When I was younger, I lived in a very safe town. There was no crime of any sort. It was safe enough that I could walk around the town by myself.
I could go into the woods by myself through my backyard. Most of my memories are from this town and the woods.
But I didn't have any friends. I was never good at making friends because of my anxiety. I spent most of my time alone.
My father would always try to persuade me to go with the kids that played kickball in the streets. I refused. My father sighed, "Well son, at some point you need to have a friend or two.
You can't spend your life alone," and walked away. At the time, I thought I could. But he was right. Being alone doesn't always feel good.
They knew that I was a very anxious person, but they still tried to push me to make friends. I tried and I failed every single time.
Want to know how I failed? I ran away in shyness and other times I would stutter because I was so nervous. I was a laughingstock. So I stayed away from those kind of kids.
But that one day where I went into the woods, everything changed.
When I was walking in the woods, I met a boy who was my age, and was dressed in a white shirt and overalls. He walked barefoot and he was washing the dirt off his feet in the river.
Once he saw me, he waved at me and yelled at the top of his lungs, "Hey! Hey you! What's your name?"
I froze. I started to stutter, "I-I-I am Garrett," I said.
"That's a cool name! My name is Jack! Jack Willows!" yelled Jack. I turned around and I looked at him. I noticed that we shared some of the same facial features too.
Black messy hair, green eyes, and we were kind of tall for our age. But I remembered him being taller than me. Jack waved at me again, "Come down to the river! It's nice and cold!" yelled Jack.
"Um. No thank you," I said.
"Are you sure? You might miss out!" yelled Jack.
I gave a sigh, "Okay!" I said. I came down to the river and I sat next to Jack, "Do you live in the woods too Garrett?" asked Jack.
"Kind of," I said.
"Nice! Maybe I'll come visit!" said Jack.
"That's probably not a good idea," I said.
"Why not?" asked Jack.
"I'm not so good with people," I said.
"But you're doing great with me! Just think of me as your neighbor in the woods!" said Jack.
Jack was right. I got myself to come down to see him, "Let's play a game of tag! I'll go first!" said Jack.
"O-okay!" I said. I liked tag games. I played tag with Jack for the entire afternoon. It was fun. Jack and I laughed as we kept playing that game.
"Garrett! It's time to come inside!" I heard my mother's voice. I looked at Jack, "I think it's time to end the fun here for today. Thank you for playing with me today.
I had a lot of fun," I said.
"I did too! Do you want to play hide and seek tomorrow?" asked Jack.
"Yes!" I said.
"Okay! So meet me here at the same time you did today. I'll be waiting," said Jack.
The next day, I came to see Jack again. We played hide and seek for the entire afternoon. Then my mother called for my name again. I knew I had to come inside.
I looked at Jack while catching my breath, "This was fun. Hey Jack, how long have you lived here?" I asked.
"A very long time. My parents are farmers," said Jack.
"Oh really? My parents are doctors. I moved here about four months ago," I said.
"That's awesome Garrett. This town never had doctors since the fire," said Jack.
"Fire? What fire?" I asked.
"Garrett! You have five minutes to come inside!" I heard my mother.
"You better go. Come back here tomorrow. I promise you that I will be waiting," said Jack. I went home. The town I moved to, they had lots of doctors. There was three hospitals that were full of doctors and nurses.
It was one of the reasons why my family moved here. It was at that point that I became curious about Jack. But I held it off for a little bit.
The next day, I came back to the river. Jack was waiting for me, "So what do you want to do today?" asked Jack.
"Let's play in the river. It's pretty hot today," I said.
"Okay," said Jack. When I put my foot in the water, it was pretty cold. But I jumped right in. I felt a shiver down my spine. But it was good.
Jack took a few steps back and jumped straight in, "Cannonball!" said Jack as he went into the water. I was soaking wet because of Jack. That was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Once we were done, Jack and I sat in the sun to dry off, "Hey Jack, I bet my mother is making sandwiches. Why don't you come in? I'm sure my parents would love to meet you," I said.
"Um...not today Garrett," said Jack.
"What? Why not?" I asked.
"I have to help my family out. My father's been sick for a while so we have had doctors coming in every single day. Sometimes three altogether in one day," explained Jack.
"Jack, that's awful. I'm sorry that your father is sick," I said.
"It's okay. Don't be. I just hope that my father will be okay. My mother's been working on the wiring.
We don't even have heat so we've been sleeping with tons of blankets on top of us," said Jack.
"Jack, my father can help you. He's really good with fixing wires in the house. He can help you," I said.
"It's okay Garrett. My mother can handle. Thank you for the offer though. I'll come with you for lunch tomorrow okay?" said Jack.
"Okay. You have to promise me that you will come," I said. He points out his pinky.
"I pinky promise," said Jack.
Then we departed. I went back to my house. During dinnertime, I told my parents about my new friend.
They were happy that I made a friend but sad about Jack's father, "I'll make the best sandwiches and cookies that he can take home to his family too!" said my mother.
They wanted to help my new friend out too.
The next day I waited and waited. Jack never came. I wondered if Jack forgot about me or he had to stay home to take care of his father. I spent that entire afternoon waiting for Jack.
I became discouraged and I went home, "What's wrong Garrett? Did Jack not come today?" asked my mother.
"He didn't come. He pinky promised that he would," I said.
"Oh honey, I'm so sorry," my mother said as she hugged me.
I never saw Jack again after that. I blamed Jack for leaving me. I thought that he was my only friend that knew me well. I overcame my anxiety because of Jack.
But when I was in high school, I found out the sad story of Jack. Jack Willows died in a house fire with his family and all the doctors in this town, who tried to take care of his sick father.
All the doctors came on the same day to take care of his father. The fire happened in 1964 because a wire in their house caught on fire.
There was a gas leak too which made the fire spread quickly in their house. It happened thirty four years ago on the same day that I was waiting for Jack to come to my house.
My neighbor Jack was a ghost and I didn't even know it. I still get chills to this day when I think about Jack and that fire.