Tic Tac Toe

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I watched from a distance as he sat alone on a log.  I was prompted not 5 minutes ago to talk to him from one of his peers.  As I walked towards him, I heard the laughter of the kids playing on the volleyball and tether-ball courts.  I didn’t really know what to do or say.  I just knew that sometimes people just want you to sit with them.

As I sat myself down next to him, I saw that his eyes were red from tears and his nose was a little drippy.  I handed him the wad of tissue that I had brought with me.  He acknowledged the gesture, but said nothing.

We sat in silence as I gave him time to clean himself up.  Though the sun was out and over us, the cool air made it acceptable.  A few minutes passed when I finally opened my mouth to ask:

“So, what’s bothering you?”

No response, he didn’t even look at me.

“Is there.. something or anything on your mind that you want to talk about?”

Still nothing.  I tried a few more times before I realized that this wasn’t working.  I even tried to be clever.

“Do you want me to leave?  No response means ‘no’”

He didn’t say anything.  Which either meant he wanted me there, or he didn’t care to pay any attention to me.  Either way, I took it as a no.

On the verge of giving up, I tried one more thing.  I grabbed a nearby stick and began to draw four lines into the dirt in front of us; it was a Tic Tac Toe board.  I made my first move in the center, as most people do.  He sat up straight as he looked for a stick to take his turn.  I was very surprised that this worked; I found some life in him.  We played through three cat’s games before I switched things up.

As I smoothed out the dirt, I drew a hangman layout.  He would have to speak in order to play this game, and so he did.  We took turns guessing and leading the game.  Eventually I got to ask:

“So, why are you sitting out here by yourself?”

He proceeded to open up about what bothered him.  Time flew by until it was dinner time and we headed back inside.  I learned something new that day.  There is value in being a friend first rather than say, an authority figure or something like that.

I must have done something right…

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