My Friend Named V

When I was very young, I became good friends with a boy. He didn’t like his name very much, primarily because he’d never met anyone else with it. Regardless of the fact that he was barely 5 and quite frankly hadn’t met all that many people yet, he felt different when he heard his name and didn’t like how formal it sounded. So, we called him V.

V was the perfect friend to have as a child. He was always happy, always excited to see you, and had a wildly vivid imagination. The second of 3 boys, he and his brothers enjoyed video games and the age appropriate fantasy and science fiction cartoons and entertainment that was available at the time. Clearly, V was destined from an early age to the life of a nerdy fan boy. Fortunately, young kids aren’t usually so self-conscious and are free to enjoy what they enjoy.

Being the middle child, he also learned how to play politics from his home life. It wasn’t a dysfunctional family by any means, but V wanted everyone to be happy. Sometimes, that meant playing one brother against the other to whatever advantage that afforded him. Occasionally, they’d catch on to his schemes, and that’s when severe negotiations were held. It was like the election of a new pope: the boys would wall themselves inside the makeshift fort constructed out of mom’s ugly brown flannel floor pillows, not to emerge until a decision was reached, usually one to V’s advantage. Seeing as the members of these negotiations were between 4 and 6 years old, there couldn’t have really been too much at stake—perhaps who got a longer turn on the Nintendo or who had to be the one to get up in the morning to shut off the alarm (after all, little boys are stubborn and will power through an alarm clock just to spite it).

Outside of the home, though, V was a bit more fragile. He cried pretty easily. He didn’t like being made fun of—that made him cry. He didn’t like change, like his first day of school—he was “that kid that won’t stop crying.” If he got hit by the ball in dodgeball—y’know, the only way you actually play that game—he cried. Oftentimes he felt like crying in response to things he didn’t like was what just felt natural to him, like his body said “ok, V, this is what we’re going to do now,” and he just went along with it. Looking back, I think he was just a very expressive kid. If he was upset, he let you know it (when he cried). If he was happy or excited, he made that abundantly clear by single-handedly altering the noise level of whatever room he was in (and most of the adjacent ones as well).

He didn’t like what he didn’t like, he got along with just about everybody, and he was my best friend.

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