or as long as I can remember my last name has been a problem. Smolenski. Smo-len-ski. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? It's foreign, different... strange, and as such, it was the object of much scorn and ridicule in my youth, scorn which was reflected upon me. Scorn which took all forms from innocent mispronunciations to malicious assaults on my manhood. I was a rather pathetic example of man then: afraid of making new acquaintances, for then I was forced to introduce myself (Hi, I'm David Smo-len-ski); afraid of those I knew (Look, there's David Small-winky). So it was, by no fault of my own that in those innocent and impressionable days I lost what little self-esteem I had been endowned with by my creator. That is until I met Obediah.

Obediah was my first real friend. He taught me who I was and how to be proud of what cannot be changed. Obediah saved me from self-destruction. He was my knight in shining armor, as it were.

Before I go too far, I think that I ought to say something about Obediah. Obediah is a six-foot-tall invisible squirrel. Much like Harvey in the Hollywood movie of that same name. I do not mean to say that Obediah was completely able to escape the sensitive notice of the optic nerves... I could see him, but no one else seemed able to. I know what you're thinking: this guy is rowing with only one oar. Well, you may be right. Maybe I am a bit crazy, but aren't we all? No? Oh... Fuck. Maybe Obediah was no more than a complex hallucinatory manifestation of a portion of my subconscious, awakened by a child's emotional trauma and possibly a hormonal imbalance. But figment of an over-active imagination or not, Obediah helped me in more ways that I can possibly count.

I have no idea where the name Obediah came from, but it was a name that I felt was stranger than my own (not to say that six-foot-tall invisible squirrels aren't strange in their own right) and so it stuck. I remember when Obediah first came to me, I was stricken with the most intense fear a child could be struck with, but then, who wouldn't at the sight of a rodent larger than their father? After overcoming my initial revulsion (the same revulsion I am sure he felt at seeing a hairless, bipedal, carnivorous simian like me) we became fast friends. We went everywhere and did everything together. I never laughed at his name or unusual size, and Obediah always pronounced my name perfectly (an impressive feat indeed for a squirrel). However, it is not what we did together that matters most to me, it is what Obediah taught me that will remain with me always.

Be proud of who you are. Embrace your uniqueness. Be yourself. Stop taking your medication. These may sound cliche or like obvious truisms to you, as they do to me now. Everyone must learn somewhere, somehow that happiness is found in making friends stranger and more socially repulsive than yourself. This is called self esteem. Some learn it through the encouragement of their peers, their parents, their teachers. Some are born oblivious to the hurtful criticisms of others. I learned from a giant squirrel.

Everyone needs a friend (another obvious truism?), but I had none. I was too shy to try, too meek to seek the compansionship of my peers. Each day I grew weaker, until I was visited by Obediah the rodent of unusual size. It was by just being a friend that Obediah saved me. He never told me "be yourself", but he made it okay for me to be myself nonetheless. The lessons this psychotic delusion taught were tacit as all the most important lessons are. Like the lesson your father tried to teach you about how you are worthless and will never amount to anything.

Obediah boosted my confidence in myself, and with that everything else changed. It was January, I remember. The beginning of a new year. I had known Obediah for almost two years now, and though I did not know it, I was ready for change. It was recess and all the children in my class were playing happily on the merry-go-rounds and the swings and the slides that littered the play-yard, their excited breaths visible in the cold, winter air. I stood watching them, as I often did, clutching my slate-gray SilverHawks backpack in one hand. Yearning for their company. But today, I did more than yearn. I approached a small group of the children. "Hey," one said as they saw me approach, "it's David Small-winky." They laughed. But this time, so did I. And together we laughed, and played and smiled. Together. I had finally learned to prostitute my sense of self respect for the quick, under-the-table handjob that is being a part of the crowd. Despite the mess, I felt whole again.

I enjoy laughing now. The world is indeed a comedy to those that don't think. I often laugh long and hard, but I always do it with friends. My life, I feel, is as it should be.

He's gone now, Obediah is. Possibly he left because I no longer need his encouragement: I now revel in my uniqueness. Possibly he has gone to help another. Possibly it is because my therapist upped the dosage. In any case, I will remember my savior, my hero, always, and maybe, one day, I will be someone's hero.

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