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FRIENDSHIP



I was rather surprised when I opened my mail box and found a large Christmas card from someone who I did not recognize. The card was from Tallahassee, Florida but did not have a name or return address on the card or the envelope. The card was signed with the initials "LE". I did not have the slightest idea who "LE" was.

Yesterday I drove to Jacksonville, Florida to do a bit of research on the orphanage where I spent my entire childhood. While looking through the various catalogs archived at the Duval County Library I came across the initials "LE". I copied the page and drove to Spring Park Elementary School, located next door to the orphanage. Within an hour I had found the identity of the strange individual known to me only as "LE" written on a page of a 1952 Year-Book.

The first time I saw "LE" he was standing against the bathroom wall in the boy's bathroom at school. Several boys were making fun of him because one of his arms was smaller than the other. After I used the bathroom I stood there looking at him.

"What are you looking at?" He asked me.

"Why is your arm small like that?" I asked.

"I have polio" He replied.

"I got polio too." I told him.

"I don't see nothing wrong with you."

"That's 'cause I got polio inside my head."

"You can't have polio inside your head." He told me.

"NO! That's not true. Mother Winters, the head matron, said I got polio inside my head and that's why I can't learn nothin' the right way." I advised him, very sternly.

LE and I became good friends throughout the forth, fifth and sixth grades. He and I supported each other and stood together as the other kids mocked us because of our disabilities. As the years passed the kids at school would make fun of him as his body grew. Mainly because his arm became smaller and smaller in comparison to the rest of his body. They also continued to make fun of me because I was unable to learn at a normal pace.

Almost everyday I would go into the bathroom and look at my head in the bathroom mirror. Always measuring it with my ruler, and a string, to make sure that it was not getting smaller like LE's arm.

Well, my head never got smaller so I guess LE was right and I did not have polio after all. I suppose that I chose to act as if I had polio so that I would have at least one friend.

I telephone LE last night and we talked for about an hour. Before hanging up I asked him why he signed his name "LE" when sending me a Christmas card. He was silent for several seconds and then he said "Whatever was wrong with you, a long time ago, might be contagious and I'm not taking any chances."

I fell silent and the smile disappeared from my lips.

"Joking" He screamed out into the telephone.

We both laughed.

I suppose everything in life happens for a reason. That first day in the school bathroom was Larry put there for me or was I put there for him? Maybe we were put there for each other.



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