He came to our school in year eight…or nine…I forget. He had nothing to do with me - not my problem. The rumours broke out soon afterwards - he did weed. He said weird things. He was a weirdo stoner. It was a playground dilemma of steering clear, or aggravating him to get a thrill or something to laugh about. My friends who were in class with him would sometimes spend the whole of break gossiping about him. In fact, whenever he said something stupid, the whole year would find out. I didn’t see why they made such a fuss over his every action, especially as he was the reject. Don’t they do that to celebrities? Don’t they criticize their every move, preventing them from being ‘perfect’ in anyone’s eyes, broadcasting their affairs all over the media? Well, that’s what we did to Druggy Joe.
He was no celebrity. There was no glamour about him, although he tried. God, how he tried to fit in with his designer this and designer that. It made me sick. He was doing it because he wanted to fit in. It just made him stick out like a sore thumb. Then again, he also claimed that he was in Harry Potter, and I don’t mean being an extra in one of the films, he actually said he “meditated” his way into the story. Well, I never actually asked him, but that’s what I heard. We all did that. We took what we heard without question and believed it. We held it against him without giving him a chance to deny the rumours. We were all guilty.
When he sat next to me that first lesson of maths in year eleven, I made a face of disgust to my friend across the room. She was genuinely sympathetic. When he started talking to me, I sighed with disappointment. God, he was such a chatterbox. I let him talk at me for the first few minutes, but then he started asking me questions, which of course, I answered. I’m polite like that. Within a few weeks, we were friends. He turned out to be quite nice, you know.
When I developed a crush on someone, he was quick to recognise the symptoms: staring out the window, smiling secretly to myself, checking my phone for any text messages about twenty times each lesson. “Jenny’s spun!” he’d tease. I told him everything. He was the only person that I could confide in about it, as there was a rivalry between my friend and me over this guy, and everyone else was on her side about it. Joe was on mine, and that meant something.
He was off school for quite a while in January. I missed our little chats, but admittedly it was a relief to get some peace and quiet and just work without any distractions. When he came back, he sat and listened to my rants about a girl on the yearbook committee with me. I then urged him to get his photo taken for it, maybe even enter information about himself. He said he’d do it, but only for me. It made me smile.
Only a few months since the end of year eleven, I find myself struggling to remember Joe’s surname. He didn’t have one, nor did he need one; we all knew him as “Druggy Joe”. I tried to find him in the yearbook, but he wasn’t in there. Not even a blank space with his name in it, like we had done for everyone else who hadn’t contributed anything. It was as if he was never in our year. It was as if he never existed. It was as if we had excluded him once again. And I thought I was his friend.