“What’s up?” Sheila asked.
“Oh, nothing bad, just a Face Book friend request from Wendell Steele,” Vince said.
“And the problem is?” Sheila asked.
“Oh, it’s another one of those high school ‘friends’ that I never really knew well or liked much,” Vince said.
“So? I mean, how many are you Face Book friends with now? Dozens? What’s one more?”
“Maybe you’re right. It’s just, well, I don’t know, there was something about Wendell, that, I can’t put my finger on it, he just rubbed me so much the wrong way,” Vince said. “His eyes, those eyes, seemed to see through me and seemed to always be on me. I used to think he was stalking me, always talking to me in his irritating voice, wanting to join in whatever I was doing, staring with those eyes. And it wasn’t like I was popular. In fact, he was much more popular than I was; far, far more popular. I don’t know.”
“Was he gay, maybe had a crush on you?” Sheila asked.
“I really doubt it,” he said. “I mean, sure, there’s that possibility, but it seemed like something more, something, I don’t know, almost sinister. I know, that sounds stupid. I felt almost like he collected people and I refused to be collected, which made him want me all the more. Everyone did seem to like him much more than they liked me, but those eyes. I don’t know, that was a long time ago, it feels like centuries.”
“Well it couldn’t have been too bad if he’s waited all of these years to ‘friend’ you,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Vince clicked the ‘Confirm’ button. Something didn’t feel right. He half remembered a drunken confrontation at the big graduation party. He didn’t remember the specifics, just that it wasn’t pretty.
Vince picked up his phone as it beeped. He had a new follower in Twitter and one on Instagram. They were both from Wendell. He checked Linkedin and sure enough, Wendell was there too. Vince’s phone beeped again. It was an IM from Wendell, “Hope we can catch up soon”.
“Look, this is just what I was talking about,” Vince said to Sheila. “Within seconds of me confirming our silly Face Book ‘friendship’ he’s sent request in every social media imaginable and even IMed me. I mean, he was always like that, if I said one nice word he was all over me like a puppy that craved attention.”
“Maybe a little over exuberant,” Sheila said. “If he is stalking you, wouldn’t it be easier to know if you can see him on social media? I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Vince said.
After a moments reflection he shot a quick message to Brian through Face Book. Brian was Wendell’s best friend. “Hey Brian. What’s Wendell up to these days? Is he the same as always?” It was late, time for bed.
“Would you just freaking leave me alone?”
“What’s wrong Vinny?” the teenaged Wendell asked, his already big eyes widening even more.
“You’re what’s wrong, you freak,” Vince answered. “God, you’re like a puppy. I say one word and you’re all over me trying to lick my chin. Just stay away.”
“Oh come on Vinny, lighten up,” Wendell said. “Everyone says you’re a dick. I don’t think so. Deep down you’re good guy.”
“Would you just shut up and go away? Why do you keep bothering me, why do you keep talking to me? Can’t you tell I don’t like you?” Vince said. His bloodshot eyes where bulging, his face was flushed. “Just leave me alone.”
“No, you’re just a faggot and I hate you,” Vince said. He threw his cup full of beer into Wendell’s face, into his all too knowing eyes.
Before he knew what happened Vince found himself on the ground outside of the party. He watched the backs of the guys as they reentered the house. Only one remained behind, Wendell’s friend Brian.
“You know, Wendell always said that a really nice person lurked under your asshole exterior,” Brian said. “Maybe now he realizes what a jerk you really are.” Brian turned and followed the others back to join the party.
Vince woke up with a start. He went into the bathroom and stared at the mirror. Brian was right, he was a jerk back then. Was he still a jerk? He shook his head. He couldn’t answer, he just couldn’t answer.
Not seeing any sleep for the rest of the night Vince booted up his laptop. As he waited he looked at this phone. “I’ll see you real soon,” said the text from Wendell.
Laptop finally up, Vince logged into Face Book. There was a message from Brian.
“I know you didn’t like him, but I always gave you the benefit of the doubt. This proves it. I’ve never seen such an insensitive jerk in my life. I can’t imagine the gall to write now. Asshole!”
Vince Googled the name “Wendell Steele”. To his horror he discovered that yesterday Wendell had succumbed to his injuries. Three days before he had stopped to help people at an accident. After pulling three people from the diesel soaked vehicles, he went back to see if there was anyone else in the wreckage. That was when a spark started the fire.
As he reread the article Vince absently reached for his beeping phone. “After all of these years, it’s time we meet again,” the text message read.
Vince looked up. He screamed.
It was a freak accident and left Vince unable to move or speak for the three days he lived. But everyone who saw him over those three days talked about his eyes, those pleading eyes. What did you see, Vinny, and why are you afraid to close your eyes?