There was this one boy at school who had arms. Nothing special about them: not terribly muscular, not overly hairy, not stubby like a chin.
He had arms.
He would hold his pencil in his hand at the end of his Right Arm. He would jot notes about whatever the teacher was saying, and sometimes drawing little men in hats in the corner. The men in the corner all have very short, stick-like arms that would often be drawn as if resting on his stick-like sides, with elbows protruding out. He would sometimes draw a speech bubble next to the man’s head and write something that has something to do with what the teacher was saying, something that he found funny, but probably no one else would if they ever saw it:
* * *
He had a habit that always freaked the girls out in class:
He would see a girl, any girl, who might be walking up to him (usually just to walk past him) and he would reach out his arm as if to shake her hand. He would do this while smiling and nodding and looking like a total dork, uncomfortable with himself, but still thinking he was doing the right thing when a girl approached him.
The girl would usually walk faster past him and then go and tell one of her friends about how he had done it to her, too, and they would laugh and wonder about where he must have learned such a weird thing.
What was his dad like? they would say to each other behind open locker doors.
Does he even have a mom?
There was one time when one of the newer girls at school ran into him, and he pulled his stuff, and she smiled and reached out to shake his hand and said Why how do you do? but that was just because she didn’t know him yet.
He pulled his hand away really quick, with a jerk of his arm, hitting the girl trying to get past him from behind with his elbow.
His face looked white, like he was thinking this isn’t the way it’s supposed to go.
That new girl got a lot of sympathy from the other girls and eventually became quite popular with the right crowd.
* * *
One day during gym we were all supposed to run and jump over things. There were a few of us who could do it well, a few who did it okay – if a little sloppy – and a few of us who couldn’t really do it at all. The boy with the arms was one who couldn’t do it at all.
He ran, his legs flying out in all directions below him, which made him lose his balance so bad that when he tried to lift himself up off the ground and over the thing, his legs would both catch the bar he was trying to get over and he would fall on his face, pulling the thing down with him.
He would be face-down in the dirt on the sunny day. He would slowly turn himself over. He would look around at all of us staring at him, trying to keep our laughs to ourselves as the gym teacher would say things like “It’s okay. Get up. Get up!”
He wouldn’t get up. Instead, he would reach his arms out to us, and smile, as if begging, no daring us to help him.
This would always happen at the end of class because he was always the last one to go. The bell would ring, and we all would run for the showers and never look back.
He had arms. We all remember that. The boy had arms.