“My mother got sick last Christmas. I don’t really know what happened, my dad and I don’t talk about it. And then she died in March, a couple days before my birthday. And… I guess it made me sad,” I don’t realize what I’ve said until the words are all out. I don’t want to be here, I think. I am fine. I don’t need help grieving.
“Wallace,” says the dull man sitting across from me. “A lot of kids who experience loss of a parent go through being unable to get their feelings straight. I’m here to help you with anything you might need.” He is almost bald. I hate him. He’s probably in his fifties. His name is Dr. Charles M. Laverne. He is bland and boring and I can’t tell if he’s really here to help me.
“What if I don’t want that? What if I don’t care?” I say, aware that neither of these things are true.
“Well...um,” he says. I don’t know how or why he’s in this profession.
“Aren’t you, as a therapist, supposed to be helping me? My mom died. So, what if I don’t care?”
He tries to change the subject, hopefully because he wants to start small and not because he doesn’t know the answer to my question. “Well, let’s talk about your life now. How’s school?”
“Great,” I say somewhat sarcastically. He doesn’t seem to believe me.
“There’s, like, one maybe.”
“Boyfriend,” he stops. He starts talking about what I should want to accomplish during our time together. My answers are as vague as possible.
After what seems like an eternity, Charles finally stands and says “Well, I think our time is up. It was great speaking with you. I hope everything goes well and I’ll be in contact with your father about seeing each other soon.” He smiles and I try not to vomit or collapse.
I walk out of his office, finally able to breath properly. My dad is sitting in the waiting room. He’s reading some magazine from the coffee table in front of him. I watch him before he realizes I’m looking at him. He doesn’t really love me. Well, I know he does love me. But the thing is, he never really wanted me. And he doesn’t really try and hide this fact.
“How was it?” he asks, I’m sure he forced himself to say this.
“I don’t know,” which is true.
“Wanna get lunch?”
“No, sorry. I can’t, I’m going to hang out with Baz. Some other time?”
“Oh, okay,” he seems relieved. “See ya at home.” He turns and walks away.
The drive to Baz’s house feels longer than it actually is. I try to keep myself from screaming or crying or doing something I’ll probably regret. I try to keep myself from thinking about my mom or my dad or anything that matters in my life. If I think about the things that matter, I’ll be sad.
I let myself into the the house that Baz says is too big for three people. He is in the kitchen. He is washing his short black curls in the sink, even though he could probably do it in one of the several bathrooms in his house. Baz likes to do things that might not upset a normal parent, but would definitely upset his. But they’re in California for the next two weeks.
He looks up at me and smiles. “Sup?” he says. I glare at him. “Sorry, I will never say that word in your presence ever again.”
“Good,” I say as I take a seat at his kitchen table.
“Hello,” he says, starting our introductions over. “My brown haired, turtle loving, has seen Butch Cassidy 93 times, goes to the mall for the sole purpose of watching the pigeons, friend who I may occasionally hold hands with.” He smiles and goes back to his hair.
While he does whatever he’s doing, I read the obituaries in the paper. Not because I’m obsessed with death or anything, but because it was talready sitting on the kitchen table.
“How was that doctor guy?” he only knows because my dad told him. I never planned to. The question seems forced and I don’t answer it.
Baz is as silent as he can be for the rest of the night, which is some peoples loud. He does not mention my mom. He never has. I hope it’s because he doesn’t want to upset me. I hope it’s not because he doesn’t care.
Baz concludes that he can’t spend one more minute in his house and we go to dinner. I drive because Baz doesn’t like to and I like driving his car because his isn’t older that him. Baz makes me drive across town because he wants to go to the restaurant that has “better free bread” than all the other ones. I can’t really tell a difference.
We sit in a booth. A obviously over it waiter comes and takes our order. Baz orders the same thing he does everytime he goes out to eat, a hamburger.
“Really, Wallace, “ he says after taking a sip of his lemonade. “How was it?” I don’t have to ask what he’s talking about.
“Fine. Please, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay,” he pauses. “When are you going back?”
“Never,” I say. He frowns, but then quickly changes the subject to his favorite thing in the world, movies.
I do not go back to see Dr. Laverne, or anyone else. My dad doesn’t protest, probably because it wasn’t his idea and he didn’t want me to go in the first place.
“How did you feel after it happened?” Baz asks. He’s been doing this lately; asking me questions without saying the words mom or death.
We’re sitting on his living room floor, playing cards. He is wearing black jeans, a shirt depicting a band I’ve never heard of, and a yellow hoodie that is so bright I’m convinced you could hurt your eyes if you looked at it for too long.
“I don’t remember.”
“Of course you remember. It’s only been six months.”
“I don’t remember, Baz. I remember her getting sick and telling us she was sick and then one day not being there. I remember the hours I spent at the hospital, even the times you were there with me, but I don’t remember what was happening when she died. I don’t really remember anyone ever telling me she died, she just wasn’t there.” Baz scrunches his nose. This ends our conversation about my mom.
Baz doesn’t like to be alone. When his parents are gone he makes me spend all of my free time with him at his house. He doesn’t like being with his parents, but (for him, at least) it’s better than being alone.
After hours of being too distracted to do anything we want, we sit on the couch in silence. Baz takes my hand. I think I’m happy, or at least okay.
The hospital floor is cold. I have been sitting here for a few hours. Baz is sitting next to me, his arm is wrapped around mine and his head is on my shoulder. I think he might be more sad about this than I am. My dad is in her room. I refuse to go in. I will not go in. If I don’t go in, everything will be okay. If I don’t go in, I don’t have to see her in so much pain. I think Baz is crying. He’s been crying all week. I want to cry, but I can’t. I haven’t yet.
This isn’t happening. It’s a dream. There’s no possible way this is happening. I’ve never lost anyone. The only grandparent I don’t have died ten years before I was born.
After a few hours of staring at the floor, watching people in scrubs run by and comforting Baz, my dad walks out of my moms room. I know what happened, but it couldn’t have happened. Nothing like this could ever happen. My dad does not cry. I do not cry. Baz cries more intensely. And then my dad cries and I am the only one not crying. And it hurts more than I ever thought anything in the world could ever hurt.
It has been a month since I saw the dullest man to have ever live, Charles. My dad isn’t home a lot. On the rare days when I’m not with Baz after school, he doesn’t get home till after 7. And then we have silent dinners while watching tv shows about fishing.
Baz and I are at my house. We’re never at my house. I don’t like my house, but Baz loves it. He’s trying to do his math homework, but every few minutes he’ll start telling me about how cool cuttlefish are or the making of the movie Jaws.
“Where should we go for dinner?” Baz asks at some point.
“Baz, it’s 3:47, I think we have time.”
“But I’m hungry now.”
“But you already ate the leftover pizza I had in my fridge.” he stares at me. I laugh and look in the cupboard for something. He eats the probably stale goldfish that I find with no complaint.
My dad comes home around five. He looks exhausted. At first, when he only sees me, he only says the word hello. But when he sees Baz, he seems to perk up.
“Hey Baz,” he says. “How are your parents? Did they like California?”
“Yeah,” he answers, “they had a great time.” He’s lying, they haven’t come back yet. I didn’t even really realize until now. I’m a horrible friend.
My dad leaves to go take a shower. We, but mostly Baz, decide to go to dinner.
Baz sits across from me at our table, smiling. Someone comes and take our order. Unsurprisingly, Baz gets a hamburger.
I ask when his parents are coming home. He shrugs. I ask why they aren’t back you. Another shrug. I ask him if he’s okay. He says something which I think is sure. Baz makes me spend the night at his house.
Baz walks to his house alone and makes me drive. When we both get there, we watch movies we’ve already seen hundreds of times. Baz talks about Russia’s last Tsar. He orders pizza because he’s still hungry, I do not know how he isn’t five hundred pounds.
The next morning when I get home, my dad is gone. He does not get home till mid-afternoon, and then he leaves again. I tell myself I do not care.
On Tuesday morning, I wake up feeling what I think is the worst pain I’ve ever been in. I am cold and I feel sick. I can’t stop the tears from streaming down my face. I go back to sleep.
Two hours after school starts, I wake up again. But I can’t bear to get up, so after a while I fall back asleep.
When I wake up, Baz is sitting on the floor across from my bed. He looks at me with a look that makes me feel confused, a look that makes me think he knows something he’ll never tell me. He asks if I’m okay, I don’t respond because I don’t know. He tells me his parents called and that he hung up after two minutes because he was too angry. He doesn’t know when they’re coming back. I try to stay awake, to talk (or listen) to Baz, but I can’t help but fall asleep.
When I wake up it’s dark. Baz is asleep on the floor. Next to him there is a half eaten slice of pizza. I can’t fall back asleep. I try to make myself get up, because I have to go to the bathroom and because I’m hungry, but I can’t move. I stare at the ceiling, still feeling horrible. That’s what I do for the rest of the night.
Baz is gone when I wake up. School has already started. I get up and every part of my body hurts. I go downstairs to do something I immediately forget about. I text Baz.
“Hey, I’m sorry” I press send. He responds immediately.
“Nothing to be sorry for” which is followed by “I’ll be there after school”
“OK” I text back. I spend the rest of the day sitting on my bed. I watch Dead Poets Society.
When Baz gets to my house, he runs up to my room and sits on the edge of my bed. He’s wearing the one of the most hideous outfits I think I’ve ever seen.
“Hey,” he says. He smiles.
“Sup, Bazzy,” he laughs. And then he frowns because I only really call him that when I’m sad or sick or drunk or anything other than happy.
“How long were you here?” I hope it wasn’t long.
“I got here around 3:30 and left this morning at 7:40-ish” that’s a long time. He shouldn’t care about me that much. “When your dad came home, he ordered pizza and we talked for a little while. And then I sat here for most of the night. Did some homework. Watched some YouTube.” I want to tell him I’m sorry, but he’ll get angry at me.
We get Indian take out and eat at the park. It’s cold. We didn’t realize how cold it was. Baz gives me one of the jackets out of the pile of clothes in the backseat of his car that I’m sure has a life of its own.
Baz and I sit and talk.
“I want to be happy, Baz.” after I say these words, he looks upset.
“I know,” is all he can seem to say.
“I want to be okay, Baz.” he looks sadder.
“I know,” he repeats.
At some point I cry for the first time specifically about my mom. At some point we play I spy. At some point we go for a walk. We find a bench and sit. Baz pulls out a bag of Doritos that seem to appear from nowhere. He holds my hand.
“Wallace,” he says when I’m seconds away from falling asleep on his shoulder . “You can tell me anything. We lose people, Wallace. And that freaking sucks, but it happens. I want you to be happy and I want you to be okay so much that it hurts. And you really can tell me anything.”