Topic: "Side by Side" (7)
At the school which Frodo attended, everyone looked just the same. New friends came and went on a biennial schedule as they followed parents to faraway places with strange sounding names, which Frodo has explained before. Perhaps Frodo's fertile imagination was shaped by his unwillingness to make friends, then watch them disappear as they discovered new horizons. Like every rule, there were exceptions, not least of which was Legolas.
The ninth year of schooling meant that Frodo could try out for sports. It was not out of the question for the Hobbit to make a team since the real athletes were housed in facilities, separate but equal, or so it was alleged, in those days not so very long ago. The basketball gymnasium held potential opportunity for the smallest and the weakest, that is if he ran endlessly and performed the basics with unerring accuracy. The ordeal began as the mighty midgets formed two lines facing an orange ring against an all-white backdrop. Frodo looked at the taller, and obviously stronger, one whose position in line corresponded to that of the Hobbit in his. He was unknown to the Hobbit, so it was only fitting that he would not be very good.
When the part-time gym teacher/boy's shop instructor passed Frodo the ball, it signaled him to bounce the ball three times while running, and then to pass the ball to the unknown one who ran toward the basket from the other line. Frodo's performance was adequate until he passed the ball behind the unknown one, who, surprisingly, exhibited uncommon grace with the errant pass, and turned a disaster into as graceful a lay-up as the Hobbit had ever seen. From beneath his head of coal black hair and his facial complexion dotted with spots of Clearasil, he smiled at Frodo as if the entire event had been planned by the two of them in hours of endless practice, together. Frodo smiled back.
The morning turned slowly to afternoon, and the two unknowns found themselves together in various drills on several occasions. They scored baskets, ran lay-ups, and rebounded until the very lining of their respective lungs ached. Frodo recognized that the "new guy" was good, but Frodo failed to realize that Frodo was not an integral part of that success. That came to bear quickly enough when the "top 20" were picked, and Frodo fell out of contention. Getting "cut" for the first time is not easy to explain, but it makes crying much too easy for the gender-sensitivities of early male adolesence.
Legolas, as he identified himself, put his arm on Frodo's and offered his hand to his new friend. He stood straight and tall, and Frodo knew immediately that the broad smile was as true as an arrow aimed at the heart of an Orc. Frodo no longer felt like crying. He may not have made the team, but he had commenced one even better. The Fellowship was under construction.
Legolas will not remember the story as told by the Hobbit. Frodo is surprised that the two, who rattle on, even when they rarely visit, as if they had never been apart, have yet to ever talk about their first day in each others presence, and how they met. Frodo remembers that smile, and glad he is that it remains to this day, just as it was on that day.
Frodo wonders often about friendship, and how it comes to be. Why is it that one will be an acquaintance, while another becomes part of a link to either point of focus when a lifetime is under discussion? It is one of the greatest of mysteries, and Frodo has no answer beyond the anecdotal smile of Legolas, a true champion, and Frodo's dearest friend, to this very day.
Travel safely, until our paths cross again.