Keep It Real, Patches!

by May Overmyer

Patrick Samuel Hanley, or “Patches”, was always swinging for the fences, but, to continue the analogy, he had terrible hand-eye coordination.

Patches and I went to a small Catholic elementary and middle school; the type that just breeds cringy but entertaining failed-romance-anecdotes. (Patches cluelessly plays the protagonist in almost every one.) He was the type of middle schooler who no one made eye contact with after the teacher announced, “you can pick your own partners.” Yet he was too busy to notice, entirely consumed by whatever new scab was on his doughy arms or legs.

Here’s a picture of middle school Patches: he’s average height, has a mop of curly blond hair, and is only slightly overweight. He’s unathletic and has illegible handwriting. Given the option between the uniform pants or shorts, he opted for shorts 365 days a year. He frequently paired his navy blue polyester shorts with a ski jacket when the weather dropped below freezing. He was just disillusioned enough to think of himself as very romantic, and just endearing enough as to never be creepy.

Patches wasn’t friends with (m)any girls, but he definitely liked them. All of them. By the end of sixth grade, Patches had attempted, one by one, to earn the affection of each girl in the class. There was the time at recess when he dared Thomas, to dare him, to hug Caroline. There was the time he wrote Maryanna Evans a love note using red sharpie, and it bled through the page onto his desk, eternalizing his love for a misspelled Maryanna. And of course there was the time he had claimed to know “a bunch of babes” from a neighboring school called The Heights, and was publicly defamed by another student who pointed out that The Heights was an all boys school.

Patches was a passionate man. The guy had no problem expressing his love—or his anger. He felt things in the extreme, and this was never more clear than the day after our middle school had received an exciting donation of 16 lovely plastic hockey sticks. Tyler Gates, an athletic little hot-shot, had been schooling Patches all PE class, and Patches had just about had enough. I reckon that for Patches on that day in 2009, there was nothing more intense than this co-ed PE class in our cafegymatorium, with lunch tables for goals, donated sticks, and a tennis ball puck.

By the end of PE, everyone was apathetic and ready to set the tables back upright for lunch. But not Patches—this was his moment. He dodged and weaved with that little tennis ball, confronted Tyler, unnecessarily spun around him, and slap shotted right into the ‘goal.’ The thrill! The energy! The excitement! Patches then proceeded to lift his hockey stick with both hands and bring it down rapidly, snapping it over his knee. In the stunned silence, he pointed to Tyler and yelled with gusto, “YAH! YOU CAN TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME!” I’m still trying to work out what that means...

Patches, Thomas (the student who was dared to dare), and I went on to attend the same high school. Our incoming freshman class was roughly 20 times the size of our graduating eighth grade class, and the three of us were able to blend into the crowd. Patches, unsurprisingly—given that he was called Patches—changed his name to Samuel upon arriving. (I never converted, try as I did ‘Sam’ just wouldn’t stick...)

I didn’t see much of Patches for the bulk of high school, but towards the end, he and I came to share a good mutual friend named Grant. In the final months of senior year, Grant asked me to prom. (I walked into the art room and four guys were lined up in aprons, with the letters PROM painted on them. Grant was the question mark holding flowers, and a smiling Patches was the “O”.) I said yes, and a few weeks later the girl Patches asked said no. Grant and I thought, what the heck, inviting him to join our group and go as a trio. Patches and I had been classmates since Pre-K. We were about to part for college, and this felt sweet, good, redemptive, right.

We got to Prom and the girl who had rejected Patches showed up with someone else. Patches hopped right back into the limo and hotboxed it. Everyone in our group was charged a $75 cleaning fee. Once a beloved goon, always a beloved goon. Happy Valentine’s Day, wherever you may be, Patches!

Thumbnail image by Emmaline Waller and Sabrina Sanchez.