I Know You Need Me
(By Marie P. McDougal)
His nose was flat , like maybe his mom had dropped him when he was a baby. His ears were two - maybe even two and a half - sizes too big for his head. And his eyes! His eyes bulged like they were ready to pop right out of their sockets . His clothes were nice, Tim had to admit. But he was still the homeliest kid he had ever seen.
So why was he leaning on Jennifer Lawrence's locker like they were best friends or something? She was a cheerleader and one of the coolest girls in school. And why was she smiling at him instead of twisting her nose all funny like she did when she looked at Tim? Strange, he thought. Really strange.
By lunchtime, Tim had forgotten about the new kid. He sat down at his usual table ... in the corner, all alone. Tim was a loner. He wasn't as ugly as the new kid, just a little heavy and kind of nerdy . Nobody talked to Tim much, but he was used to it. He had adjusted.
About halfway through his peanut butter and ketchup sandwich, Tim looked up and saw that kid again. He was holding his lunch tray and standing over Jennifer, grinning like he'd just aced a math test. And she was grinning, too. Then she moved over and made room on the bench next to her. Strange. Really strange.
But even stranger was what the new kid did. Tim would have plunked into that seat right away. But not this new kid. He shook his head,looked around, and walked straight to Tim's table.
Mind if I join you? he said.
Just like that. "Mind if I join you?" Like the entire eighth grade is fighting to sit at my table or something, Tim thought.
Sure, Tim said. "I mean no. I don't mind."
So the kid sat down. And he came back, day after day, until they were friends, real friends.
Tim had never had a real friend before, but Jeff - that was his name, Jeff - invited Tim to his house, on trips with his family, and even hiking. Right! Tim, hiking!
Funny thing was ... one day Tim realized he wasn't so heavy anymore. All that hiking, I guess, thought Tim. And kids were talking to him, nodding to him in the hallways , and even asking him questions about homework and things. And Tim was talking to them. He wasn't a loner anymore.
When Jeff sat by Tim one day at lunch, Tim had to ask him, "Why did you sit with me that first day? Didn't Jennifer ask you to sit with her?"
Sure, she asked. But she didn't need me.
Tim hoped that nobody was listening. This is really a dumb conversation, he thought.
You were sitting all alone, explained Jeff. "You looked lonely and scared."
Uh huh, scared. I knew that look. I used to have one too, just like it.
You?Tim couldn't believe it.
Maybe you didn't notice, but I'm not exactly the best looking guy in school. At my old school, I always sat alone, with my eyes on my lunch. I was afraid that if I looked up I would see everyone laughing at me.
You? Tim knew he sounded stupid, but he couldn't picture Jeff sitting all by himself. He's so friendly.
Me. It took a friend to help me see that I wasn't alone because of my nose or my ears. I was alone because I never smiled or took an interest in people, other people. I was so concerned about myself, that I never paid attention to anyone else. That's why I sat with you. To let you know that someone cared. Jennifer already knew.
Oh, she knows, all right, Tim said, as he watched two guys fighting to sit near her. Tim and Jeff both laughed. It felt good to laugh, and I've been doing a lot of it lately, realized Tim.
Then Tim looked at Jeff. Really looked. He isn't so bad looking, Tim thought. Oh, not handsome or anything like that. But he isn't homely. Jeff is my friend. That's when Tim realized that he was seeing Jeff for the first time. Months earlier all that Tim had seen were a funny-looking nose and "dumbo ears". Now he was seeing Jeff, really seeing Jeff.