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Thank You for Being a Friend

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Thank You for Being a Friend

Cafeteria Confidential
Dan  Caro
Aug 08, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Although I’d made a few friends during the first few months of high school, I still had yet to make any who were more or less my same age.

Then one day that changed. It happened in the lunchroom, of course. A big burly kid walked right over to me, tossed his tray down on the table, and sat across from me. He looked at me for a moment with great intensity and started a conversation.

“What happened to you?” he asked.

“I was burned in a fire when I was young.”

“How old were you?”

“I was two.”

“Damn. That must suck. Did it hurt?”

“I don’t really remember any pain,” I said.

He kept asking questions relating to my accident, and then he introduced himself: “I’m Matt. What are you doing over here all alone?”

“My name is Dan. I don’t really have any friends,” I admitted. “I’m not sure that anyone likes me . . . except a few of the older kids and my English teacher.”

“Well, you’ve got a friend now. What do you do?”

I didn’t understand the question. “What do you mean, what do I do?”

“I mean, do you like to do stuff?” Matt asked. He kept jamming food into his mouth and chewing kind of loudly. I suspected that he might be a bit of a ball-breaker and was maybe trying to show me up in front of the other students, but he seemed genuinely nice. He was also kind of funny.

“I play drums.”

Matt’s gaze shot directly down to the ends of my arms—which didn’t look like any he’d ever seen before, obviously, especially on a drummer. “Get the hell out of here!” he exclaimed after a few seconds. “How do you do that? I don’t know anything about the drums, but I play a little guitar, and I have a hard enough time doing that with all my fingers! I can’t imagine playing without hands. Come on, man, you’re putting me on! How the hell can you manage to ever hold on to drumsticks without any hands?”

“I manage okay,” I said, smiling at his openness. “I use a wristband to attach one stick to my right hand, and I can hold the other stick with my thumb on my left hand.” I held it up, wiggling my surgeon-constructed thumb for him.

He whistled softly and shook his head in amazement. “Man, oh man! That is so cool . . . are you any good?”

I always hated it when someone asked me that. How was I supposed to respond? I settled on: “I’m okay, I guess.”

That was all it took for us to become friends—me responding to Matt with an honest answer, and him not being freaked out by the way I looked. We began hanging out together quite a lot, both at school and after. At first we mainly hung at my house, jamming on instruments with my brothers and generally having a good time while getting to know each other. Matt would bring his guitar, and I’d stoke along with him on the drums. They were good days for me, uplifting and eye-opening.

Matt also knew a lot of people. He had one of those open faces and easy, likable personalities that attracted friends; I really looked up to him. Through him I got to know several other great people, and my life began to open up socially. Sometimes I couldn’t believe what had been inside of me, but untapped, for so long—the ability to have a great friendship!

It felt incredible to finally have someone around me (who was not my family member) who acted and behaved in a “normal” way around me. Maybe I’d been on the defensive for so long because I’d grown used to feeling isolated, as if it was my normal way to feel. Now that I was venturing out into the world, meeting Matt’s buddies and making new pals on my own, that sense of seclusion was peeling away. I was extremely thankful to Matt and attentive to the gift of friendship in my life. Matt Rycyk was a solid guy, and a really good friend.

About Author
Dan  Caro
Dan Caro was born and raised in Southern Louisiana and grew up surrounded by the sounds of the New Orleans jazz scene. He vowed at a young age that, despite the childhood fire that robbed him of his hands, he would become a professional drummer. His Continue reading