“Baby, you promised you’d go,” she says desperately, tapping her nails nervously on the countertop. “You know I don’t like going inside that jail by myself.”
“It’s prison, Mom.” I casually pick off a few pieces of bread crust and drop them on the plate. “And they can’t get to you; they’re all locked up, just like Cole. And it’s their own damn faults.”
My mom lowers her eyes and a huge ball of burning hot guilt knots up in my stomach.
I sigh deeply. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.”
I totally meant what I said, just not out loud and to her because it hurts her whenever I talk about my older brother, Cole, and his five-year sentence in prison for killing a man in a drunk-driving accident. This happened just six months after Ian died in the car accident.
I feel like I’m losing everybody….
I get up from the table and stand in front of the bar and she goes back to loading the dishwasher.
“I’ll go with you, OK?”
She pushes out a smile still masked by a thin layer of hurt, and she nods. “Thanks, baby.”
I feel sorry for her. It breaks my heart that my dad cheated on her after twenty-two years of marriage.
But we all saw it coming.
And to think, my parents tried to keep Ian and me away from each other when I confided in my mom at sixteen, telling her that we were in love.
Parents have this twisted belief that anyone under the age of about twenty simply can’t know what love is, like the age to love is assessed in the same way the law assesses the legal age to drink. They think that the ‘emotional growth’ of a teenager’s mind is too underdeveloped to understand love, to know if it’s ‘real’ or not.
That’s completely asinine.
The truth is that adults love in different ways, not the only way. I loved Ian in the now, the way he looked at me, how he made my stomach swim, how he held my hair when I was puking my guts up after eating a bad enchilada.
I adore my parents, but long before their divorce the last time my mom was sick, the most my dad did for her was bring up the Pepto-Bismol and ask where the remote control was on his way out.
I guess my parents really screwed me up somewhere along the line because as good as they are to me, as much as they do for me and as much as I love them, I still managed to grow up terrified I would end up just like them. Unhappy and only pretending to live out this wonderful life with two kids, a dog and a white picket fence. But in reality, I knew they slept with their backs facing each other. I knew my mom often thought about what life would’ve been like if only she had given that boy in high school who she secretly ‘loved’ another chance (I read her old diary. I know all about him). I know that my dad—before he cheated on Mom with her—thought a lot about Rosanne Hartman, his prom date (and first love), who still lives over on Wiltshire.
If anyone’s delusional about how love works, what real love feels like, it’s the majority of the adult population.
Ian and I didn’t have sex that night he took my virginity; we made love that night. I never thought I’d say those two words together: ‘make love’, because they always sounded corny, like it was an adult-only phrase. I winced when I heard someone else say it, or when that guy sang Feel Like Makin’ Love from my dad’s car stereo every morning on the classic rock station.
But I can say it because that’s exactly what happened.
And it was magical and wonderful and awesome and nothing will ever compare to it. Ever.
I did go with my mom that Saturday to see Cole in prison. But I didn’t say much, as usual, and Cole ignored me right back. He never does it to be hateful, but instead it’s like he’s afraid to say anything to me because he knows I’m still so pissed and hurt and disappointed by what he did. It wasn’t like a one-time thing that can be filed away as a ‘tragic accident’; Cole was an alcoholic before be turned eighteen. He’s the black sheep of the family. He was a rotten little bastard growing up with stints in juvy and making my parents sick with worry when he’d disappear for weeks at a time while he was out doing whatever the hell he wanted. He’s only ever really thought of himself.
I started my job as assistant manager the following Monday. I’m grateful to have a job because I don’t want to live off my dad’s money the rest of my life, but as I stood there dressed in a cute black pants suit and white button-up shirt and heels, I felt completely out of place. Not necessarily because of the clothes, but…I just don’t belong there. I can’t put my finger on it, but that Monday and the rest of that week when I woke up, got dressed and walked into that store, something was itching the back part of my consciousness. I couldn’t hear the actual words, but it felt like: This is your life, Camryn Bennett. This is your life.
And I would look up at the customers walking by and all I could see was the negative: snooty noses in the air, carrying expensive purses, buying pointless products.
That was when I realized that everything I did from that point on produced the same results:
This is your life, Camryn Bennett. This is your life.
THE DAY WHEN EVERYTHING changed was yesterday.
That itch in my brain compelled me to get up. And so I did. It told me to put on my shoes, pack a small bag with a few necessities and grab my purse. And so I did.
There was no logic or any sense of purpose except that I knew I had to do something other than what I was doing, or I might not make it through this. Or, I might end up like my parents.
I always thought that depression was so overrated, the way people toss the word around (a lot like the L-word that I will never say to a guy again for as long as I live). When I was in high school, girls would often talk about how they were ‘depressed’ and how their mom’s took them to a shrink to get on medication and then they’d all gather around to see whose pills they wanted to try out. Depression to me meant three words: sadness, sadness and sadness. I saw those stupid commercials with the cartoonish figures moping around with black clouds constantly raining on their heads and thought to myself how people are really laying this depression stuff on thick. I feel bad for people. I always have. I never like to see someone hurting, but I admit whenever I heard someone play the depression card, I’d roll my eyes and go about my business.
Little did I know that depression is a serious disease.
Those girls at school had no idea what it really means to be depressed.
It’s not only about sadness. In truth, sadness really has little to do with it. Depression is pain in its purest form and I would do anything to be able to feel an emotion again. Any emotion at all. Pain hurts, but pain that’s so powerful that you can’t feel anything anymore, that’s when you start to feel like you’re going crazy.
It bothers me immensely to realize that the last time I actually cried was that day at school when I found out that Ian was killed in that crash. It was in Damon’s arms that I cried. Damon, of all people.
But that was the last time I ever shed a tear and that was a little over a year ago.
After that, I just couldn’t anymore. Not over my parent’s divorce, or when Cole got sentenced, or when Damon showed his true colors, or when Natalie stabbed me in the back. I keep thinking that any day now I’m going to break down and bawl my eyes out with my face buried in my pillow. I should be puking from crying so much.
But it never comes and I still feel nothing.
Except this sense of breaking free from it all. That itch, although vague and stingy, compels me to obey it. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it, but it’s there and I can’t stop myself from listening to it.
I spent most of the night at the bus station, sitting there waiting for that itch to tell me what to do.
And then I walked up to the counter.
“Can I help you?” the woman said blankly.
I thought about it for a second and said, “I’m going to see my sister in Idaho because she just had a baby.”
She looked at me awkwardly, and I admit, it felt awkward. I don’t have a sister and I’ve never been to Idaho, but it was the first lie that popped into my head. And she had been eating a baked potato. It was sitting behind the counter in a buttery bowl of foil and sour cream. So, naturally Idaho was the first state I thought of. It doesn’t matter where I choose to go really, because I just don’t care.
I thought, once I get to Idaho I’ll just buy another ticket to somewhere else. Maybe I’ll go to California. Or Washington. Or, maybe I’ll just head south and see what Texas is like. I always imagined it a giant landscape of dirt and roadside bars and cowboy hats. And people in Texas are supposed to be some kind of badasses, or something. Maybe they’ll stomp the crap out of me with their cowboy boots.
I won’t feel it. I don’t feel anything anymore, remember?
That was yesterday, when I decided to just get up and go, to break free from everything. I had always wanted to do it, to break free, but I never imagined it happening like this. Ian and I, before he died, planned our life in an unconventional way. We wanted to steer clear of anything predictable, anything that made us the same drones of society that get up at the same time every morning and duplicate yesterday. We wanted to backpack across the world—it’s why I brought it up to Natalie that day in the coffee shop. Maybe a part of me hoped she’d share the passion for the idea that Ian and I had and she’d do it with me, but like everything else, it didn’t exactly turn out like I hoped.
“Mind if I sit here?” an older lady says standing in the aisle of the bus with a lime green purse pressed to her chest.
“Sure, go ahead,” I say, smiling faintly up at her. I really don’t feel like smiling at all, but the last thing I want to do is give her any reason to believe I’m a troubled young soul that needs a good dose of old lady advice.
She wiggles her way onto the seat next to me after putting her travel bag away overhead. She’s kind of chunky, but she carries herself well. And she smells nice.
“You look young,” she says. “Where yah headin’?”
“Really?” she smiles over at me, revealing all the deep wrinkles around her mouth. “Must be for family—don’t think anybody goes there for vacation.”
“Yeah. Going to visit my sister.”
She pooches her lips out slightly, nodding her head as if filing my answers away. Then she starts fishing around inside her purse.
I look toward the tall Plexiglas window beside me and watch the passengers come and go from other busses. It’s midday and I’m in Memphis at the moment. I slept most of the way overnight—well, I tried to sleep, but mostly I napped until a bump in the road, or my aching neck and back woke me up from sleeping all cramped on the seat. Never been to Memphis before, but I have to say, this bus station makes me nervous. I’ve seen a few shady-looking people walking around.
“Well, I’m on my way to Montana,” the lady says putting a little white pill on her tongue. “I usually take the train, but I decided to go a different route this time. See some new scenery.”