Out of Reach by Eric Passarelli  With oversized khakis and a long polo shirt, he bounces around the hallway, laughing loudly and shoving his friends against the lockers. It’s morning break, and the hallway has become a bottomless ball pit of freshman, but he remains seen at all times. Taller than all the other freshman, he is constantly looking down at us, probably causing his neck to ache and definitely causing everyone below to admire such a dominating presence, as they fight to speak with him. Despite his mature size, he giggles at fart jokes and gets excited about Spin-the-Bottle games. Girls swoon over his crystal eyes; it makes him blush with an embarrassed grin on his face. The boys tease him about his elephant ears attached to his chubby face plagued by a bowl-cut and the common case of acne. He tells them to “shut up,” and playfully punches them. At first glance, he and I shouldn’t have worked as good friends. He liked baseball and basketball; I liked photography and acting. He focused on girls; I focused on school. He didn’t talk too much. I talked too much. He was just another boy I probably wouldn’t befriend while in high school. We had no classes together, and the new group of kids I befriended only babbled in awe about past experiences with him. He seemed like the cool guy that girls wanted to date and boys wanted to be friends with. After seeing him in the hallway one day, I nudged my friend, “Is that him?” I half-heartedly introduced myself with a quick “Hey, I’m Eric.” He said hi back, but quickly returned to the conversation with his friends. I didn’t really have anything else to say, and he didn’t either, so I continued walking to class. My assumptions were correct: we wouldn’t be friends. In the beginning of January, he surprisingly came to one of our friend’s group hangouts. When he walked in the door, he nodded at me and smiled. Without hesitating, I nodded back and laughed. We had sat together in large groups during lunch and waited for our separate school buses most days, never talking to one another, so I was surprised by the gesture. From our few, shared experiences, I hadn’t found anything in common with him and was indifferent to becoming friends. I’m still unsure why he nodded--we really couldn’t be friends--but I assume it was his normal way of making new ones. But that unexpected nod turned into the expected daily dap (abbreviated handshake), which turned into arguments about who the coolest character on The Walking Dead was, to advice sessions on how he should ask out this girl he used to date in middle school. Although he naturally grew closer to the other guy in our friend group, whom he had more things in common with, I considered myself lucky to have him as my friend, and I hoped he considered himself lucky, too. Sometime into sophomore year, we were sitting in our friend’s living room listening to music when he mumbled, “My parents are getting divorced.” No one responded; it seemed as if everyone pretended not to hear what he’d said. Keeping to my usual boundaries, I kept silent and waited for another one of my friends to comfort him. “It’ll be ok. We’re here for you!” I echoed that statement before suggesting we play a game. From that night on, I never addressed the topic head on, and although I noticed his usual wide smile became a half grin, and his big laughs were less frequent, I relied on his other friends to comfort him. Although there were rare moments of his usual self, those entirely disappeared when his best friend stopped talking to him to hang out with other people, and his first girlfriend broke up with him because she had feelings for someone else. Following them, others began to abandon him, which made me angry and upset. I didn’t want him to think I was leaving him, and I knew he needed friends, so I and a few others chose to help. As the year progressed, the person I knew became caged by hopelessness and anger; it’s as if he slipped under a frozen lake while I searched for him through a thick layer of foggy ice. Some of us comforted him the night he drank to the point where he couldn’t stop vomiting, while others comforted him when he broke down crying at a party. I don’t think we were enough for him, and I don’t know why we wouldn’t have been. He wanted his friends back, even if they had completely dropped him. He wanted his parents back together. He wanted his dad, who was his best friend, to stay in New York and not leave. Despite our efforts, the layer of ice was unbreakable; we couldn’t reach down under and pull him out. As we waited, we painfully watched his lungs slowly give out, his body stiffen, and his face turn into a lifeless expression of someone else. On the last day of school, I sat outside with him while we quietly waited for his dad to pick him up; this would be one of the last few days they spent together before his dad moved to Florida. “You excited for summer and junior year?” I quietly asked. “I guess. I’m just done with everyone’s shit,” he bluntly stated, as he tightened his lips. The conversation continued until his dad arrived. Then he turned to me, held his hand out for a dap, and said, “Have a good summer, kid. Thanks for everything.” He nodded his head at me and smiled when he got into the car. I smiled back. *** With acid wash jeans hanging below his ass and a pricey t-shirt resting on his semi-toned body, he struts down the hallway, shoulders swaying back and forth. It’s 7:45 in the morning so the sun has barely risen, but he is wearing sunglasses for some reason. The sunglasses come off and he flips his hair to the side, staring at some innocent girl’s ass until someone notices. The smell of cologne coats him, and he leans against a wall as he waits for people to go up and say hi to him. Our school’s mandatory morning meeting begins and he ignorantly struts back down the halls as frantic students dodge him so they can be on time. We don’t talk anymore; in fact, he doesn’t really talk to any of the people who stayed friends with him during sophomore year. Instead, he returned to being best friends with the person who hurt him the most, and even spends a lot of time with his first ex. This ending to our friendship seemed inevitable at the start of junior year as we continued to speak less and less. During the rare times we did talk, neither was talking to the same person anymore. I’m not mad or resentful— that would be unfair of me. But it’s sad not knowing if I ever truly helped. Maybe I never knew him well enough or maybe the person I thought I knew wasn’t actually him.