Our family existed only out of legal necessity. Legal, because our parents were required under law to continue to provide for us until the age of sixteen. I was now sixteen.
I have two memories of my younger brother prior to me leaving home. First, was he was so ill, running a fever of 107 plus that he was becoming delusional. My mom’s solution was to get him to strip down to his skivvies and go lay down in the snow outside. It worked. The second memory was of me coming home early one day, both parents were still at work, to find a trail of hastily discarded clothing, belonging to both sexes, that led to my brother’s bedroom. He was fourteen. She was sixteen.
I hated him for that incident in particular. But, really, it was more an insane jealousy. I was the academic and he was the class clown. I was much bigger and having spent some time in the gym I was bigger in all the right ways and he was a scrawny toothpick. I loved conversation. He loved sex. Somehow this combination did not work well for me in regards to attracting the opposite sex but for my brother, he was taking bookings.
My car and my license and my job created the perfect trifecta, allowing me to never be home and for him to do whatever the hell he wanted to. None of us, and this included my parents, needed to see each other any longer. Working in a restaurant also kept me out for different shifts and most of my meals were no longer at home. The traditional family supper gathering time was also now something of the past.
During that long frustrating grade eleven year in this long-forgotten about high school in this dusty and dirty valley city I had one of my friends come out to visit me a couple of times. This was my best friend back from that mountain top village. The first time he was out we spent some time late at night stealing two rail crossing signs that would later be stashed in our school lockers as a reminder of the moment. The second time he was out, though, we were putting together a different plan. This plan involved me moving back to the mountain top village and moving in with him and his family.
He had already laid the groundwork with his family and things were good to go so now all I needed to do was to arrange things with my own family. That conversation went easier than I had anticipated, probably due mostly to the fact that my parents were done, worn out, battered, and bruised, through whatever was going on in their own marriage that would have led them to this valley city in the first place, but also because of the trail of shattered dreams that led us here as well.
Looking back I wish they would have said no.
In the moment, getting away from my family was all I could think about – all I was focused on. I wish they would have said no. Somehow their permission was like the untying of the final knot that was keeping me together and it wouldn’t take long after this for me to completely fall apart. I wish they would have said no. I wanted freedom but I wanted family more.
Loading everything I owned into the back seat of my Dodge Dart, and with only a few hundred dollars saved up I was ready for my epic trip back to the mountain top village. My best friend was there and we were going to drive back together, I would follow him as I was unsure, having never driven anything like this before.
The day I chose to leave the weather was perfect. The sun was shining, it was warm – the perfect day for a road trip. We had ten hours of hard driving ahead of us, so if we were going to make it back to that mountain top village in that same day we needed a fairly early start. I remember this moment quite clearly. My parents and my brother were lined up side by side in the driveway. I gave my token goodbyes and they stood their stoic.
Then a very strange thing happened. As I finished with the goodbyes, I turned to leave and as I got into my car and turned it on, my father began to sob uncontrollably. I paused for a moment, unsure of what to make of this situation. My mother seemed uncomfortable with this display of emotion and turned to go inside the house. My brother lingered for another moment before deciding to follow. My heart hardened just a bit more in that same moment and I put the car into reverse, backing out into the street.
My father continued to stand there, covering his eyes, his head tilted downward, sobbing. I could hear his sobbing from my car. I was broken by this sight but confused. Why now? Why show this emotion to me now? Or was it really about me or what he would explain to his co-workers tomorrow at work? Again, anger welled up inside and I pushed the accelerator, moving away from the house.
As I pulled away, I adjusted my rear-view mirror so I could see if my father was still there. He was. As I drove further away, his figure became smaller and smaller, still standing in the driveway sobbing.
It was over now.
At least I had hoped it would be.