Forever Isn't Forever
I was watching a weird reality TV show when Violet came to lie on my lap. She seemed unharmed, only she shook violently and had her tail between her legs. My other dog, Charlie, seemed to like her and I could tell that they had become friends over the time I was gone.
Charlie climbed onto the couch and sprawled out beside my feet. He yawned and I was glad to have both of my adorable puppies back, new or old. They were too different dogs too, Charlie liked to lie down and have nap while Violet (the Violet I knew to be exact) liked to bounce around and play.
A perfect match, a ying and yang; like Josh and I.
’Don’t think about it. It’ll only make it a lot worse.’ My voices said.
“You guys have been with me this whole time,” I said to the voices, “But you’re not real.”
’We’ve always been real, because we are you.’ I laid my head on the top of the couch and fell deep into my thoughts and into sleep.
When I woke up, it was raining outside and I could hear the pitter patter on the roof and windows.
My mind was still swimming in my thoughts. It was weird, suddenly realizing that the voices in my head were an actual being (aka me), and not just some figment of my imagination. It was a weird feeling, but a nice feeling as well, a feeling of security, like I wasn’t so alone anymore; because really I was never alone, I had myself.
Violet leaned over and licked my cheek, I giggled like a five year old. It was nice to be home again, surrounded by familiar yet foreign things that I had once called mine. It was nice to be there, but it didn’t feel like home. I missed the sense of not knowing where I was going, or what I was going to do next.
The thrill was what kept me from going back home, and now the thrill called to me in the whistling wind outside.
My dad walked into the room and sat down in the chair in front of me. I sat up and stared at the ground.
“Hey buddy,” he said, “You’re still here.” I nodded. “It’s getting kinda scary.” I looked up to see him crying. “Getting sorta lonely, but that’s okay... because you’re still here. Even though we don’t play anymore, even though you don’t call my name anymore, I still love you. I don’t care if you thought you were being selfish. I still want to be with you... because you’re still here.”
I lifted myself off the couch and walked away and up the stairs. I still didn’t want to talk to him. ’He said he was sorry. I don’t care. But he still loves you. Shut up. You still love him...’
“Shut up.” I said out loud.
“I didn’t say anything.” My mother said as she walked out of her room.
“Wasn’t talking to you,” my lips mumbled. She looked at me sadly and nodded. I turned and shuffled to my room.
I didn’t want to talk to anybody.
I collapsed onto my bed and grabbed my laptop from my bedside table. What did I want to do? Listen to music, was my answer to everything. I went to My Music and clicked on my ‘Whatever’ playlist. Brother, by Gerard Way played through my HD speakers.
“Does anyone have the time to bring me down?
And can I sleep all night long to the drums of the city rain?
Just make it up-
’Cuz I’m awake all night long to the drums of the city rain
And brother if you have the chance to pick me up?
And can I sleep on your couch to the pound of the ache and pain?
In my head- ’cuz I’m awake all night long to the drums of the city rain”
I closed my eyes and thought about Josh. He must’ve been in pain, lonely too; not being able to see me or Aubrey. It hurt to think of him in pain; it caused me pain to think of pain at all.
I rolled onto my side and curled up into a little ball. This was my safety, this room, this position; it was the only thing that was keeping me alive. And I hated it. I didn’t want to feel safe in a place that I didn’t want to love or even be in. It was horrible to even think that it was my home, the only physical home I had ever known; but home was where you felt like you could be yourself and not be judged, and I didn’t feel like that. I only felt like that when I was with Josh and Aubrey, because they were my family by choice, not by blood. I wanted to have choices, and they were only one of the choices I wanted.
The song changed. Glass Hearts, by Of Mice & Men came on...
“These are the hardest four years of my life
They walk right by me heads turned with closed eyes
They don’t even see me
At night in my house, I’m still all alone.
This is not a home they don’t even see me.
The scars on my body, they don’t even bleed.
I never do this for me.
The scars on my body, they don’t even bleed.
I only do this for you to see.”
...and I started to cry.
Not silent crying, but full on sobbing crying, like I did when my dad left. It scared me to think that I only felt safe with the people I didn’t know if they were alive or not. ’I don’t think adults understand that kids have just as many emotions as they do. We know joy, pain, love, grief. We see the world as this amazing big thing to explore... And they see as this thing to take ownership of. It’s sick, and cruel. Adults don’t understand the sadness a young one can have.’
I had to agree with the voices in my head, adults didn’t understand.
“How am I supposed to
See through your eyes?
When you never the stars
Were falling at your feet.
Is it a song? Is that what they need?
For so long I’ve tried to get them to hear me.
Picking and stabbing their words feel like knives.
Tearing and ripping the seams of my life.”
The tears kept coming and soon I was screaming bloody murder. It hurt, for some reason; my tears hurt.
I didn’t see or hear my dad come in, but he did, and held me while I cried all over his shirt. He turned off the music and hugged me tight, and I remembered that Aubrey’s hugs felt like his; warm, tight, and comforting. He rubbed my back and told me that everything was going to be ‘okay’, but I knew that he was just saying that because he was my dad.
More tears stabbed my eyes and I wanted everything to turn black and cold, like the feelings I had; but I wasn’t so lucky.
“I’m sorry, buddy,” he said and rubbed my back again. I looked up at him and he stopped.
“I should be the one who’s sorry,” I sniffed, “I’ve treated you like shit these past few days.” I sniffed again and hiccupped. My dad huffed out air in a sad laugh and half smiled.
“I’ve treated you like shit your whole life,” he answered softly. I looked away and out my window.
“No,” my was low and firm, “you’ve treated me fine, I just never accepted it.”
“Isn’t that what we all want?” I looked at him, my face full of confusion. “To be accepted and loved? Isn’t that what we all want?” He half smiled again and chuckled to himself softly. I smiled at him; Aubrey had said almost the exact same thing to me.
He looked young again, like he was supposed to. My dad was looking like he had gone back, but really only going forward. ’I love you, Dad.’
“I love you,” I said out loud. “I know some days it doesn’t seem like it, but I do.” My dad smiled down on me, a real honest-to-God smile; his eyes sparkled like lit coals. ’His eyes are brown’, I realized. ’How could I not have noticed that before?’
“I love you too, son.” My dad said and kissed the top of my head.
“What did she look like?” I asked him suddenly. My dad stiffened but then relaxed after a moment.
“Red hair and brown eyes,” he answered.
“Red hair like mom’s?”
“Not nearly as flaming.”
We laughed and I wiped my eyes to get rid of my tears. He kissed my head again and we walked back down the stairs and into the living room. My mother was waiting for us.
“Oh my beautiful boys,” she said and outstretched her arms for us to embrace. We hugged her, and everything was happy; but then the phone rang and everything changed (again) in one instant.
My mom went to pick it up, and she stood there for a few minutes; then turned and frowned at me, a sad and dark look in her blue eyes.
“That was the hospital,” she said as she hung up the phone, “One of your friends is dying.” My eyes grew wide and I felt a choking feeling in my chest, like I was being strangled and my lungs couldn’t breathe.
“Which one?” I asked her, feeling the tears starting to swell.
“They didn’t say, but they said that your friend’s been asking for you a lot.”
“I’ll grab my keys,” my dad said and grabbed his car keys off of the living room coffee table. My mom walked up to me and half-dragged-half-carried me out to the car; I had started to cry again.
“Please don’t let it be him... Please don’t let it be him...” I whispered to myself as I walked the almost empty halls of our town hospital. “God, I hate myself for not wanting it be him, and wanting it to be her; I don’t want any of them to die.” I had stopped crying, but it still felt like I was being choked.
We came to door 206, and a nurse opened it for us. It was Kathy. She smiled sadly when she saw me walk in. I couldn’t meet her gaze.
I looked at the bed and wanted to cry... but wanted to jump with joy as well.
“It’s Aubrey,” I breathed out and collapsed into the chair beside her. Josh was on the other side in a wheelchair, holding his sister’s frail and pale hand, but not looking up as I walked in.
“Hello boys,” Aubrey said in her usual playful voice. I wanted to bawl. Josh already was.
“Hi,” Josh and I said in union, he still didn’t look up.
If you want the truth, Aubrey looked horrible. She had bandages everywhere, and both of her arms and legs were in giant cast (unlike my small tension casts that weren’t big at all). Her eyes were puffy and red, like she had been crying, and I bet she had.
“I’m sorry,” I said to her, even though I didn’t know what I was sorry for. Her heart monitor was getting slower and slower, and her breathing shallower and shallower. I didn’t want to watch, but I wanted her to know I cared for her like a brother.
“Josh,” she said to her brother, “Be nice to Ben and be happy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you.” Josh nodded. “And Ben,” I scooted my seat towards her, the tears finally falling. “Forever isn’t forever, you know? It can be short or long, but a forever is a forever, but not forever.” It didn’t make any sense to me, but I nodded anyway.
Aubrey breathed in once, her eyes went glassy, and she died. It was nothing like the movies, it was painful and sad and I couldn’t stop it. If the world had ended in the moment, I wouldn’t have noticed, she was the only thing I was focused on.
My eyes got blurry and the hot tears came down as fast as bullets.
“No.” Josh whispered, “No!” He said louder. “You can’t die,” his voice cracked. “Not now, not ever. You’re my big sister, you have to live; big sisters are supposed to live.”
I could hear my mom crying behind me, and that’s when I realized that there was another person in the room.
Josh and Aubrey’s dad stood in the shadows of the back corner. He had their blond hair and Josh’s brown eyes, but the resemblance stopped there. He had a stocky and muscular build, his jaw hard and set like a wrestler’s; and looking nothing like I had imagined.
“Josh,” Kathy said, “Ben. You two should leave, while we talk to ‘the father’ about what to do with her.” Kathy’s voice was sad, sadder than anything I had ever heard; a sad that could only mean that the world actually had ended when I was focused.
Josh let Kathy wheel him out into the hallway, me walking right behind them. After we left, Kathy went back inside room 2006.
“It’s not fair,” Josh sniffled a day later while we were on my bed watching a movie on my laptop. We weren’t paying attention to it, so I shut it off. “It’s not fair that it was her, she was the nicest out of all of us!” I wanted to disagree with him, but I knew he was right; Aubrey was the nicest.
I was still mad at myself for wanting it to be her and not Josh, what kind of friend would do that? Nobody knew that I wanted it to be her, not even Josh, even though I knew I should tell him.
“What?” he asked me. I hadn’t realized that I was staring at him. I looked away and out my window. ’We really like windows, don’t we? Shut up, we’re supposed to be upset.’ Josh grabbed my face lightly and kissed me. I kissed back. He pushed me so I was on back, and I lifted up his shirt.
Somebody cleared their throat from the doorway. Josh and I flew apart and both of us went beet red.
My mother was leaning in my doorway, smiling at us. We blushed even redder.
“Lunch’s ready,” was all she said and turned to go back down stairs. Once she was gone, Josh and I looked at each other, trying not to facepalm ourselves. I started to laugh.
“Well at least we know she approves,” I chuckled. Josh started laughing as well. “C’mon, let’s go get food.”
We got up, walked down the hall and the stairs. I could smell freshly cooked bacon. My mouth watered impatiently. We walked into the kitchen; well, Josh limped because of his broken ankle.
My mom was still smiling at us when we walked in, and my dad was reading the week’s paper.
“Afternoon boys,” he said when we walked in.
“Afternoon Dad,” I answered.
“Afternoon Mister Snow,” said Josh. We sat down and took some bacon from the bowl on the table and put it on our plate. My mom was still smiling and I wanted to kick her from under the table. She giggled when I glared at her. My oblivious dad didn’t notice a thing out of the ordinary. I took a bite out of my bacon, but soon realized I wasn’t hungry.
“Misses Snow,” Josh said. “How long have you lived here?” It was a random question that confused me.
“You can call me Clara, sweetheart,” she said to Josh and sighed. “I’ve lived here since I was little; went to school here throughout my youth, and then I met Ben’s dad.” She looked over at my dad and smiled sadly, remembering how she met him. I noticed that they were holding hands and smirked. “But we’ve lived in this house since we got married.”
“You never wanted to leave?” Josh asked.
“No, we like it here,” answered my mom.
I scoffed, the only reason they stayed here was because of me, they didn’t want me to move around like other kids do; it makes it even harder to fit in. It was my mother’s turn to glare at me. Josh nodded and began to eat his bacon again, so did I and my mother.
The only sounds were our bacon chewing and the occasional rustle of my dad’s paper. It was awkward, and not the good kind. Josh looked like he wanted to ask another question, so I kicked his shin from under the table. He glared at me, I only smiled in return.
I took another bite of my bacon and then we heard a knock on the door. Josh went rigid and I knew what he was thinking. He was worried that it was dad, but I didn’t think it would be, his dad didn’t care enough about Josh to steal him back from us. He was ours now.
My mother got up and opened the door.
“Josh,” my mother called from the door and my heart sank into my stomach, “your dad’s here to see you.” Josh got up reluctantly and went to see his father. I set my bacon down and tried to hear the conversation they were going to have.
“What’d he say?” I asked a very pale and shaken Josh as he sat down beside me. Josh turned to look at me; I could see the tears in his eyes and his trembling chin. I hugged him like he had hugged me so many times before.
“Oh, sweetie!” my mother exclaimed and embraced us both and pressed her cheek against the top of our heads.
“He said that I wasn’t his son anymore,” Josh sobbed, “He said that he was glad that I wasn’t coming back. He said that he didn’t want me back, and-and that you can all off yourselves and leave.” He breathed really hard and coughed and cried, and I held him there; trying to make him feel better.
I knew my dad was just sitting there, but I couldn’t judge him, he didn’t know what to do; I didn’t know what to do. ’I don’t like not knowing. You and I both, buddy. We’re the same person! Yes, but our person has a split personality, and that’s us. Oh, I see. We’re the spilt.’ My mom brought her head up and kissed both of our foreheads.
“My sweet babies, so upset,” she said. “I’ll make you some tea.” In which my mother was the most British person who wasn’t actually British. She liked her tea, we all liked tea in my family; even my dog liked tea.
“Four sugars, one cream,” Josh answered.
“Same,” my father and I said in union. We looked at each other and smirked. We had always liked our tea the same way.
“You men and your sugar addictions,” my mom grumbled to herself. I laughed.
“You’re pretty sweet too.” My father said with a smirk. I made a gagging sound toward Josh. He laughed.