I met Patrick Fahey when I attended Tilden Technical High School in Back of the Yards. We were very good friends, but only when we were in school. I’m not even sure when and where I met him. He just somehow materialized at school and we often sat together in cafeteria or the library. Sometimes when I walked home from school, I would walk over to his apartment because he only lived two blocks from the school.
His apartment didn’t have very much furniture and no one was ever home. Patrick was Irish with brown hair and freckles. He was tall and thin. His face wasn’t exactly symmetrical and it kind of reminded me of Pablo Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein. I often found myself staring at the dimensions of his face, but he never said anything. Perhaps he never noticed since he always seemed to be off in his own little world. He didn’t have a girlfriend that I knew of, other than his imaginary ones. Sometimes he would show me a model in a magazine ad and say, “I wouldn’t kick her out of bed.” But I couldn’t even picture him approaching any girl even to say hello to one since he was so painfully shy. I didn’t think he would ever attract a beautiful girl like the models in the magazines, or any girl at all for that matter, because of his extreme shyness.
But, one day, as I was putting my books in my locker between classes, I closed my locker door and I suddenly saw a girl standing there, smiling nervously. We were both speechless for a moment. She looked Irish to me. She was pretty in a plain sort of way and pleasantly plump. I finally said hi. She said hi, but then the bell rang and we went our separate ways. The whole incident was mind-boggling. I couldn’t fathom why this girl would be standing by my locker.
I forgot all about her until the next day when I saw her by my locker again. “Do you know Patrick Fahey?” she asked. “Yes,” I responded feebly. “Do you talk to him a lot?” “Yes.” Then, the bell rang and we went to our respective classes. I told Patrick about the incident, but he didn’t even acknowledge what I had told him. That was actually quite normal for us because we didn’t always talk to each other. We often just sat there in the library, just reading. We were kind of like Pedro and Napoleon in the movie Napoleon Dynamite, only I didn’t have a mustache then. Now that I think of it, we spent a lot of time together, but we hardly ever talked, even when we walked to his house together.
A few weeks later, the girl was at my locker again. This time she talked and talked so much that I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Her name was Maureen and she was in a history class with Patrick. She said she really, really liked Patrick, but he would never talk to her. So, she approached me to help her. I said I would talk to Patrick. When I saw him, I asked him if he knew Maureen. He did. But he wasn’t interested in her. End of conversation for the day.
I would see Maureen by my locker regularly and she would ask me for progress updates. Actually, what I gave her were more like lack-of-progress updates. Patrick just wasn’t interested in her, not even as a friend. I eventually broke the news to her gently, but she was in denial and only tried harder. Finally, it was the end of the school year and it was time for the spring dance. Maureen came to my locker asked me if I was going to the dance. Then, she asked if I knew if Patrick already had a date for the dance. I knew he didn’t because we both confessed that we weren’t going. Maureen then told me to ask Patrick to take her to the dance. She stood there by my locker, the epitome of woeful lovesick misery, so I agreed to talk to Patrick for her. Patrick immediately said no. When I saw Maureen again, I told her his response. She cried and said, “But I love him!” She begged me to talk to him again. To ask him to please take her to the spring dance. I felt uncomfortable because she had her arms around my neck and everyone in the hall was staring at us.
I told Patrick everything that had transpired between Maureen and me, but he was unmoved. He said he wouldn’t go to the dance with Maureen. He just wouldn’t. Just because. For me that wasn’t a good reason. Somehow, I felt that I had to help Maureen. And by helping Maureen, I was also helping Patrick. “Just take Maureen to the dance!” I finally said. “I can’t.” “Why not?” “Because she’s fat!” “That’s not true!” Suddenly, I felt that I had to defend Maureen since I had gotten to know her a little better with all the time she spent talking to me by my locker.
Besides, to a Mexican, she wasn’t considered even remotely fat. “She just wants you to take her to the dance,” I said. “She’s not asking you to marry her.” Well, this seemingly sad tale eventually had a happy ending. Maureen, with all of her perpetual persistence–with a lot of help from me–, eventually went to the spring dance with Patrick. Afterwards, he wouldn’t talk about the dance or Maureen. In fact, Patrick acted as if the spring dance had never occurred, as if it were some sort of void in his life. But I knew they were happy together because Maureen would constantly update me on their relationship on her regular visits to me by my locker. I don’t know whatever happened to Patrick and Maureen because I transferred to Gage Park High School the next year. I like to imagine that they’re still together, happily married with children. Only Patrick doesn’t tell his friends about her.