seemed interested in. He was always kind to me and I found it embarrassing because I didn’t want anyone to know that we knew each other. One day one of the boys came up to me and said, “William says he knows you. He says you went to the same school before this!” The girls who were with me stared in shock. “Is it true?”, they demanded. “Yeah, but I didn’t really know him. We never had any classes together or anything.”, I lied. I had been in several of William’s classes. I am sure I’d even attended a birthday party of his but I wasn’t going to admit any of that to the students at my new school.
I struggled to make friends and William was completely rejected by the boys. One day he saw that I was upset and asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine and he said that he could see tears in my eyes. Another time the principal wanted to talk to all of the new students and William saw that I was nervous so he said, “Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. The principal just wants to get to know us.”
I saw William’s kindness as something to fear, not because I was afraid of him or his intentions but because I was afraid of being associated with him. I still had a chance to belong to one of the groups of girls and I didn’t want to ruin it by being friends with the outcast, which was very selfish of me but I was just a child.
William never pushed for friendship with me. He never went out of his way to embarrass me and when he realised that I didn’t want to have anything to do with him, he stopped talking to me. I am sure he watched with concern from afar but he never got involved in any of the drama that surrounded me. He accepted that he wouldn’t have any friends but he still spouted off random facts to anyone that would listen and seemed happy enough. He started missing school a lot though. That was something I was familiar with because I made myself sick with anxiety a lot too. It was hard being a new kid and some days I just needed to be at home and away from it all.
One day William never came back to school. I can’t remember if the teacher told us he wasn’t coming back or if enough time had passed that it was just evident that he wouldn’t be returning but I remember feeling relieved and sad. I was relieved because I no longer had to pretend that I didn’t know someone who was odd but incredibly kind and I was sad because I know I should have acted differently. I wasn’t confident enough to be kind back to William. I was too self-conscious to be his friend. I hoped that he was okay.
I still hope that he is okay. I hope that things got easier for him as he got older and I hope that he found people who accept him and his quirks.
*Not his actual name