The Day My Best Friend Found Out
It was fifth period. I couldn't wait to leave Mrs. Foller's fourth grade English class. The bell had just rung for lunch. As I raced to the closet to get my coat and my book, Phyllisia, my best friend, came and handed me my belongings. We had been best friends since kindergarten. After getting our trays and waiting on line for our lunch, Phyllisia and I went to sit at our usual table in the back of the lunchroom. Once we were finished eating our pizza, peaches and drinking the milk, we went outside for recess. Phyllisia and I took our favorite spot at the shady, desolate end of the school yard. As I began to read my library book and Phyllisia began to do the same, my stomach began to hurt. At first I thought nothing of it. I mean, I had just finished eating "school lunch." After about 15 minutes of the excruciating pain, I asked Phyllisia to accompany me to the nurse. It was there that I discovered that I had a stomach virus. As the nurse was trying to reach my teacher, I sat there with Phyllisia and talked. I told her that I would not be returning back to class that afternoon, so she offered to wait for me until my mother came to pick me up. She also took it upon herself to offer to copy the homework for me and drop it by my house. At the end of our conversation, the nurse asked Phyllisia to go back to class, but still she refused. After about another 15 minutes, my foster mother came into the office and privately talked with the nurse. After we both left the office, Phyllisia came running up to me with my hat along with the matching scarf.
The Horrible Moment of Truth
It was at that point that my entire social life came to a sudden end. Phyllisia introduced herself to my foster mother, and when it was my foster mother's turn to do the same, she said, "Hello, I am Ebony's guardian." At that moment Phyllisia looked at me and said, "What's that?" So instead of being fully embarrassed in school, I told Phyllisia that I would call her later that night and explain the entire situation. When I finally did work up enough nerve to call Phyllisia, it was 8:30 p.m. I dialed her phone number while my heart rate increased with each passing second. "Hello, is Phyllisia there?" I asked with an apple in my throat. "Speaking. Who is this?" "It's Ebony, what's up? I just called so that I could explain what's going on with me." But before I could continue, Phyllisia interrupted me, which was totally out of character for her. The last words I ever heard her utter were that there was "something wrong with my kind" and I didn't deserve to go to school "with normal kids." From that moment on, I knew that I had lost Phyllisia as a friend forever. I also knew that I would be labeled as a "foster child." After I was well enough to go back to school, I was extremely hesitant about returning. As I entered the building, I could practically feel stares burning into every portion of my thin-framed body. As attendance was being called, I noticed that everyone was gossiping about something interesting. My mind began to race. Could it have been a fight, a new couple, or a new kid in the class?
As I scanned the entire classroom, I saw that everyone had their eyes on me. After about 15 minutes of not knowing a thing, I blurted out, to no one in particular, "What's going on?" There was a sudden roar of laughter. I realized that the joke was on me. As I ran crying from my seat to my counselor's office, I made out the taunts directed at me: "You're not like us," "We don't like your kind," "Where did you come from?" and lastly, "Get away from us." I felt betrayed by my so-called friends. I was alone from that day on. I ate lunch alone, and I read alone. I no longer was asked to join the weekly study groups.
An Iron Box Around My Heart
After a couple of months I had become used to my life of loneliness. I decided from that day on that I would build an iron box around my heart. I would not be taken by anyone's kindness or friendship. By the time the school year came to an end, I had no new friends to hang out with. I had nothing, and Phyllisia, well, since the moment she found out the truth, she made it her personal business to tell every new student who I "really was." Even though I had to endure Phyllisia's teasing, I kept my head up high. It wasn't until two years later, when I entered the sixth grade, that I was fortunate enough to see the good side of a true friendship. Which brings me to my friend Allen.
A Slice and a Soda
Allen was a regular at the basketball courts. One day as I was leaving the park to go to the pizza shop, he stopped me and asked me for a dollar because he was hungry. Being the kind person that I am, I offered to buy him a slice and a soda. He immediately accepted my offer. On our way to the shop we got to talking to one another and he asked me how long I had lived in that area. I told him about a year and he said, "That's it? I thought you always lived here." Once I began telling him about my past and how I hadn't always been with my mother, he opened up to me about his past. Who would have guessed that he was abandoned by a relative, and that he could identify with some of my feelings and anxieties? It didn't matter to Allen that I wasn't brought up like a "normal kid." He accepted me for who I was, because he was "different," just like me.
A True Friend
After sharing to one another over an entire pizza pie, we became quite close. And until this day, I still have a rather special relationship with Allen. I had always known Allen since sixth grade. Back then we weren't the best of friends, but there was a bond there that eventually grew with time. It was Allen who taught me how to shoot my first basket in Tompkins Square Park. It was because of Allen that I became interested in sports. As our friendship grew, I began to realize that Allen was more than a friend to me. He was a brother. He was someone whom I could talk to about any and everything. We would talk about our relationships, and the problems that came with them. At times we even came up with solutions. On most days we just went to the park and played a one-on-one tournament. I usually lost. Once our friendship had survived numerous rumors and lasted more then eight months, I knew that there would be no end to our friendship. That goes to show you that not everyone is like Phyllisia. There are still some human beings left out there. Once Allen found out the truth, he didn't turn his back on me, and that's what is most important. For those who have been in similar situations and are looking for words of encouragement, the only thing that I can say is be truthful, and be proud. "Reprinted with permission from Foster Care Youth United, Copyright 200X by Youth Communication/New York Center, Inc. ()."