I remembered the last time I had gone running after someone was a year ago, when my mother and father had had a serious argument. It had started out as a dinnertime husband-and-wife chat, but in the end, they had been practically roaring at each other over whether or not my father had still kept the love letters from his ex-girlfriend. Patrick had insisted that he had thrown the letters away right after he had gotten dumped by her, but Miranda just couldn’t believe him, saying that she had often seen the pink envelopes neatly kept in the bottom drawer of my father’s work desk. This had made my father so furious that he had stood up and flipped the kitchen table over, spilling the food all over the floor. My mother had been upset beyond words, and had chosen to storm out the house, running away as far as her indoor slippers could take her. Needless to say, the person responsible to take her back had been me, and I had found myself running without even knowing where I was heading for, yet I just had the sense that I was going in the right direction. Eventually, I had found my mother curled up beside a brick wall, weeping uncontrollably.
As I opened the big iron door and stepped out onto the roof of the department building, I saw Freeman sitting in the corner of the brick walls that surrounded the roof. He hung his head, hiding his face under his hair. Yet, I knew he was crying.
Or, I assumed.
I slowly walked towards him. He was still covered in dough, the white clots sticking mercilessly to his hair and clothes. I leaned forward and gently put a hand on his shoulder, thinking of what I should say to him in this situation.
I remembered when I had been approaching my mother that evening when she had run away, I had also been faltering for words. Yet, when my mother had heard someone nearing her and had raised her head to look at me, I had been saved from awkwardness, for she had suddenly burst out laughing, saying that she had all of a sudden recognized the pink envelopes to be the ones she had used when she had been dating Patrick. She had gotten so jealous when she saw the envelopes in Patrick’s drawer that she started thinking irrationally.
Just like that evening, as I stood before Freeman’s hunched body, it didn’t take long before all the anxiety left my mind like water down a drain.
“Jame-sy. Yahaha!” Freeman looked up at me with the most stupid face I had ever seen anybody wear. “You found Tutto. Tutto can’t believe it. Bahahaha!”
I stepped away from him, disbelief written all over my face. I ran all the way here worried to death about you and you go around acting like this?
“Jame-sy. Tutto’s best friend. Hahahaha!” Freeman clumsily stood up and walked towards me, stumbling here and there. He was holding something small in his hands, but he was dancing too much for me to see clearly.
“Hey! Tutto didn’t know Jamesy has a twin brother. He looks exactly like you! Hahaha!”
What the hell is he talking about? I could swear that he was acting odder than usual, if that was possible. He seems…drunk?
Freeman only managed to move a few steps further before his knees gave way, sending him crashing onto the cement floor. I hurried over to help him up, grabbing him by the arms so he wouldn’t start dancing again.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked, checking to see if he was hurt.
Freeman giggled uncontrollably, his eyes glancing up at me dreamily. “Do you want some chocolate, Jame-sy?” He asked, offering me the thing he was holding in his hand.
“Chocolate?” I stared at the small bag of M&M’s on his open palm; then I looked at him. Oh. My. God.
“Tutto loves chocolate. Waha!” Freeman tried to struggle free from my grasp, but lost his balance again. I slowly made him sit on the floor and took the chocolate from him, holding it out of his reach.
“No more chocolate for you.” I scolded, as if talking to a kid.
Freeman tried to take his candy back, but soon gave up and peered at me with big puppy eyes. “Tutto’s not happy.” He said, pouting his mouth.
“It’s illegal to get drunk when you’re underage.” I said, dumping the rest of the M&M’s into my mouth. “Look at you. You’re seeing doubles.”
“Then how come Jame-sy can have them?” Freeman asked, eyes locked on me while his body swayed involuntarily.
“Because you might be the only person in the world who gets drunk on chocolate.” I said matter-of-factly.
“That’s so unfair.” Freeman hugged his knees and buried his face in his arms. For a moment I thought he was going to cry, but soon his muffled giggles crept into my ears.
This was the second time I genuinely looked at him. He was rocking his body back and forth, chunks of hardened dough falling off from his cloths. His formerly smooth, amber hair now stood up like pricks, making his head look like a round, pale porcupine. This was probably the first time the boy ever got the attention of his fellow classmates, and it turned out to be like this.
I sighed and sat down beside him. “Freeman, I’m sorry.” I said in a low voice.
Freeman looked up at me. The dough on his face had dried and cracked.
“I knew they were going to play a joke on you.” I tried to look him in the eye, but found it impossible. “I didn’t tell you.”
Freeman suddenly let out a loud laugh and slapped his palm on my back. “What’s there to be sorry for, Jame-sy?” He purposefully scratched his head, sending dough crumbs flying everywhere. “Tutto let everyone have a good time. Bahahaha!” I fled away from him, brushing the dough crumbs off my shirt. Can this guy be not annoying for once?
Freeman was now crazily swaying his arms in the air, watching the effect of the dough crumbs snowing around him. I observed him from where I stood, glad that he was feeling good, yet still, a bitter emotion clung to my heart like the dough to his hair. He’s actually enjoying himself after what happened.
“Alright. That’s enough.” I walked over to the drunken boy, careful not to be hit by his dancing arms. “Let’s go clean you up.”
As I supported Freeman down the long stairway and out of the school building, I thought of how close we had become in the past few days. I had been classmates with him for more than a year, but never had I really considered the guy as someone I would help and care for as I was doing now. My former opinion of the guy was that he was a creepy, quiet person who would act like a ghost in front of other people, but all of a sudden would transform into an annoying, talkative maniac when he was alone with me. I never found the time or the energy to listen to him babble of all the stupid things he liked to tell me, and neither did I care about what he really felt when I yelled at him or walked away from him.
But after the talk at our secret hiding place, after he told me that he wanted to be my guardian angel, I thought different of this strange guy. I found that he wasn’t as annoying as he appeared, that what he talked about wasn’t as meaningless as it all seemed. He had his own opinions, his own values, and his own feelings. He just expressed them in a way different from how normal people would. It isn’t a sin to be different, that’s what adults and teachers tell us. But is it really that easy to understand and practice the meaning behind that statement?
Freeman may have appeared to be brainless and crazy, yet what he did and said really can make a difference to the aspects of the people who would earnestly listen to him.
-羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo