The Red Ball…Or, Why I Started Therapy
Sheila Hageman
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I think of Danny now and I remember how our relationship always had a mystical feel. We met each other in high school and became fast friends. I remember I had a feeling of almost needing to savor every moment of our relationship. Not that I can say that I knew back then that he'd die at an early age, certainly not from drinking and driving, but I knew there was something special about him and me. I always felt that our time together moved slower somehow. And everything I did with him was important and special. Every time I saw him in the halls of school the air around him seemed like slowness and streakiness.

I remember how he made me feel like I could be anybody even when I felt like nobody. When I was so depressed and all my friends had deserted me, Danny didn't. He said, "I know we aren't best friends because we don't spend a lot of time together, but we are best friends in the sense that when we are together there is something special and we are just-there. Friends who will be friends forever."

I remember how he convinced me to live a little and how he used to come to all my shows and make me smile at times when no one else could. He convinced me to skip out on lunchtime once senior year. A bunch of us went to Burger King by Trumbull Shopping Park and even his girlfriend Lori was there, but she so trusted Danny that she didn't mind that he spent time with me. I remember this as one of those moments when time stood still while we played on the mini merry-go-round. Danny unscrewed the wooden red ball off the top of the ride and gave it to me. He slipped it to me behind his back and I held it and held it and we left and I looked back at the merry-go-round with a big ugly screw on top. I had that red ball and I kept it and I never felt guilty about it.

I hadn't seen him in years. We'd lost touch after high school. My mom called and said she had trouble deciding if she should tell me the news because I was in one of my major depressions, but she realized that she had to tell me. It had been in the local paper.

Danny. Danny Boudreau-died.

In an automobile accident. There were so many people at his wake. I saw old friends. One, who was stoned and drunk, told me she had gone on a cross-country trip with him after high school. She had been one of those friends, who spent a lot of time with Danny, but I was too quiet and shy to do those crazy and spontaneous things.

I saw another friend; she looked like an earth mother in all flowing clothes and beads. We hugged each other. Another friend, when I saw her I started to cry and she said, "Oh, we're not going to do that, are we?"

I wanted to say, let me cry. Let me cry. You don't know who Danny was to me. We were special friends and I loved him for his mismatched socks and goofy smile and the fact that he had dyed his hair blonde.

But somehow that friend's judgment clogged up my tears. I could not cry anymore at Danny's wake. When I returned home afterwards, my depression drew me down. I didn't think I'd ever leave the apartment. How could I? I'd lost so many years with Danny and now I'd never have another chance to be his friend. I felt like I could not move. This is when I realized that I needed serious help. I did not want to live depressed anymore, or waste any more of my life.

A week after Danny died I started therapy with a new psychiatrist and finally agreed to begin medication.

Now I know that I was right; I did need to savor every moment I had with Danny. And today I do need to savor every moment I have with everyone.

And I still can't help but wonder if they ever replaced that red ball on top of our merry-go-round.
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