A Tale of TeddyBear: chapter one: A History Lesson in Choir Class
You'd never have guessed it by the way that he acted with the young ladies around school, but Theodore was definitely not like the rest of the guys. Every once in a while you could catch him, just ever so slightly, holding back a tear. It wasn't obvious if you didn't know him, but that's why I am his best friend.
* * *
I've known Theodore for about six years. We met in fourth grade as cubby partners and hit it off immediately. You could say we are as opposite as black and white; then again, that always seems to make a relationship more interesting, doesn't it. As a fourth grader, Theodore, or Teddy, as I get to call him, was a fairly outgoing kid. He never hesitated to greet a new student, or talk to someone who wasn't well liked by the other kids. Teddy was just your everyday, nine-year-old humanitarian.
Nothing special about Teddy as far as looks go: average height, average build, average in about every aspect of the human body, at least as far as your sense of sight is concerned. But Teddy did have one thing over the other kids when it came to looks, his eyes. Maybe that was the first thing I noticed about him, maybe not, but it's the last thing I'll ever forget about Teddy. So incredible were his eyes, catlike even. Such a deep green, like a lush carpet of grass, but with a shininess to them, a sparkle. Possibly even a spark, a glimpse into the soul of an individual whose life was truly one of enjoyment.
* * *
Fast forward about three years. Teddy is now a seventh grader and just on the edge of puberty. Teddy and I had joined choir in the previous year and were very well known as the only surviving male sopranos. This, in turn, led to many solo opportunities between the two of us. One male soprano in the seventh grade is hard to come by, but two of them, equally talented, what a godsend. And so it was that our popularity grew, as did our musical prowess. Even if our voices had yet to break, we didn't care, mainly because we never seemed to get made fun of.
And then it happened. We were singing a duet solo in front of the choir when everything fell apart. It was a simple scale, no minor keys, no staccato markings, nothing. But fate enjoys playing wicked games on the youth of the world, as was such this horrid day. We were singing along, up the scale, when the puberty knight came from behind and stabbed Teddy in the back. Like a thief in the night, Teddy's beautiful singing voice was stolen away by a natural occurrence. The look on his face alone was enough to scare the notes right from my throat. All he could do was look at me, terrified of what was happening… then it got worse. The class felt this was an appropriate time to laugh hysterically at the pain of one of their peers.
I could see it in his eyes, that fire in his soul, gone. They had taken all joy from my one true friend's heart, and replaced it with pain and suffering. Teddy asked Mr. Reinhold so nonchalantly that it nearly knocked me off my feet, "Mr. Reinhold, can I please go to the restroom?"
All he could do was nod sympathetically as Teddy walked away before waiting for an answer.
Anger raged inside of me at what they were doing. His, my peers, treating one of their own like a freak for something he had no control over. I couldn't take it. The fury inside me wouldn't stand for this injustice. It was then I exploded, "How can you all be so uncaring?! He sings his heart out for you every day of the week and this is how you repay him?! You all have been through the exact same thing, you all know what it's like to have your voice crack and how embarrassing it can be in public. I am ashamed and disgusted to even be in the same room with you…!" And I walked slowly, letting my last words sink in as I went out to help my best friend.
I found Teddy in the boys restroom, sure enough, he wasn't one for lying. So I came up from behind and put my hand on his shoulder. "Teddy, are you alright?", I queried.
He looked up to the mirror with a smile, his reflection acting as a curtain to his true feelings, and nodded slowly. "I'll be fine, don't worry about it. Everyone gets picked on once in a while, if anything, I'd say I was overdue for a good picking on!"
I couldn't, wouldn't even let it go that easy. Lines like that may work on your everyday teacher or parent, but I'm the best friend, I have special rights and privileges. So I turned him around to face me and stated, "Teddy, I know you better than you know yourself. Look me in the eye and tell me that everything is alright, and I will walk out of here like nothing ever happened."
It obviously wasn't easy for him to look me in the eye, he knew just as well that I knew, what I said was right. His gaze met mine, for just a minute we stared. It's as though when you look somebody in the eye, everything in their mind comes pouring into your own. I could feel his pain, his anger at the world, but most of all, his fear. I didn't recognize the place the last emotion had, so tightly tucked behind walls of happiness and so many masks to show the world. As I stood there, staring into my best friend's eyes, I felt something inside of me break down.
"Thanks for your concern, Bear, but I'm fine. I'm looking you in the eye and everything. Do you believe me now when I say it's alright, you don't have to worry about me?" And his eyes stayed locked on mine, but the life that those eyes once held was gone, and I knew that he had lied straight to my face.
"Yeah, ok, I get it. You're fine. Glad to hear it. Sorry I didn't believe you but I had to be sure. You've never lied to me when our eyes were locked, so I trust you." With that, I turned and walked out of the restroom. I knew that I had just lost my best friend, even if it hadn't happened yet, he was gone.
* * *
I've known Barry for about six years now, ever since we shared a cubby in fourth grade. Truth be told, I didn't really like him much. He always wanted the majority of the space for his things, leaving me with just enough room for my stuff not to fall out. We are complete polar opposites, by the way. I like talking to all sorts of people, but he doesn't like people much at all. Barry tends to be selfish while I consider myself a very giving person. But most importantly, I like the company of men, whereas Barry likes to spend time with the ladies. Now, this is where things get a little interesting. I like the guys, but the girls hang on me. Bear, that's my nickname for Barry, likes the company of females, but they hate him. Life's ironies, aren't they great.
Let's see here, Barry, in a few words, is one lucky guy. I'm really not to happy about it, maybe I'm just jealous, but he gets to sit on his couch, eating potato chips, basically doing nothing for a week, and Bear will lose weight and gain muscle. I hate it, and yet, I wish I could do that. I work hard to maintain my average look. Barry, on the other hand, has had a wonderful physique for as long as I can remember. I'm not really sure why, come to think of it, the girls at our school don't like him. He's a good looking fella. Then again, he is a guy's guy. Always telling dirty jokes, showing off, and generally releasing bodily noises whenever possible. Oh course, that's a hyperbole if ever there was one, but I'm the best friend, I can do that.
* * *
Ok, now that we have some background between Bear and me out of the way, on with the real story.
As I said before, Bear and me are the best of friends. We do everything together. So, in sixth grade we both joined the school choir. Mr. Reinhold is the music director at Knight Middle School, a nice guy, but a bit to eccentric for my liking. Anyway, Bear and I were the only two male's in the choir that hadn't hit puberty yet, so we still had those wonderful treble voices. We were both singing as boy sopranos up until our seventh grade year. That is when the trouble started.
I knew for a while that something was happening to my body, it was obvious from the hair! But no one knew anything about that, excluding me. I simply did not want to talk about the possibility of my voice changing, therefore, nobody could know I had started puberty. Until that wonderful, glorious day that my vocal freedom was unceremoniously stripped from me. (Note the sarcasm.) Never before had I experienced such pain and humiliation.
There we were, Bear and me, singing a duet solo for the class, just like every other day of the week. It wasn't even a strenuous solo. Not a difficult aspect to it, and well within my range. That's when my world came crumbling down at my feet. Half way up the scale, usually no big deal, my voice cracked, in front of everyone. I didn't know what to do. There wasn't much I could do. So, I just stared at Bear, hoping he would know how to handle things. But all I got from my dearest friend in the world was a look of disbelief. I had to do something. Had to compose myself. Had to get away. "Mr. Reinhold," I asked, "may I please go to the restroom?" But I was leaving the choir room before he could even answer. All I got was a nod, and my peers laughing at my back.
I don't remember telling a lie in my entire life. Lying, to me, just says to others that your word isn't worth anything, and that's not how I was raised. There I was, trying to reorient my thoughts… in the guys bathroom. There wasn't a whole lot I could do, even though I wanted to. So I just hung my head in shame; ashamed of myself, ashamed of my peers, and ashamed of my best friend. I was dying there, in front of the world, and he just stared at me. How could he?
I didn't even hear the door to the bathroom open, but sure enough, there was Bear from behind, hand on my shoulder. "Teddy, are you alright?" I could tell that he really was worried about me, but I couldn't forget what had just happened.
There wasn't a lot I could do, he was my best friend after all, I had to talk to him. I looked up into the mirror at him and smiled, hoping the reflection would hide my true feelings. Bear had an uncanny ability to know what I was thinking, just by looking into my eyes for any length of time. "I'll be fine, don't worry about it. Everyone gets picked on once in a while, if anything, I'd say I was overdue for a good picking on!" I said as I slowly nodded my head. Of course, I know him just as well as he knows me, and I knew that wasn't good enough for him.
He turned me around and stated plainly, "Teddy, I know you better than you know yourself. Look me in the eye and tell me that everything is alright, and I will walk out of here like nothing ever happened."
It wasn't easy to look him in the eye, not easy at all. But, eventually, our gaze did meet, and we stared. Just like in the choir room, we stared into each other. I knew he was right, and he knew that I knew, and I hated him for it. As hard as I tried, I couldn't hide behind all those walls I put up, my defenses were useless against his penetrating brown eyes. It hurt my deeply even before I said it, "Thanks for your concern, Bear, but I'm fine. I'm looking you in the eye and everything. Do you believe me now when I say it's alright, you don't have to worry about me?" I was lying through my teeth to the one person in the world I thought I could trust.
"Yeah, ok, I get it. You're fine. Glad to hear it. Sorry I didn't believe you but I had to be sure. You've never lied to me when our eyes were locked, so I trust you." And with that, he walked out of the restroom. I knew then, even if it hadn't happened yet, my best friend was gone forever.
I hung my head and turned back to the sink. When I looked into the mirror again, a single tear ran down my face.
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