I don’t know how our friendship began. I was in eight grade and my best friend had gone off to private school. I remember being pretty lonely. Then, somehow I met Nate. He was really nice to me.
At lunchtime, I used to sneak out of the cafeteria into his “office” in the boiler room, and we’d have lunch together. I don’t remember what we’d talk about; I just remember how nice he was. It was a time in my life when I was completely out of sync with the rest of the world. I was screwing up in school, and pissing my folks off at home. But when I hung out with Nate, I felt complete and OK. He treated me as an equal. He provided an oasis of respect in the crazy judgmental world I was living in.
Then, one morning, they announced over the PA that Nate had died. I was so sad. I remember I started crying right there in class. I really loved Nate. The other janitor, Jessie, was very nice to me. We hung out together and talked about Nate. He helped me feel better. But I still missed Nate.
I’m teaching my son that the people who do the cleaning are doing a hard job that helps to keep us safe and healthy. So many Americans don’t even see the people who work so hard to keep things nice for us. I make a point of saying thank you to maids and janitors. I guess, each time I do it, I’m also saying thanks to Nate.