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We didn’t know he had Asperger’s then. He didn’t, and we didn’t. His parents hadn’t noticed, and what they happened to notice they medicated with anger, and Ritalin.

The late nineties. We were novice teenagers. We took the same bus. He lived a block away. We were both left-handed.

He was my best friend.

After the ADHD diagnosis came manic depression. It wasn’t until his mid-twenties, well after his life had turned completely to ruin, that he diagnosed himself with Asperger’s. And he wasn’t wrong. The doctors had been wrong.

His bully, or shall I say a bully of his, rode the bus with us. He and some other fucker sat in the back. We generally sat, I don’t know, two-thirds of the way towards the back.

We both had Discmans. Discmen. We brought those and our twelve-to-twenty-four disc CD cases with us for the bus rides. We bonded over music.

It’s around Wednesday. Mid-week. We’re riding the bus home, two-thirds of the way towards the back, listening to our Discmen. A bully of his and some other fucker are riding in the back. I’ll bet you anything I’m listening to Blink-182.

I’d seen what happened that day on the bus happen before. It was typically at his house, or shall I say his parents’ house, where we ate taquitos and listened to music and wrote songs we’d never sing.

His family didn’t understand him, and his sister – the wanted child, the nightmare child – half our age then, deployed a level of obnoxion towards us that made outbursts like this a common occurrence.

He’d tear from his bed or the floor towards the door, where his sister inevitably and terroristically stood, and he’d growl and chase her away, the same way a mother bear might. Then his grandma would yell in her thick German accent for them both to stop, and that would be that.

I thought it was kind of funny. It got the job done. For a little while, anyway.

It wasn’t very funny that day on the bus, though.

I don’t know what caused it, exactly. I’d been in my own world, looking out the window and singing along to a song about how disappointing it is to grow up. He was in the aisle seat, I was in the window seat. Seems like we were the four of us – me and him and that bully of his and the other fucker – on the right side of the bus.

At some point he turned his head, headphones still on, and shouted something towards the back of the bus, then went back to whatever he was listening to then.

But he didn’t stay that way for long.

He’d thrown his headphones off, turned around, and stood with his knees in the seat before I took my headphones off to try to catch up. And that’s when I saw them – the spitwads, the pencil, the crushed soda can in his hand that he was currently threatening to throw back at that bully of his, or was it the other fucker?

Dares were being extended. Words were being exchanged. A fight chant started up. The bus driver drove the bus.

He wasn’t about to fight them. He just wanted to scare them, like he would his sister. He had a sense of justice that he wanted them to know existed.

He tore from our seat and mama-bear-growled until he reached the back of the bus. But he couldn’t chase them away. They had nowhere to go.

Instead time just froze. When it unfroze, he turned around and came back to our seat, the eyes of the bus driver following him all the way.

“Stay in your seat!” she shouted, finally. Some of the kids (including that bully of his and the other fucker) mimicked her, some with less polite phrasing. But she was too late. They were too late. It was over. Or anyway, this part was over.

No one was allowed at my house. Not since elementary. Not since the day he’d knotted my forehead with a wooden bat on his follow through, where, as I ran howling inside, he’d chased after me and tripped and sprained his ankle on the exercise trampoline in my garage.

We got off at my stop that day. That bully of his and the other fucker usually got off at the stop before mine, but they hadn’t today. They had given no thought to getting off at their stop. They were going to get off at his stop, the stop after mine, and it wasn’t so they could all sit down to a chat.

So we got off at my stop. And they got off at my stop.

We beat them to my house and we went inside and locked the door.

That bully of his and the other fucker paced my driveway for a good while as we looked on through Mom’s lace curtains. They were fat and menacing.

After a while they became short of breath or something and anyway gave up and went home.

They went home and he went home and Mom never found out.

I don’t remember what happened after that.