Imade a faux pas today.
I was eating lunch with some friends, and Peter was mentioned. I exclaimed, “He’s one of my favourite people in the world!”
In my defence, I didn’t expect the reaction I got. The other four looked at me and burst out laughing.
Alexis said, “Lame.”
Surprised, I asked her what she meant. Alexis is a genuinely nice person, and, until then, I thought she liked Peter as much as I did.
“Well, he used to be really cool, you know? But lately he’s gotten kind of...well, I don’t know. Lame.”
Zee grinned, his blue eyes sparkling behind his glasses. “I love to argue with him, and point out how circular all his arguments are. Literally, everything he says. And then he goes on using them!”
Brandon shrugged. “I think the guy’s just been told how smart he is one too many times.”
Zee said, “He’s the stereotype for every private schooler I’ve ever met.” I’m sure he looked at me (private schooled) at that point. I could feel myself blushing.
“Oh, come on, guys,” I said weakly. “He’s not that bad. What do you mean, lame?” I turned to Alexis.
“Well, when I would talk to him before, I would be like ‘You’re awesome!’ But recently, I’m more like ‘What happened? You used to be awesome!’”
That cleared up absolutely nothing, so I looked back at Zee and Brandon, who were continuing the subject in more coherent detail.
“He is smart, kind of,” said Zee. “He’s just not as smart as he thinks he is.”
They wound up talking about him (trashing him, really) a lot longer than I would have felt comfortable with, even if I didn’t like him. I don’t know what happened; it was a little scary, how heartily Alexis agreed with some of the stuff.
She said that he was personally against her; that he was way too argumentative. Brandon agreed. Brooke, Brandon’s sister, said that he had turned a shooting into an excuse to talk about gun control; that he was insensitive and too politically minded.
I pointed out that when a policeman had run over two people in an attempt to quell a riot, he had been very angry about it, even though he thought the rioters were idiots and didn’t agree with their cause. No one paid any attention.
When I left, I began to wonder if Peter was as cool as I thought he was. I remembered once I had assured him that everyone liked him; I had been thinking of Alexis at the time, and now it turned out she didn’t like him at all. I also remembered how some girls in one of my classes had written a poem making fun of him.
I began to wonder why I liked him so much anyway.
Late that night, I poured a cup of coffee and got on the computer. I wondered if he was awake.
The little light next to his name on Facebook was green. On impulse, I sent him a message.
We play Scrabble together sometimes. He’s really good.
It was almost five minutes later when he replied.
“sure. I can’t promise to keep it going very long.”
“afraid you’re going to lose?” I asked him. It was so easy to establish this back and forth with him.
“hey, i’ve beaten you before. I brag about it sometimes. ‘I may look dumb, but I beat liz at scrabble!’”
“i think there was a compliment in there somewhere. thanks.”
“why the 11pm game request?” he wanted to know.
I proceeded to lie. “sorry. I just need something to think about besides politics and religion; I’ve been listening to it all afternoon.”
I waited, and watched the little indicator that said he was typing. Finally, this emerged:
“RON PAUL FOR DICTATOR AND PRAISE ALLAH!
didn’t see your last message there”
It was perfect. Everything about it was perfect. All of a sudden, I remembered something.
Maybe a year ago. I didn’t know him all that well then, but I really admired him. I had been arguing fiercely with an angry, stubborn acquaintance of mine, who had proceeded to unfriend me. It was the first time anyone had done such a thing, and it hurt, a lot.
Now, maybe I didn’t know Peter all that well, but he apparently knew me better than I thought he did; he knew that my absolute favourite book of all time was Pride and Prejudice.
Thinking of the stubborn guy and feeling a lump in my throat, I wondered out loud one day if it were possible to disagree with someone and retain their friendship. Several people assured me that it was. One of my friends told me that if I couldn’t disagree with someone and still be their friend, it wasn’t really a friendship.
But Peter looked me straight in the eye and said, “Liz, Pride and Prejudice sucks.”
There was a little hushed silence. Everyone looked at him. Then he held out his hand, grinned, and said, “See? We’re still friends.”
I still laugh at that memory. The absolute perfect thing to say at that moment.
I started to remember other things, like how he once broke a window in a burning house to save a dog, or his immediate and understanding forgiveness the time I hurt his feelings. How he threw himself into things. How he always made me laugh. How once he said hi to me when I wasn’t expecting it.
I suddenly wanted to message him and tell him everything. I wanted to admit how I didn’t really want to play Scrabble; that it was just an excuse so I could talk to him. I wanted to tell him how much I liked him. I didn’t, but I wanted to.
I remembered the mean things Alexis and the others had said at lunch, and I shrugged my shoulders. Screw them. Who needs them to pick my friends for me?
I’m just glad I remembered that.