“Last Words,” New Era, Sept. 1996, 46
Kim* held her pen above her paper as she listened to her English teacher give the day’s assignment. “I want you all to pretend that you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, or even imaginary. Write about that person and why you’d like to dine with them.”
Whispers could be heard around the room. Kim heard others name their favorite sports player, movie star, or country singer. But Kim knew who she would write about. It wasn’t anybody famous or powerful. In fact, most of the other students in the class wouldn’t even know who he was.
Matt, the shy young boy that Kim would choose to have lunch with, had been a classmate of hers in the fifth grade. He was obnoxious and he didn’t have many friends, and Kim had a hard time hiding her irritation when the teacher assigned her to sit next to him. She tried to make it very clear to Matt that she wasn’t enjoying the arrangement by moving her desk as far from his as it would go, but she hoped Matt got the message.
After about a week of sitting next to Matt, Kim was quietly working on a math assignment, listening to Matt talk to himself.
“Okay, Matt, how should you do this problem?” Matt murmured. “Hmm, should I add, subtract, or multiply?” He hit himself in the head with his pencil. “Think, Matt, think!”
“Shut up, Matt. I can’t work with you talking to yourself like that,” hissed Kim. “I hate you. Just shut up!”
Matt looked hurt, but he didn’t utter another word for the rest of class.
The next day Kim was relieved to notice that the desk next to hers was empty. Matt must be home sick, she thought. However, when the teacher stood to announce why Matt was gone, Kim’s happiness quickly turned to shock. Matt had been killed in a car accident the evening before.
All Kim could think about were the unkind words she had said to him the day before. They were the last words he would ever hear her say.
So Kim knew who she would choose to have lunch with, not because he was rich or famous, but because she had something she wanted to say to him. She filled her paper with the details of what had happened, and then got out a new sheet. On it she wrote, “‘Famous last words’ … That’s what they always say, isn’t it? Well, my last words to Matt weren’t words that I would choose to be famous for.
“If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be Matt. We’d find a nice little restaurant, order lunch, and I would apologize for what I said. Of course I can’t eat with him now, but in the next life, the first thing I’m going to do is find Matt and give him a hug and tell him I’m sorry. I’m not sure he’ll even remember what I said that day, but I can never forget.”
Kim turned in her paper and rushed out of the classroom to her next class. As she was walking, Sandy, the nerdy boy that nobody liked, bumped into her. Exasperated, Kim started to say, “Excuse you!” but stopped herself and just smiled at him. The bell rang, and Kim walked into class.