Author's Note: Names have been changed to protect my friend's identity.
I'm sitting here in pajamas, my hair still wet from my shower, looking at the computer screen absolutely terrified. I can't believe three years ago I was in elementary school, and here I am, growing up and entering high school on Monday. So much has happened since I left elementary school . . . I moved halfway across the country, grew up inside a little more, developed ideas, rights, opinions, and even found my passion for writing and music. Was first grade really eight years ago? Are those memories really so far away?
After a year of kindergarten at a private school, I didn't know what public school was when my parents dragged me to Open House night early August of 2001. I wasn't nervous; I was only six for heaven's sake! It's not like I knew that I was going to wander around this building for the next six years. It's not like I knew I was going to be bullied, teased, and mocked. It's not like I knew I was going to make amazing friends, create extraordinary memories, be Ms. Darbus in the sixth grade's production of HSM1, learn to play the string bass, and run around on the playground until my knees gave out. I didn't know anything, except that my elementary school's friendly mascot, the wildcat, was waiting by the door to welcome me along with the principal. All I remember is that the first person I saw in my first grade class was you.
You were kind of strange, a little on the chubby side, with bright blonde hair and big buckteeth. But then again, I had buckteeth too, so I guess that's why we felt so comfortable around each other. You introduced yourself as "SpongeBob Man", and I don't think I learned your real first name until we hit second grade. You were into "SpongeBob", I watched "Tom and Jerry". You watched Disney Channel while I was still stuck watching PBS kids everyday after school. You liked my long, blonde hair, I liked the way you always brought a Trix yogurt cup to lunch and swirled the red and yellow together to make orange. You always thought it was strange when I said, "No," to a bite because I told you I was allergic to bananas.
When we did arts and crafts, I met Christian, the little boy a head shorter than me who had platinum blonde hair and freckles, with the sixth grade book buddy that stole my markers. I can't remember what his name was, all I remember was that you called him a "meany-head" when he ate my M&Ms on Valentine's Day. You got jealous on Pajama Day when Christian kept sharing basketballs with me in P.E., and I clearly remember you two arguing over me while I pretended not to listen and admired my light-up slippers.
You were I guess in a way, my childhood boyfriend. We never held hands, kissed, or did anything affectionate . . . well of course not! You invited me to your ninth birthday party, where we saw The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie and before we went, we ate at a Mexican restaurant in the mall where you and your older sister quoted SpongeBob episodes the whole time. I remember after the movie, we went and got Maggie Moo's ice cream, where I got the blue cotton candy flavor and you got chocolate with crushed M&Ms and ended up switching ice cream cones after mine turned my tongue blue and you got jealous. I remember afterward we went to your house, and I entered your room, which would be transformed into an infamous YouTube video blogging studio in a few years. You showed me all your SpongeBob collectibles, and I thought it quite silly. I'd never watched "SpongeBob" in my life, because my parents wouldn't let me. You got mad at me for not knowing your beloved characters, and I got mad at you for saying I was weird. After that, we didn't really talk until the beginning of fourth grade.
I made a friend who almost ripped our relationship to shreds in fourth grade. Even though I loved you both, I stuck to her side because it had been a while since I'd had a girl to hang out with. She called you gay, drew pictures of SpongeBob and scribbled on them, and even in my old journals from when I was 10 and 11, there are doodles of plots to hurt you . . . physically and mentally. It was terrible, I didn't know I could be that mean! We called you stupid, made fun of your weight, which you'd managed to keep on since we'd first met, your big teeth, the funny way your lips moved when you talked . . . everything! I don't know how, but you ignored it, and if we hurt you, you didn't show it. I admire you for that, for not letting us beat you down. Sure, you stopped quoting SpongeBob whenever I was around, and I threw away the ticket stubs to The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, but the truth was, I missed you. I had no one to talk to at recess when my friend wasn't there, because I'd driven you away.
My friend moved away the Christmas of fifth grade, and I made new girlfriends, but somehow, in some miraculous way, you forgave me and we became friends again. I began to watch SpongeBob once we hit sixth grade, and fell in love with that yellow guy. Thanks to you, Mr. SpongeBob man, I can now quote basically any episode from 1999-2007. I've even developed a strange love for Squidward, and have found Patrick a genius for the nonsense he blabs at times. Mr. Krabs amuses me with his cheapness, and I always feel so bad for Plankton at every failed attempt to steal the Krabby Patty formula, no matter how evil he might be.
I moved away the summer going into seventh grade, but somehow, we've managed to stay very close. You've told me all your latest roles in the local theater productions, including getting to be the king in Aladdin! I was so proud of you when I read your excited email . . . if only I could've been there! We began to talk on the phone last summer, catching up on all we'd missed. We talked about how lame the Disney Channel is and how we both still had a secret obsession with our favorite sponge. You told me you still had the ticket stub from your ninth birthday, and I told you how I always get blue cotton candy ice cream at Maggie Moo's now. We tried to remember the name of Christian's book buddy, but we both drew blanks and remembered the time when you asked me out in sixth grade and we only made it one day together because it felt really weird. I told you how when I was in fourth grade, I wanted my first kiss to be with you, so that's why I grabbed you by the hair, kissed your cheek, and ran off. We remembered the time you dated my best friend only because you were teased about being single and broke her heart when you revealed the truth to her, and tried to get her back the summer going into 6th grade at the local swimming pool.
And I think the biggest thing in our relationship so far, was in June when you emailed me and told me something you'd never told anyone before.
That you were gay, and you had a crush on the lead male in your local theater's production of "The Music Man". I wasn't mad at you though, I was glad, ecstatic you had finally found who you were and wanted to be! You sent me your YouTube videos of you talking about the latest Disney DVD releases, and I subscribed and began making videos myself. Your girl friends sometimes use the fact that you're gay against you, by talking about their crushes and making you feel awkward by asking who you like. I promise I won't do that, because I know you don't like it. But I'll stick with you because you're going to need a friend now more than ever, because you're going to get a whole lot of crap in the future once word gets out you're gay.
You're my one true childhood friend, SpongeBob Man, and as I go into high school without you, surrounded by my new friends I made in middle school, I promise to keep watching your new videos on YouTube no matter how much homework I have. I promise I'll leave one hour open every Saturday to watch "SpongeBob", and I promise that one day I'll get a Facebook account so we can start talking outside of email and phone conversations. But right now, I've got high school to worry about, but you'll be in my thoughts every step of the way.
I love you SpongeBob Man.