I had a friend growing up. One of those forced friendships where our mothers somehow met and got along nicely then decided we had to be friends. After over twenty years, I can’t remember his real name, despite the fact we were somewhat neighbors and had to interact almost every other day.
All I remember about this kid is his mother saying he had ADD. I remember her constantly shaking a bottle of pills at him. Ritalin. Even now, I can remember the kid’s prescription but fail to recall his name.
Let’s call him Billy.
Billy and I, in our indentured friendship, would constantly get into trouble. Well, I would get in trouble. Billy’s mom would sigh and sift through her purse, shaking the pills before popping a couple into Billy’s mouth and going on some explanation about how Billy just needed his Ritalin.
As I held whatever side of my head my mother decided to smack me upside, I couldn’t help but hate Billy. Whenever anything happened, and I got my ear’s boxed in, Billy would just be subject to a couple little pills.
One time over at this kid’s house, I managed to be stuck standing in the corner. Billy played along with a toy car on the floor behind me. I could hear the motor sounds he made with his mouth. As some cartoon blasted off on tv, and he spun in circles with the car, I snuck a peek over before my mother shouted “Face to the wall!” or something of the sort.
Afterwards, on the car ride home, I told my mother how I hated hanging out with Billy. She sat there trying to convince me how Billy was really my friend (He wasn’t), and I really liked him (I didn’t), I had the the type of meltdown you have after being sent to the corner in another kid’s house. After being the accessory to a crime yet being the only one punished. Read as- I flipped the fuck out in the back of my Mom’s car. Tears streaming and me screaming about how much I hated Billy and his mom. I remember going over how every time we hung with them, I got in trouble while Billy only had to take some pills.
“Well, he is a fucking Spaz.” My mother told me. I didn’t know what a ‘Spaz” was , but it definitely seemed to be something fitting of Billy.
Is Spaz one of those words you can’t say anymore? I don’t know, my mother never much cared for political correctness or non-offensive language.
As a kid, only four or five, Billy being a Spaz was a justifiable answer to me. I didn’t know what it meant. All I knew is occasionally my mother would tell me to stop being one and I fucking hated Billy. I didn’t want to be anything like Billy.
My mother and his mother stopped being friends after I accidentally told Billy, in front of his mother, that my mother told me he was a fucking spaz. I also got hit upside the head extra hard that day.
In all the years after, I’ve never had a friend I disliked as much as I disliked Billy. I had plenty of toxic friendships in my early twenties, none compare to the friendship with Billy.
Looking back, I always focused on the Ritalin. To the point I forgot my so-called buddy’s name. All I remembered was the clockwork movement of his mother whenever he acted up. Her hand reaching into her purse. The word ‘Ritalin’ coming out of her mouth. The pills shaking in the bottle.
There’s another side to the memories. The time after Billy took his pills. We never interacted much after the punishments were doled out. Even on the few occasions I would bridge the gap and try to reconnect with Billy, he seemed impossible to connect with.
I don’t know what happened to him or his mother after finally breaking free from the shackles of forced play dates. It took twenty-plus years to realize Billy probably hated me as much as I hated him.
The other side of the memory. The dark side. Where Billy sits there staring blankly out the window or at some speck of dust laying in front of him. Where conversation with him is robotic. I remember Billy reacting to the Ritalin with the same terror I did to my mother’s smacks.
Whatever trouble we got into at the time was the type of trouble I imagine most young kids with any ounce of freedom would get into. We were rough-housing or testing our boundaries. But, we were always being kids.
I don’t know if Billy was a ‘spaz’ or whatever. All I know is, his window of freedom, of being a kid, lasted from the beginning of our forced hangouts to when his mother began shaking the pills at him.