My eighth grade gym teacher could make me do anything. She barked like a seal and had a body builder’s bulkiness to boot. In gym shorts and a T-shirt, I was terrified of every intimidating bulge. “Let’s play some God damn soccer or else I’ll fail you.” I couldn’t argue with that logic.
p. Threatened with a bad grade, I will do almost anything for anyone. For that bulldog stare, I would have killed my fellow gym mates bare handed, no questions asked. Yet beneath that girth, my teacher once revealed genuine emotion. I can still remember the day. She blew her whistle to call the class in early.
p. “Class, I just wanted to bring you in a little early to reveal some news I just heard.” Her voice was viscous, the way mine got when I was sick. “Is everything okay?” I asked sweetly. “Everything is not okay.” She tore off her sunglasses in one furious motion. “It’s Tom Cruise. He and his wife, Nicole Kidman, have separated.” No one said anything. “I’m sure they could just get back together,” I said. “No, they can’t. Nicole Kidman has already begun filing for divorce. Class dismissed.”
p. As I went back to the locker room, I was struck. First, by how gross my gym teacher’s face looked when it was scrunched up into a sob. Second, and more importantly, I was taken aback at how such a small change could affect her so profoundly. This was the same woman who shook the bleachers when she dropped her girth into a squat. She was so stony-faced all the time — I didn’t think she knew what emotion was.
p. However, I understand now that a pair of proverbial sneaker laces tie us together. On that day, she was affected by change, albeit an inconsequential one. And today I, too, am bereaved by the prospect of impermanence. My friends are graduating this May, and when they leave I will be left alone.
p. I would be okay with losing my friends if friends were like everyday household appliances. I mean, if I lose my trusty pair of nose hair clippers, I can scour my room for an hour until I find them. If those clippers don’t appear and my nose hairs look particularly unbecoming, I can merely go to the store and buy another pair. Friends are nothing like nose hair trimmers, though; once they leave, they leave for good.
p. I know that people say friendships last a lifetime. Those people are full of bullshit. As much as I want to remain close to these graduating seniors, I doubt this is possible. People change and interests change. In 10 years, I will be a completely different person. Old friends have a place in our lives only because they remind us of the people we once were, the way that old pictures from elementary school remind me of my chubby-faced self.
p. So, instead of enshrouding myself in a cloak of grief, I think it would be for the best if I took another cue from my eighth grade gym teacher. Losing friends does not make me sad, it makes me angry. It makes me want to scream and yell and make those senior punks run 13 laps around the softball field. So, that’s just what I will do. “Get the hell out you fuckers,” I will scream. Get the hell out before we become better friends and your graduation hurts me even more.
p. __James Damon, a sophomore at the College, is a staff columnist. His columns appear on Tuesdays.__