“I just don’t want to spend all my time thinking about it, you know? Like maybe that’s shitty. But life goes on. It’s different now, obviously, I get that. But I have to take care of me at some point, right? Is that wrong?”
We’re sitting in Allyson’s car, parked in front of the corn field up on East Hill. The headlights shine on the stocks, piercing through the first couple rows before getting lost in the jumble of yellow and green. The leaves sway in the breeze, knocking into each other. Morgan says they just cut the maze into the field this week. It’s August, and there’s still another month until anyone is supposed to be up here.
“I know what you mean,” Allyson assures me. “I forget all the time that my dad is dead. Your life is different, of course, but it goes on. You have to take care of yourself too.”
It’s been two years since Allyson lost her dad. She was the first person I called after my mom told me the news about the heart attack. I’d been holding myself together all afternoon, sitting in the empty house with Mom and Emily. When the aunts and uncles and friends came with pizza and tears of their own it hardly seemed fair that I had to stay. So I took Emily’s car and went to Flynt Park. I parked on the basketball court. I was going to look at the stars, see if there were any meteors left from the Perseid Shower. But I fell apart when Allyson got there.
“My mom just, like, has different needs, I think.” I tip my head back against the headrest. “She hadn’t left the house until the funeral today. But I am going crazy in there, guys, like I can’t do this much longer.”
“What do you mean?” Morgan asks from the backseat. She has her legs up, stretched out, and is resting against the door. “You can’t do what?”
“I just feel like I’m living in this bubble. Like my dad died and then time froze and nothing has happened in the world- or in my life- since then, and it’s been almost two weeks now and I need something to happen.” I take a deep breath, “You know?” I glance over at Allyson. She’s nodding.
“Yep,” she says, “It be like that.”
My mom didn’t want me to leave the house tonight. Alex was over, and she likes having everyone together. But Alex has been over most days lately. It used to be such a blessing to see him. I’d plan my weekend around having dinner with him. I’m not totally sure when I stopped idolizing my big brother, but it happened.
And besides, it’s rare that the three of us are all in town like this. Me, Morgan, and Ally. In high school we never had to make an effort to hang out. We all lived here, our whole lives were here. We’d see each other all day at school, then hang out after school, or on the weekends. Now we have to plan a month in advance to find a day that works with all of our separate schedules so we can spend a couple of hours together-- and it only happens a few times a year.
Today just sort of fell into our laps. Allyson is driving back to her apartment in the morning, and Morgan has work. I’ll be home with Mom.
Earlier, before I left, Mom told me to just invite Morgan and Ally over to the house. But that wasn’t the point. The point was I wanted to leave the house, not be in the house with more people. I’d been trying to prioritize her all day, and all week really. But I told her nevermind, and to forget it, I’d stay. And I was quiet for a while until she told me to just go. So I did. Because I needed to. Because I think sometimes a person just needs to be a little selfish.
Morgan, Allyson, and I sat in that car for an hour in the field on East Hill. We had flashlights and were wearing extra layers to venture into the corn maze. But we just looked at it from the car. And eventually we left.
Allyson dropped us off back at Morgan’s. I drove home, and Allyson followed me in her car for a ways until I turned off on Stebbins Road, and she kept straight.
When I got back everything was quiet. Mom was in bed, and Alex was shuffling a deck of cards. It looked like he was playing a game with his girlfriend. I got a bag of goldfish crackers out of the cupboard and sat down at the table with them.
“Are you high?” He whispered.
I stop mid chew. “What? No, why?”
He’s eyeing the snack in my hand. “Mom said you were leaving to go smoke weed,” He grins and keeps shuffling, “She was like…” He squints his eyes and purses his lips, his voice comes out shrill in what I assume to be his best ‘Mom’ impression, “I know she’s going to get high with her friends. You think I don’t know she’s going to get high with her friends?”
I laugh in spite of myself. “We literally just drove around and talked. Like I wasn’t getting high. I’m not!” Defensiveness prickles across my skin.
“She was okay with it, she was just worried about you driving.” His girlfriend tells me.
“Yeah, she said she’s smoked, she doesn’t have a problem with it, and she knows that you smoke.” Alex shrugs.
“Mom’s smoked weed?” I definitely want to hear more about that, but, “How does she know I smoke?”
Alex shrugs. He starts dealing cards out. “Do you want to play?”
“Yeah, sure.” I close the bag of goldfish and brush the salt off my fingers onto my pants. “Why didn’t she just ask me, or say something while I was here?”
“She said she didn’t want you to lie to her.”
That’s fair enough. I honestly can’t picture these words coming from my mother, and I don’t know what I would have said if they had been directed at me. But I can’t shake the unsavory feeling I’m left with. Like she thought I was just leaving her so go smoke weed. She thought I wanted to dick around like a teenager.
I think about the conversation in the car. How Allyson had confirmed so much of how I felt. Mom had been begging me to talk about my feelings since the heart attack. That’s all I was doing. I guess I just wish she knew that.