why don't you act black?


when i was nineteen, i thought i'd branch out a bit and eat dinner with other people. there was this group in bellarmine i'd usually eat with, and i think they felt kind of slighted that i chose to associate with other people. i didn't quite understand this, since we were attending a catholic university. people were supposed to be inclusive here, right? for such a small school, i was surprised how cliques still formed, and i still didn't know most people i saw everyday in classes and in the dorms. so, i started eating dinner every now and then with this kid, johnathan.

he was pretty mellow and low-key, so we got along fine. it wasn't until about sophomore year that i heard from some girls that he was a strange, strange man. he would make random bird noises and he allegedly humped my friend's body pillow. he was the kind of guy who hung out in random girls' rooms, and he didn't know when to leave. i can't say i could blame the guy. whenever it came down to hanging out in some girl's bedroom, i found myself reluctant to trek back to my own dorm, which was dominated by my roommate tony meatballs' nasty heap of grass and sweat-stained jockstraps, socks, and soccer uniforms. but i could always take a hint, and i always knew when it was time to go.

johnathan's behavior got progressively erratic by the time sophomore year was in full swing. he told me that his parents had divorced, and that things were getting all fucked up for him. he had depression and had to take medication. this then led to a series of dizzy spells, breakdowns, and panic attacks. once, outside of my french class, i witnessed him pass out. he'd sometimes walk past me and not say anything. he became heavily medicated and had to drop some classes.

i finally saw johnathan again yesterday on the bus. i couldn't tell if it was him or not, as he had put on some weight and grown some facial hair. i wondered if he would've walked right past me, had i not waved. i'm sure that i could've gotten away with just looking out the window, but knowing what he's been through, it'd be a pretty fucked up thing for me to do. he sat down next to me, and we got to talking. he told me that he was living with his mom in south seattle, and he was still trying to finish school. he switched from being a computer science major to environmental studies with a math minor. i wanted to ask, "what are you going to do with that?" but no sensible person ever would.

he should've graduated with my class, three years ago, but here was now, still in school, "taking it slow." he said that he could only take one or two classes a quarter, but if he took more, he might have a panic attack or something. i asked him where he went to high school. he pointed forward and said, "right there." "what's that?" "franklin," he said. "how'd you like it there?" "academically, it was alright. socially..." and then he made a big thumbs-down, "it went down the tubes." i laughed, since we were in the middle of our own socially awkward conversation. "why's that?" i said. "oh, you know," he said, "people there just expected you to act a certain way." "what do you mean by that?" i asked. "it means exactly what you think it means," he said. "i had one person actually come up to me and say, 'why aren't you acting black?'" johnathan shook his head and made that sound jon stewart makes whenever president bush says something really ass-backwards.

"you still keep in touch with anyone?" he asked me. i mentioned some girls' names, and even from across town, i could hear their collective groans. he nodded, as though he remembered them well. i didn't know what else to say to him. i wanted to ask if he was taking it slow, why continue his education at seattle u? why not go to a state school, where it'd be cheaper? i can't imagine how much debt he's getting himself into. what a dilemma. as i got up to leave the bus, he asked me if i had a facebook. "yeah," i said. "your last name?" he asked. i told him it, and i even spelled it out. i was surprised he even knew my first.

but there it was this morning: you have 1 pending friend request.

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