I found out recently that an old friend of mine has passed away. When I say old friend, I don't mean that we've been friends for a long time and frequently saw each other throughout the years, but what I mean is a friend I had when I was very young in second grade. His name is Justin Taylor and I remember getting into some fun trouble with him. You see, Justin and I rode the same bus home, but it wasn't really a bus. It was the Blue Van. My bone disease made it so that I couldn't ride the normal bus with all the other kids in fear that my bones would break from the roughness of the bus. I personally think I could've handled it, but the Blue Van was nice as it only seated around 6 students. It was one of those school transportation vans you see around small neighborhoods. Being new to the system of the Blue Van that year, my teacher Mrs. Norris told me Justin would help me out with knowing when to leave and be my friend.
I don't remember very much about Justin Taylor other than the fact that he was always so nice to me. I never knew the reason he rode the Blue Van but it didn't matter. We became friends from it. I also wasn't allowed to play outside during recess so I would stay indoors with a friend. Most days, we would walk around the school or play with Legos and puzzles. I remember one day, Justin stayed inside from recess with me and a few others. Mrs. Norris was gone out of the room. This was back when teachers trusted students like me. Wrongfully so, as you'll read in just a minute. I remember one girl, who will remain unnamed haha, wrote in my teacher's grade book and gave someone a zero. She erased it before the teacher got back, but she had pressed so hard that it left an imprint. I remember it leaving quite an imprint on the grade book because my teacher called me up to her desk first thing the next morning and asked about it. She said, "Shannon, did you or someone else write in my grade book when I wasn't here yesterday?" Naturally, I lied because I didn't want to get the girl in trouble, or anyone else for that matter. My teacher got through everyone who could've been involved, including Justin, who made eye contact with me shortly after his questioning and mouthed, "I lied." Pleased to know I wasn't the only liar, I wondered if anyone would snitch. Well, we didn't have to wait too long because a young boy named Ben started sobbing uncontrollably and told my teacher everything. The people involved were told to put our heads down, which was almost worse humiliation than being put on the wall at recess. We both later had to console Ben about how it was the right thing to do, even though we wished he didn't say anything. We all knew Ben felt terrible about being the snitch though because he didn't even vote for whether he wanted the good lunch or the sacked lunch.
We weren't ever allowed to play in the classroom after that point and so Justin and I found our new play area at the table outside the classroom. At a later part of the year, Justin was there when a kid told my friend Alexandra and I that we were gay for hugging. I remember Justin gasped and defended us before Alexandra told Mrs. Norris what was said. I had no idea what being gay even meant, and Justin assured me that it was something I wouldn't want to know about yet.
Justin also was one of the first kids I knew to say a cuss word. When we left to wait for the Blue Van, we would wait by the office and lean on the doors. We always got in trouble for leaning on the doors. (Such an elementary school thing to get in trouble for.) There was this one woman who would literally just gossip in the office with the secretary because her day was finished. We didn't like her because she was catty and mean to us. She was the type of person who always found a reason to complain about something we did, even when we sat quietly. I remember she made me cry a few times. We would always hope that Liz, our hero Blue Van driver, would come save the day by arriving early so we could avoid this woman. One day Liz asked what was wrong. I didn't say anything, so then Justin explained what happened. Liz, who always agreed with our version of the stories we shared, tried comforting me saying that some adults are just mean. Justin on the other hand, said, "Shannon, don't worry. She's just a bitch." And Liz and I both paused before exploding with laughter.
Nearly every day, Justin would help me lift my chair up on my desk and would always close the door for me in the Blue Van. I really missed him when he was absent. He always said bye to me when it was my stop. Justin left Edison sometime in the third grade, I think, and I hadn't seen him since. We recently became Facebook friends in September and he passed away in November. We didn't message each other, and I am not sure he even remembered who I was or where I might know him. But. I don't think I could ever forget someone like Justin.