I forced my feet to life themselves as I climbed up the steps and onto my aunt’s porch. With my mind in a daze I knocked on the door and waited for it to open. The face of my aunt appeared in front of me as she opened the front door.
“Justin!” A smile broke out onto her face, but it slowly slipped when she noticed the look of distraught on mine. “Are you okay?”
I gave a swift shake of the head. “No.” My breathing was shaky as my throat clogged with tears. “I’m not okay.” Before I could stop myself I told Aunt Carla everything about myself, about Sam, my parents, and just how long I have been hiding the truth.
My aunt’s face rarely changed from one of sadness and concern and I told her my story. I knew that she wouldn’t hold this information against me. My aunt had always treated me like another son. Long before she married my uncle and inherited Darrell as a step-son I was all she had. Due to my parents always working, whenever I wasn’t at school I would usually be at the house my aunt was renting at the time. She loved me and treated me like her own son. Aunt Carla was actually more of a mother to me then my own was most of the time. That may be why I decided to tell her everything. I knew she wouldn’t abandon me like my own parents. She actually cared.
I was sitting on her porch steps with her next to me by the time I finished speaking. She didn’t say anything at first. My aunt’s arms rested on her knees and her hands her folded together against her lips as if she were praying. For a scary moment I feared that I was wrong and she did care.
Finally she lowered her hands against her knees and turned to me. “You know Justin I have always envied your bravery. You’ve never been scared to stand up for yourself or your friends. You’re not afraid to take risks. Even as a child you were doing things that amazed me. So, explain to me why as you have gotten old you haven’t gotten braver, but instead more scared to take the risks you used to?”
“Maybe because now I have more to lose,” I offered helplessly.
“Is it truly worth it though?” Aunt Carla asked me. “Is this popularity you have worth it? Is being captain of a sports team worth it? Is refusing to accept help and making things harder for yourself worth it? Is any of this worth possibly losing the love of your life?”
My chest clenched painfully at her words. Was this pain worth it?
“I’m scared,” I admitted to her. “I’ve been hiding this part of me for so long. I don’t know how to let myself be me again. I put up this wall and changed myself what I thought was for the better when he left and now I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so lost Aunt Carla.”
“Then what you have to do is find yourself again. Take a break from the stress. Allow yourself to change once more into what you’re supposed to be. It won’t be easy, but if you truly care about Sam then it will be worth it.” She patted my hands lightly. “Now here’s what you are going to do. Tomorrow is Saturday and next week is Spring break so I suggest you take off early. I know for a fact that you don’t work so you will leave tonight and just drive. Take the time to discover who you are and what it is you want.”
“But Aunt Carla I made a huge mistake,” I told her sadly. My chest hurt just from thinking about the words I said to Sam. “I hurt him. How will he ever forgive me?”
She smiled and wrapped her arm around me like she did when I would have nightmares as a child. “Oh, Justin there is still a lot you need to learn about life. Here is one piece of advice that I hope you will never forget: We’re human. We’re stupid, and stubborn, and jealous creatures of habit then usually like to have more then we need, but we also understand love, and friendship, and family. We see the beauty in the world and we allow ourselves to change for love. Now I’m not saying it will be easy, but you and Sam are meant to me. I knew that even from when you were a child and you two would destroy my house from the games you would play.”
My eyes widened at the words she spoke. “So you’re not at all surprised, are you?”
“Oh, I’m surprised that you could do such a thing as let that boy go,” I smiled lightly at her words, “but no. No, I am not surprised that you two ended up together.”
“Why?” I asked her curiously. “I mean, how did you know?”
She smiled at my question. “Just a little thing I like to call The Fox and the Hound.”
Her words seemed to bring a memory to life. It was one I had long since forgotten. In that moment, however, I know that I won’t be forgetting it again:
It was one of the nights I would spend with my aunt. Most of the time during weekends I would end up staying the night at her house so my parents could get more work done without having to worry about their 10-year-old son. Only this weekend was different from the others because my aunt allowed Sam to spend the night as well.
The two of us were so happy. We spent the night in bliss. We had breakfast for dinner, and then with Aunt Carla’s help went to the local 24-hour market and bought bags upon bags of candy. The two of us spent almost the entire night playing video games and watching Disney movies.
It was late. The moon had long ago risen into the sky and brought light through the window of the living room where the two of us laid in our sleeping bags on the carpet. We were watching The Fox and the Hound, and as we watched the screen seemed to make shadows bounce off the walls.
“Copper, you’re my very best friend,” the baby fox named Todd said as he and the hound dog played together.
“And you’re mine too Todd,” said Copper.
“And we’ll always be friends forever, won’t we?” Todd asked as he playfully pulled on Copper’s ear.
“Yeah, forever,” the young hound dog agreed.
“Can you make me a promise?” Sam asked.
“What’s the promise?” Justin asked his best friend.
“Promise me that no matter what happens we will always put our friendship first,” He asked. “You’re my best friend, Justin. I can’t lose you.”
“You never will,” I swore to him. “I can promise you that.”
We fell asleep not much later before we could see the hard times those two animals go through due to their friendship.
I sighed at the memory. I broke my promise to Sam when he initially arrived back. I need to make it clear though. No matter what happens between us after Spring break he won’t lose me. Even if the two of us can’t make our relationship work then I will try my hardest to make our friendship work. I love him and to this day I can’t watch The Fox and the Hound without thinking about Sam.
I turned toward my aunt and gave her one of the biggest hugs I have ever given before. “Thank you,” I whispered in her ear.
“I will always be here for you, Justin,” she said hugging me back. “Don’t ever forget that. If you ever need me I’m only a short drive away and when you go to college I will be a phone call away, but either way I will always be here for you.”
I nodded and stood up pulling my car keys from my pocket. “I’ll see you next week, Aunt Carla.”
She nodded and leaned up to drop a kiss onto my forehead. “I love you and please drive carefully.”
“I promise.” I knew for a fact that would be one promise worth keeping.
So without any clothes or toiletries and with the exception to my keys, wallet, phone, and phone charger I got in my car and drove. I refused to stop at Sam’s. I knew that if I did stop then it would only make the situation worse.
My Aunt Carla was right. I needed time. I had to figure out who I was and exactly what it is I want before if I don’t figure that out then I will never allow myself to be happy. I also can’t talk to Sam until I am. So I drove. I drove until I got so tired that the lanes seemed to blur and I was able to find a cheap motel for the night. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was looking for, but I knew eventually I would find it.
As I lay in the bed of the cheap, smelly hotel I caressed the necklace my grandfather had long ago given me. He would always tell me stories of yin and yang and explain how there are many counterparts in the universe. We just had to be wise enough to notice them.
Sam is the yin to my yang and I’m the yang to his yin. We’re opposites. We’re each other’s counterparts and I’m finally beginning to notice.