I once met a boy named Reynaldo, who ate his snot, in that juvenile purgatory we call grade school. We were classmates for two years, in Grades 1 and 2, and got along famously. He was sweet and non-threatening, so fat that to call him chubby would have been lying. He was cute and we were friends. Our friendship was based on two very important things, food and love, these two things rumored to be, at times, interchangeable. We both loved food, and we both loved Zierlyn.
Zierlyn was my best friend in elementary school. We met in first grade and were inseparable. We were in the same section, after all. That is, until fifth grade. Then she transferred to a different section and, I guess, we were not that difficult to separate, after all. But while we were together, we were the best of friends. No matter that she was too quiet, too demure, too not funny. No matter that I think she lied about her dad owning a Mercedes. None of that mattered. I loved her, with a whimsical kind of love, the kind that wraps its recipient in fancy, making her seem more than she actually is, more interesting, more alive. It was a grade school, we’ll be best friends forever, kind of love.
Reynaldo loved Zierlyn in a different way, whimsical too but different. They weren’t best friends. They weren’t even regular friends. Reynaldo was mere classmate to Zierlyn, a random, could-be-anyone classmate. But none of that mattered. To Reynaldo, Zierlyn was purpose, specific and localized in his heart.
Reynaldo had a plan, and I was part of that plan. I may have planted the seeds of it in his mind for my own selfish gastronomic interests, but my memory’s not to clear on that one anymore. The mind, after all, chooses to forget, chooses what to forget, keeps for itself memories that make us seem better than we ever were and discards those that show us up to be everyday occurrences instead of the extraordinary phenomena we all wish we were.
The plan was to woo Zierlyn with food, specifically gelatin cups. I was to be the bridge. My job description was specific: deliver the gelatin cups to Zierlyn and put in a good word about Reynaldo. I worked on commission, getting for myself one for every gelatin cup I passed on to Zierlyn. (It was a sweet deal, and I wonder now what happened to me. Because, clearly, I had what it takes to do sales and make money when I was a kid. I was a greasy, sleazy, balding salesman with a sweep-over. Oh, how times have changed).
This went on for several months, Reynaldo shyly handing over the food, me passing Zierlyn’s gelatin while I slurped mine, Zierlyn shyly taking it and saying thank you. But I never put in a good word for Reynaldo. It was obvious that Zierlyn didn’t have any kind of crush on him, and maybe I didn’t have the heart to tell him to quit hope. It’s the cruelest thing one can do to another, to take away one’s hope. Or maybe I just didn’t want my supply of JellyAce to stop. I don’t remember, and I don’t know who to blame for these huge gaps in my memory.
One thing I remember well, though… one image my mind won’t let me un-remember is of Reynaldo standing over a trashcan during recess with a finger up his nose, digging like a crazed prospector of gold. It is disgustingly crystal in my head: Reynaldo pulling out his finger full of snot, rolling and balling it around, then popping it into his mouth faster than you could say… nothing. Because witnessing something like that leaves you with nothing to say and nowhere to look but at him, chewing.
I was a shy child but loud when I felt I needed to be. This was a time for loudness. So I announced Reynaldo’s act to everyone within earshot, and that included Zierlyn.
Yuck!!! Reynaldo ate his booger!!! I shrieked, and I think they heard me in Timbuktu, but I’m not too sure.
Reynaldo denied it, disowned the act he had just so gleefully committed, and denied it so vehemently that the others knew. He did it. Truth is in Denial.
Everyone had a laugh. I don’t remember if Reynaldo felt humiliated or if he suffered years of teasing because I told on him. Zierlyn and Reynaldo never got together. I don’t think it was because of my horrid announcement. My outing of Reynaldo’s gastronomic fetish was entirely separate from Zierlyn’s inability to develop a crush on him. Still, I sometimes feel guilty about taking all those gelatin cups and giving back nothing in return. That’s not good, equitable friendship in my book. Reynaldo could sue me for breach of contract and he would win. After all, instead of putting in a good word for him to Zierlyn, I put him on the spot and made him a possible object of ridicule.
This was not a shining moment for me.
I think now of Reynaldo, and I cringe. Eating unearned gelatin cups is worse than eating snot.