Ben

Nathan H.,  Southeast Missouri State

It was unavoidable.   Everyone in the last school knew, and now everyone at this new school would know.   He could not go through this again.   Ben hadn’t felt this heaviness in over a year, and now it draped over him like a plastic tarp, threatening to suffocate him.   It was bad enough that he suffocated while he slept, but now he feels the suffocation in his waking hours.   Suffocation from pure embarrassment.

Ben couldn’t possibly spend all of his recess time hiding behind the Tom’s Turbo Treehouse next to the kickball fields.   Sure it was safe.   No one ever came back here during the 2nd grade recess period. “Maybe if the kids don’t have the chance to ask me to Nate’s sleepover, it will come and go without anyone realizing they didn’t invite me”, Ben thought.   Sleepovers were what kids did, and Ben just wanted to feel like a normal kid. But what would the kids at school say about him once they found out he had to wear a bizarre contraption while he slept?

Ben first heard leaves rustling underfoot.   Someone was walking his way.   Ben sat as still as possible, hoping they would walk right past.   Maybe it was just Coach Benson getting supplies for gym class.   Yeah, that was it.   Just Coach Benson.   He will never know I am here.

“Ben, what are you doing behind here?   We want you to pitch for our ball game.   You know you are the best pitcher. ”   It was Nate.   The last person on earth Ben wanted to see.   “Oh, alright”, said Ben.   Ben was hoping that Nate couldn’t read his mind.   Surely Nate would forget that he hadn’t asked Ben to his sleepover.   Nate turned around and Ben knew it was coming.   He might have even flinched a little, because he knew it was all over for him.   “Hey, Ben, you coming to my sleepover on Friday?”, Nate asked.   The question seemed to bounce around his head like a ping pong ball.   Ben thought surely he would faint.   “Uh, I don’t know”, replied Ben.   “Well, you better be there, my mom is baking her famous oatmeal cookies.   Once you taste these cookies, you will dream about them every night!” exclaimed Nate.   Nate threw Ben the baseball, and the game was on.

Ben’s mom heard the front door open and then slam.   Ben was in tears by the time he got into the kitchen.   “Mom, I just had the worst day of my entire life!” shouted Ben.   Before Ben’s mom could even respond, Ben continued.   “Nate invited me to his sleepover and I just can’t go, Mom.   They will tease me forever, just like the others!”, and with that, Ben ran to his bedroom, flopped on the bed and began to cry.”

“Ben”, his mom said, “you have your new machine that helps you breathe; you don’t have to worry about snoring anymore.”   She walked to his nightstand and held up his CPAP machine.   Ben rolled over.   “They will make fun of me wearing that . . . I can’t wear that thing!” Ben mumbled.  “I’ve got an idea, Ben”, said his mom, as she walked out of his room.

All the boys were standing around Ben and staring.   It was time for bed at Nate’s sleepover and Ben had reluctantly taken his CPAP machine out of his backpack.   “Ben, what is that?” asked Johnny.   “Is that a gas mask?”, questioned James. “I think that is a pilot’s mask”, exclaimed Robbie.   Ben braced himself for the teasing as he placed his CPAP mask over his face and turned around.   There was a gasp and the room went silent.   Everyone couldn’t take their eyes off of Ben and this mysterious contraption.   Ben started to explain, but was interrupted by the boys crowding around him, asking to try on his pilot’s mask.   Ben explained to all the boys what his CPAP machine was about and how it helped him breathe at night.

That night was the best night in the world for Ben.   Everyone wanted to sleep by Ben so they could hear the humming of the pilot’s mask.   Ben knew he had the best mom around . . . as she had decorated his CPAP mask so Ben would look like a cool pilot in a fighter jet.  Yeah, this CPAP machine is pretty awesome just like my mom.

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