Yesterday, Matthew and I went to Fuddruckers, which is a place that sounds like a swear word but actually just sells disgusting hamburgers that you have to make yourself.
We were supposed to meet someone named Paolo that Matthew met on the Internet.
Paolo told Matthew to meet him at Fuddruckers at three o’clock but Matthew insisted that we get there a few minutes early, “just to be polite.” And Paolo told us to come alone, not with our parents, which was fine for me because Mom has been encouraging me to have experiences that “don’t include” her. But Matthew had to lie to his mother so he told her that we had to stay after school for a science project.
As soon as school ended Matthew grabbed my arm and we snuck out the back door, past the buses, and started walking to Fuddruckers.
On the way, Matthew wouldn’t stop talking about his new friend Paolo. They met on the Internet because they were both fans of the band Serial 17, which isn’t even a real band. Serial 17 is just four teenage boys who sing but play no instruments and Mom taught me that bands like that shouldn’t be called bands because “they only exist to boost the heart rate of fat girls and pederasts.”
Anyway, Paolo was the president of the Serial 17 fan club and he started emailing Matthew after Matthew posted a picture of himself at a concert. Matthew kept saying that Paolo was “so funny” and “so mature” and that he knew all the lyrics to every Serial 17 song. I wanted to say, “That’s easy. All their songs sound exactly the same,” but I didn’t want to hurt Matthew’s feelings so I just said, “Cool.”
Matthew never actually met Paolo in person and I was happy he was taking me to their first meeting, but also a little annoyed by how much Matthew seemed to like him. I know it probably sounds weird to say this but the more Matthew talked about Paolo the more I started to hate Paolo.
I knew why Matthew liked him so much. It’s easy to like someone on the Internet. When you’re with someone in person you have to see all of their weird things. Like Matthew cracks his knuckles and it’s kind of annoying. If Paolo knew that Matthew cracked his knuckles maybe he wouldn’t like him but I know about it and still like him, so that means our friendship is real.
We got to Fuddruckers at exactly three o’clock and I could tell that Matthew was a little annoyed with me for walking slowly but I can’t help it if I have asthma. We looked around but there was no other boy sitting alone so Matthew and I got a table by the window and waited for Paolo. I could tell that Matthew was nervous so I asked, “Do you want me to build us burgers?” because at Fuddruckers you have to “build your own” burger. But Matthew kind of scowled at me and said in a mean voice, “How would that look to Paolo?”
I was thinking about how that would look to Paolo when we heard police sirens. I looked outside and saw four police cars screech into the parking lot. Matthew ducked under the table and said, “My mom found out I’m not at school!”
But then I saw why the police were there: they were forcing a man on to the ground, faced down, and putting him in handcuffs. It was so strange to see somebody be arrested in real life. Usually on TV the person getting arrested is struggling and yelling at the police but this man was just calmly laying on the ground. Almost like he was waiting to be arrested.
Matthew started cracking his knuckles. And, for some reason, it calmed me down.
But then the weirdest thing of all happened. The man stood up in the handcuffs, turned to me and Matthew, saw us through the window and smiled right at us. It gave us the willies at the same time. The man was so creepy! He was wearing baggy sweatpants and a sweatshirt and there were wet stains on them, like he’d been wearing them for a long time or eating TV dinners in them.
I whispered to Matthew: “Let’s never come here again.” And Matthew whispered back, “I can’t wait to tell Paolo about this!”
After the man got taken away, Matthew and I got burgers and waited for Paolo, who never showed up. I was actually relieved, but I didn’t want to make Matthew feel bad so I said, “He probably just got busy with Serial 17 stuff.”
And Matthew said, “Yeah, he’s the president. Did I tell you that?”
And I wanted to say, “Yes! You told me that a million times!” But instead, I just said, “Cool.”
Matthew looked at his watch and said, “If he’s not here in the next 15 minutes we can go.” So Matthew and I waited but I had a feeling Paolo was not going to show up.
And it was actually kind of nice to just sit with Matthew. I realized that we hadn’t done that in a while and it made me think that it didn’t matter if Matthew liked Paolo.
Even if you’re best friends with someone on the Internet, you can’t just sit with them quietly. And sometimes, when Matthew and I are just sitting with each other quietly, I like him the most. Matthew will crack his knuckles and, even though it makes me nauseous, it also makes me feel like I’m real.
That’s why I’m giving Fuddruckers 1062 out of 2000 stars and Paolo 97 out of 2000 stars.