When I lived in Caracas, Venezuela, I went to a Catholic school called San Ignacio. I was there for kindergarten and preparatorio (a grade after kindergarten and before first grade). I was in a group of three friends that always did everything together. In this group, there was the oldest, a kid whose name I have regretfully forgotten, the youngest, Luis Manuel, and me, right in the middle.
Luis Manuel had light brown hair, a long face, and was very thin. One thing that really stood out was a scar running from the corner of his forehead diagonally to his right eye. He always said he had gotten it from a cat, though I wasn’t so sure because this seemed like such an ordinary story for him.
Though being the youngest, Luis Manuel was our leader. He was outspoken, getting himself where he wanted to be. He was very energetic, always running and jumping.
“Vamos!” he would call back to us, already at the tire swings, grinning a devilish grin, while the other kid and I were still pondering whether to go down the slide or climb down the rope ladder.
Always talking, he had a tendency of getting himself into trouble with our teacher. Even though he did get into a lot of trouble, the teachers still liked him. He just had to look at you with his innocent look and all was forgiven.
What was one of the coolest things about Luis Manuel was this aura you could sense around him, that made you want to be friends and be exactly like him. That was how cool, nice, and friendly he was.
One day, as we were walking down the hallway, talking, we spotted a Cheeto on the ground a few meters away He turned to me with his devilish grin, ran to the Cheeto, grabbed it up, and popped it into his mouth.
“Come on! That was no competition!” he laughed.
“I would have won if I was a pig like you!” I joked back. “My mom says that you can get germs from eating things off the floor.”
“Running out of excuses, eh? Cheetos are good, and plus, if I do get sick, at least I get to stay home.”
We both laughed, and walked down the rest of the way to the class, shooting comebacks at each other.
Every morning, before class, all the kinderkids and the kids from preparatorio would flock to the orchards and sit in the grass. Then the nuns and the principal would come and we would have our morning prayers, sing songs, and then go back to class.
The principal told us to not tear the grass, but everyone did anyways, stuffing it all into their pockets and see who would have the most at recess. Teachers would walk around trying to make sure the rule was obeyed. Every so often someone would get caught and that would be the last we saw of them that day Luis Manuel never got caught. He was so sneaky, he could tear handfuls right under a teacher’s nose. He was amazingly daring, always ready to take risks and get into trouble. And he never cried. If the nicest teacher in the school would have screamed at him and said he was useless, his face would have showed no emotions. If he fell and ripped a knee open, he would just get up and start running again. It was kind of creepy.
Since we lived in Caracas, we had earthquake drills. The alarm would sound and everyone would just stop and crouch under their desk, unless your teacher told you to walk outside, since there aren’t any buildings to flatten you. We would always discuss about what would happen if a really big earthquake hit. We came up with the most impossible situations, stuff like friendly aliens coming to rescue us and take us to their planet.
Those were the good times, when you had no worries except learning cursive and making sure you knew that seven times two was fourteen. When you needed to make sure you had the newest version of some Pokemon card, or that you knew what Sour-Cream-and-Onion Pringles were. Well, I ended up having to move to the U.S., and I left my best friend. He had helped shape so much of my personality, and I know I wouldn’t be the same person if I never had known Luis Manuel.