Words: A Short Story

Ali Zimmerman

August 15, 2006,

I met a boy named Eli today.

He didn’t talk to me.

Mrs. Jones had to tell me his name.

I understand.

The first day of school is hard.

August 16, 2006,

I asked Eli if he wanted to color a picture with me.

He didn’t respond.

I didn’t know if he understood me.

Maybe he didn’t speak English.

He grabbed some crayons though.

Even though he didn’t use words.

August 17, 2006,

Today I told Eli that I liked his name.

I told him it sounded cool.

I think he smiled.

I asked when his birthday was too.

“Mine is February 4,” I said.

Eli didn’t ever tell me his.

I told him I was 9.

I asked if he was also 9.

He just looked at me.

August 22, 2006,

I thought he wouldn’t be nervous anymore.

It was a week into school.

Eli still didn’t talk.

He didn’t have words.

August 25, 2006,

I told him I wanted to be his friend.

I said I couldn’t if he never talked to me.

I asked what was wrong with him.

Eli walked away.

Mrs. Jones told me to be nice to him.

I thought I was being nice,

he was the one not being nice to me.

August 26, 2006,

I told mommy about Eli.

I asked her why he didn’t talk to me.

She said I should ask my teacher.

Mrs. Jones said Eli couldn’t talk.

She said he was fine.

She said to not act like he was different.

Even though he didn’t have words.

August 29, 2006,

I asked Eli if he was really fine.

He didn’t say yes,

but he didn’t say no.

He couldn’t talk.

I wanted to know how to make him talk.

Mrs. Jones said he was normal.

But he was different.

I asked him how I could fix him.

He got upset when I asked.

I don’t know why.

I just wanted to fix him.

September 3, 2006,

Mommy said I couldn’t fix him.

“He won’t ever talk,” she said.

I didn’t know why.

Why couldn’t he talk?

Normal people talked.

I wanted a friend who could talk.

Why could he not be fixed?

December 4, 2006,

Eli came over to play today.

We had a snowball fight.

He screamed,

but he never spoke.

August 19, 2007,

I only saw Eli twice over the summer.

I was excited to go back to school and see him again.

I thought maybe he would talk.

Maybe the summer would fix him.

He still didn’t talk.

I finally realized he would never talk.

October 21, 2008,

Even in 6th grade Eli didn’t talk.

I understood now.

No one else did.

I was the only person who would talk to Eli.

I liked it.

I told him everything I needed to say.

I knew he would never yell at me for saying it.

He listened patiently.

I always knew he was listening.

Sometimes he smiled when I talked to him.

January 12, 2009,

People started to make fun of Eli.

They would open his mouth with their hands.

They called him dumb when he made sounds but not words.

It made me mad.

Eli was my friend.

They asked me why I would be best friends with him.

They thought he was less than they were.

The teachers never spoke about it either.

The mean people were never taught why Eli wasn’t talking.

So they kept being mean.

November 2, 2009,

Eli was the smartest kid in our class.

He got an A on every test.

Even though he couldn’t talk, he understood.

He understood better than the people who could talk.

Even though he didn’t have words.

February 6, 2010,

It wasn’t until 8th grade when I realized I liked that he couldn’t talk.

If Eli could talk, he wouldn’t be himself.

Eli was nice, quiet, and smart.

And I liked that.

I liked sitting in silence with him.

I felt safe.

I thought we shouldn’t pretend like Eli was normal.

He wasn’t.

But that was okay.

He was himself.

June 20, 2012,

Eli was still my best friend.

He got mad at me sometimes.

But he always understood.

He always forgave me.

September 17, 2012,

Kids started to become nicer in high school.

They accepted that Eli didn’t talk.

He had a few more friends besides me.

People started understanding.

They realized he had a personality.

Even though he didn’t have words.

December 10, 2015,

In college, Eli wrote.

He would type new worlds into creation.

And he would talk a lot.

He could talk with his hands.

He used words well.

Even though he couldn’t speak.

I realized he did have words.

July 30, 2022,

I’ve known Eli since I was 9.

Before he was made fun of.

Now the world is more accepting.

I used to think I could fix him.

Now I know I don’t have to.