[dropcap]R[/dropcap]yan. That was my friend’s name. He was at least two feet shorter than me. He was also light as a sack of rice cakes. So light, in fact, I could hold him over my head like a barbell.
Sometimes we performed for tips.
Ryan wasn’t the same as ordinary people. He was slow, and he didn’t have a typical outlook on life, either. The teachers called him “special,” the hateful kids called him a “retard.” We his friends, called him Spider-Man.
Ryan did his best to live up to that title.
Ryan’s mother once explained why he was so unique. She said his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck in the womb. It slowed his development, and gave him lifelong heart problems. Well, all I can say is, God must’ve known what he was doing because Ryan turned out to be one of a kind.
Ryan loved country music. Loud. He also collected triple-peanut shells – the kind with three peanuts instead of two. He had bags full. Something else: he always walked as though he were perpetually falling forward. It was a unique march that seemed to announce, “Hey everybody, don’t overlook me.”
I remember the last time I saw Ryan, before his family moved away. I told Ryan I’d miss him, and that I would write him.
“Don’t miss me,” he said in his loud voice. “And don’t write me, you know I hate to read.”
“But Ryan, I like to write.”
Ryan thought for a moment. “Then write something about me.”
It’s been twenty-three years.
This is that something.