When I was in seventh grade, I had my first experience with a friend abruptly ceasing to exist.
Ricky Duncan was the first friend I made when I had moved from a big city to a tiny, middle-of-fucking-nowhere podunk town in fourth grade. I was riding my bike around and ran into Ricky, who was also riding his bike around. He was a year younger than I was, and we hit it off and began hanging out all the time. Nearly every day, I'd ride my bike to his house, where we'd usually sit in the basement playing Nintendo for hours. Our favorite game was a two-player co-op game where both players had a little army guy at the bottom of the screen, blasting away waves and waves of enemies. The game would only let you continue so many times after dying, but I think we were able to finish the whole thing at least once.
I've never been religous, but I once went to church with Ricky and his family for some reason. I think that they didn't normally attend, but a relative was in town visiting them and he wanted to go, so they all went. I had spent the night at Ricky's, so I was already there. I rode my bike home and asked if it was alright, and then came back and we all went to church. Even as a little kid, I thought it was stupid. I remember there was a lot of singing, but I'd make up my own words or just pretend to sing when everybody else was getting into the spirit of the Lord. I don't think Ricky was very excited to be there, as he had made some negative remarks about seeing the elementary school principal there. At some point, they called all the kids to sit in the front and talk about good uses for the Bible. A few kids talked about how it was great for learning lessons about life and God. Ricky and I just sat there.
One time Ricky told me I needed to stop swearing around him, because he was finding himself swearing more and more. I asked him what was wrong with that, and he told me he thought it was wrong. I told him words weren't harmful, but he disagreed. On at least one occassion after that, he told me I had to leave his house for the rest of the day because of my foul mouth.
I can only assume it was mainly Ricky's parents that had given him the impression swearing was wrong. My parents didn't allow it, but their attitude only taught me that swearing was something you shouldn't do in front of authority figures. Swearing hurts nobody. I tried to convince Ricky of this, but he wouldn't believe me. To him, swearing was always wrong. Perhaps it was because I had always questioned authority, and maybe Ricky was one of the ones who never did. It's a trait that I notice in people now that I'm older, but probably didn't when I was ten years old.
Thinking back about Ricky, I find his attitude on swearing to be completely bizarre when contrasted to other things his parents instilled in him. Mainly, I find it mind boggling that they convinced him that swearing was always wrong, but they gave him guns. Guns kill things. What does swearing do again?
Ricky had a B.B. gun when I first met him, but my parents wouldn't let me play with it. Later, Ricky's parents bought him real guns.
In 5th grade, I moved across town, and rarely saw Ricky after that. The last time I saw him was when I was in seventh grade, during some kind of school event where they invite all the parents to come to the elementary school in the evening and watch the kids sing or some such.
"Hey, Paul," he said, passing me as everyone was leaving.
After that, I kept thinking I should give him a call. He was, after all, the first friend I had made when I moved. I thought it would be nice to hang out again.
One day, I arrived home from school to find myself greeted by bad news.
"Hey, remember the first friend you made when we moved here?" my sister asked as I walked in the door.
"Yeah," I said, "Ricky."
Ricky, while home alone, had accidentally shot himself. He bled to death. He was in sixth grade.