In a school as big as Elmore Jr. High, Nathan J. Rottweiler was seen as just a number on an endless list of students. Everyone had seen him before, but nobody really knew who he was; or maybe they had just forgotten who he was.
He never talked to anyone, not even the other members of the synchronized swimming club. He always kept to himself. He never walked down the halls with anyone else. He never sat with anyone at lunch. It wasn't that he was depressed; it was for another reason altogether.
There was a time not too long ago when Nathan was a "social butterfly". He would walk down the halls with a spring in his step, and spoke with an aura of delight in his voice. He would try to talk to each student in his class at least once a day. Whenever anyone needed a hand, he was always there to provide anything that he could to help. Nathan loved all of the students in his class, but nobody could compare to his once best friend, Gumball Watterson.
These two boys stuck together like glue and paper. Wherever one would go, the other would follow. They played together, ate together, studied together, and almost anything imaginable. Gumball and Nathan once shared a bond that was stronger than steel, as unbreakable as diamond, and as long-lasting as time itself; or so they thought.
A few months into their friendship, Gumball's younger brother, Darwin, started taking up more of Gumball's time. At that time, Darwin had just started attending Elmore Jr. High, and Gumball was helping him out and showing him the ropes. His mother, Nicole, was worried about sending Darwin to public school because, for most of his life, Darwin stayed at home and was homeschooled. After being convinced by her husband, Nicole finally gave in and allowed Darwin to start going to school with Gumball, on the condition that the two of them would watch out for each other.
This started to slowly affect Gumball's friendship with Nathan. Soon after Darwin started attending school, Gumball would spend less time with Nathan. He wouldn't show up to study with him. He barely sat with him at lunch. And, because of all the time he was spending with Darwin, Gumball didn't play with Nathan anymore.
Then one day, on his way home from school, Nathan ran into Gumball and his brother waiting at the bus stop.
"Hey Gumball, I didn't see you there" he said, hoping to strike up some conversation. He waited for a response, but it looked like Gumball wasn't paying attention to him at all.
Thinking that he didn't hear him, Nathan tried addressing him again. "So, Gumball, what do you think about this weather? I mean, sunny in the winter; how crazy is that?" Again he didn't receive a response from Gumball. He tried again, and still got no reply.
The more Gumball ignored Nathan, the more Nathan started to get mad at him. Nobody had ever ignored him like this, especially Gumball; and it was all because of Darwin.
"Why can't he just make some other friends?" Nathan thought to himself. "Why does he always have to be around Gumball all the time? Don't they get to hang out enough at home? Why does he have to take Gumball away from me?"
In the midst of Nathan's self-rambling, Gumball finally turned around and acknowledged Nathan's presence. "Oh hey man, I didn't realize you were here."
Nathan just stood there in complete silence, letting those words sink in. "I didn't realize you were here." At that point, he had lost all control.
"You didn't realize I was here?" he asked. "YOU DIDN'T REALIZE I WAS HERE!? I've been standing here the entire time, and you didn't REALIZE I WAS HERE!?"
"Whoa, Nathan, calm down dude" Gumball replied. "I'm really sorry. It's just that…"
"It's just that what, Gumball!? It's just that what!? Is it that I've just become invisible now, is that it!? Is it that I don't mean anything to you anymore, is THAT it!?"
"I don't know why you're acting like this."
"You've been ignoring me for the past few weeks, running around with your younger brother, and you have the guts to say that you don't know why I'm acting like this!? What happened to US being best friends, Gumball? Where did that go?
"We used to be close, man. We used to have something special! But now, it's gone; it's all gone. And it's all because of your STUPID BROTHER!"
"How dare you say that about him! He's my brother!" Gumball retorted in defense. "Look, I'm sorry that we haven't been hanging out that much anymore. It's just that I promised my mom that I would look out for Darwin while he was going to school here. So far, I'm the only friend he has.
"And, you know what, I think I have more in common with him than I do with you. You're always getting on my case about not studying as hard as you, or doing gross things, or even playing games differently than you do. I actually ENJOY myself when I'm hanging around Darwin. He actually understands me, and actually likes the same things that I like now."
Nathan couldn't believe what he was hearing. Was it his fault that they were slipping away? "Wh-what are you saying, Gumball?"
"Well," he replied, "I guess what I'm trying to say is that…people change. I'm starting to change, and I don't think that hanging out with you constantly is going to help that change.
"There were times when I thought that we could still be good friends; but after hearing what you just said, I don't think I want to be friends with you if you're going to keep acting this way. I'm sorry, I really am; but I think we shouldn't hang out with each other anymore."
The bus finally arrived, and Darwin started to find a seat for himself and Gumball. Before Gumball stepped on the bus, he turned around one last time towards Nathan and said, "Don't feel so bad. Friendships end all the time. It's just a part of life."
Gumball didn't realize it at the time, but his words affected Nathan throughout his life. Ever since that day, he started losing touch with all of his classmates. He started to dread the weekly synchronized swim club meetings he once looked forward to in the past. He started eating by himself in the cafeteria, and he found himself frequently walking home alone.
On the outside, Nathan looked like he wasn't bothered by anything; but on the inside, things were completely different.
He wanted to look happy so that people couldn't see how he was really feeling. He didn't want to bother with other people's dilemmas because he knew he could never be able to truly sympathize with them. He didn't care anymore if people noticed him or not; because, after all, "Friendships end all the time. It's a part of life."