Friday, December 7, 2012


Raji was an amazing new type of new kid who perfumed an air of arrogant confidence about him, an air seemingly disproportionate with his state of being new, new kids were supposed to be meek, humble, and at the ready to get beat down. Raji: shortish, short brown hair, thin, but smart, smart enough to be a smart-ass, there was an intellligence in his eyes, but it was mixed with the smugness of his lips when he talked down to people. idunno, looking back, this was just his defense mechanism, this is how he tried to fit in, we are all stupid kids just trying to get by on luck, hope, and smirks.
he was 4.0 like me, so shit, i couldn't top him there. our first encounter was as usual as his other encounters with the other students, he sized me up, knew i posed no threat, snickered at my gangly awkwardness and speech impediment, then muttered something to me about free period, i didn't hear him, or i didn't want to, i was no good with social situations much like i am today, so i remained mute, and he probably thought i was a deaf-mute, or dumb, the other definition of dumb, or actually, both definitions of dumb, and with a casual flick of his wrist, he knew he had conquered me, that i was with the nerds/freaks/geeks, and he could leave me to ascend the social ladder.
again, this whole situation was quite odd, for Raji wasn't your typical cool kid: he was new, didn't play sports, did well in school, looked like a rat, was a rat, and was an asshole, this was impossible what he was achieving. there was a wall between us all throughout the year which i assumed would stay mortared up forever, and i was quite content with that, i could recede back to being an unknown nobody who wrote in dark journals and had just listened for the first time to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on a used discount-bin cassette tape, two years after everyone else, it changed my life, the others in my class knew about the song and the band, ho-hummed it, and went on. i never went on the same again.
well it's Christmas time, and who happens to be at the same altar-boy function as me? yep, Raji and his rich family and pleasant sister. cute happy bubbly sister, i thought, but she was still young, she didn't reflect the rest of the family, hadn't developed bad habits yet, she would probably end up being the white sheep. rich family, i was prepared for more of that trademark Raji arrogance and uppity noses, but the fat dad and pretty mom were nice enough, they talked to me like i wasn't a circus sideshow just because i wore eyeliner. this had to be the magic of Christmas, the time when a beautiful festive lens comes over everything, terrible personality traits smooth off into holiday cheer, and generally, people of different ilk come together for a purpose bigger than their own egos, in this case, caroling to the neighborhood.
whatever was going on, i didn't question it, Raji would return to his asshole ways come the stroke of midnight on Jan 1, so this was my one and only time to strike to talk. some of our greatest friends and loves arise and are formed out of the December holiday and winter season, it's the cold in the air that reminds everyone that they are human and the end is near, it's the last month, the last, the final month to make amends before it all ends into something new. friends and bitter enemies join as one over tinsel and nog, they take a break from their acting roles they've been performing on the school stage all year long, they're tired of their jock/bully/cheerleader/mean girl roles, they want to just be, take off their masks and stretch their limbs, sip some hot cider as the stage remains dark all month, closed for Christmas.
so, Raji's family, the priest, and i went about our way in our wool scarves and tacky sweaters, walking slowly up and down the row of houses, some were strewn openly with their bright Christmas lights, others were as black and silent and lonely as the night sky. we sang "Hark" and "Silent" and Father even allowed one "Jingle" to the appreciative folks listening to us belt from their front porches, we talked gibberish and the latest Transformers toys in between sips of hot chocolate laced with mini marshmallows...
then, we came upon a house that was lit with red, green, and silver, so we commenced with the singing. after the third carol, still no one came out of the door to greet us.
Raji turned his head to me and exclaimed, "Must be atheists."
i was still new to atheism, i had just begun piecing together what that was, me being the studious Catholic boy all my life, thinking of such things was blasphemous, but i got Raji, i knew what he was saying, and i laughed heartily, it wasn't a fake laugh, i really laughed, and Raji laughed at me, or with me, who knows? i have a strange laugh, we laughed, i snorted out chocolate from my nose, that was the first time i had seen Raji smile, a genuine smile, not a smirk. fuck, that was the first time i laughed uninterrupted and without pause to think about how this would affect my social standing in a long time.
i learned a lesson that day...about religious intolerance, false facades, how involuntary laughs tear down social ladders and glue us together, and hot church cocoa...but for the life of me i can't remember it now as i approach this Christmas...can you?

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