The two of them were a pair all through middle school. They were Samneric. Bert and Ernie. Mutt and Jeff. They were Ryan and Allison. Rynallison.
Yet they couldn’t have looked like a less likely pair. Ryan was big and ruddy and handsome, with thick hair and perfect teeth and a huge smile. Allison was tiny and pale and quirky, like a cartoon come to life. She had glasses that were too big for her face and tiny ears that stuck straight out like rudders that were trying too hard to halt her forward motion.
They’d met in first grade, Allison once told me, and had been close friends ever since. They always sat together when it was allowed, and they laughed, the two of them, always. At everything. When Ryan left the room, she deflated somehow and looked frail. But with Ryan there, she came alive in a shimmer of bubbles. And when Allison left the room, Ryan lost a certain glow. I would have to reprimand them sometimes, but deep down I couldn’t help but marvel over the strength of that human bond.
Then one year I saw Allison, in high school now, sitting primly and quietly. She was bigger, and her glasses fit her face better, but there was something wrong. And then I realized what it was: she was missing her Ryan. Where was he? I asked. Different high school, she said. It came out in a whisper, almost.
And broke my heart.