On a half-cloudy November afternoon a girl named Carrie crawls across a classroom tabletop toward me, grinning. Bony and high strung, with long black hair she's always tucking behind her ears, one of many ticks, she's a friend but not a member of my Club. I call my group of best friends a Club, a restricted club, and though it has no benefits other than wheelchair-pushing prerogatives, the other kids seem to like being members. "Hi, Ben!"
"Carrie … what're you doing on the table?"
She inches closer. At the edge of the table she says "hi" again. Then she's practically in my lap. She reaches out and begins unbuttoning my navy-blue corduroys and unzipping my fly—
"Carrie!" Judy yells from across the room. Carrie's white-hot face falls like a startled soufflé as she looks up, unhands my pants. Judy marches over. "Back to your seat!"
Silently, Carrie crawls away. Judy steps closer and closes my pants. No more is said about the incident, and I laugh. Later, when Mom comes to pick me up, Judy tells her what happened. They talk in soft voices. On the walk home Mom tells me to let her and Judy know if anything like this occurs again. Some children have a hard time accepting my handicap, she says. That's not so, I say, not in this case. Mom says she understands it was just play, but still. I say okay, but I'm lying. I don't want to tell Mom or Judy or anyone else if it happens again. If I commented on all the odd things people do around me, I'd never shut up.
For instance, I never tell about Quentin. He's a long-haired, pale-skinned, rangy boy with a taut, satanic grin who frightens me. It's not merely his appearance. It's something about the way he looks at me, or doesn't, with his fanatical eyes. I try ignoring him. He's one of the reasons I surround myself with friends, as a defense. Quentin pays us no mind, and at first I congratulate myself on a strategic victory. All goes smoothly, but only for a time.