Tension bloats my stomach as she watches. Hot breath thin, escaping summer-swelled pores. My exhales closer. My mother, aware and acknowledging, but unmoved.

My brother in the back yard below. A joint — filled with his momentarily-meant promise that he had quit — between his teeth. At least three others sit outside with him. Often he tightens his bite around the filter, a habit that calms. An indent of his closed dentals left. A billow of angst released, swirling in dispersion.

I’m miserable here, he had told me. I try telling mom, but she doesn’t listen. I’m not sure where here is exactly: this second childhood-home, his head, somewhere unknown to me. He is open to the idea of talking. Preferably, a neutral perspective separate from our family, paid to listen.

My mother asks me, is anything wrong? Have you asked your son that, I want to say, I think he needs his mother.

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