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Park Bench
by Grace Mattioli

“Why do you call me Park Bench?” was all John Grassetti said to me for six years- from seventh grade to twelfth grade. I never answered him in all that time. I relished the fact that he didn't know why I called him by such an odd nick name, and that he really cared. He didn't seem to care about much of anything. He certainly didn't care about the snot coming out of his nose and dripping down his rosy cheeks that day in seventh grade. In fact, I'm quite sure he didn't even notice it. As he walked by my desk, I was afraid that some of it would fall off his grubby face and onto me. When I looked at his face, all I could think of was that Jethro Tull song that goes, “sitting on a park bench….snot is coming out his nose.” And from that day on, he became Park Bench. 

I imagined him struggling to figure out the meaning of the nickname. Maybe he thought that I thought he looked like a park bench. Or maybe he thought he that I thought he was no more evolved than a park bench. But I didn’t think his little mind could go that deep. In any event, I'd never tell him and as time went by, I could see him getting more and more bothered by the mystery. He could do whatever he wanted. Turn his eye lid inside out to gross me out or call me names like Space Cadet or Judy Jetson. I still wouldn’t tell him the meaning of his nickname. 

Then one day about a week before high school graduation, he begged me and I took sympathy on him and finally told him. “Because there was snot coming out of your nose one day in seventh grade!” He looked at me with the most confused, squished up face I’d ever seen. I guess he didn't know the song.