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camping

“Mom wants to get a divorce.”

I knew it was coming, but my eyes well up anyway. My brother rolls his a little.

“Nay, c’mon, it’s okay.”

Alec doesn’t usually take my emotions seriously. He’s my little brother; of course he doesn’t. We sit in my dad’s old car that’s now his because I’m too scared to learn how to drive. But I think the Mike’s Hard Lemonade in my hand didn’t help my case. No teen movie star in a moment of significant emotional weight is holding a Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

But I am, because I’m on a shitty camping trip with my shitty high school friends. We’re not even in high school anymore. We just hang out because it’s easier than being alone.

“How do you know?” I mumble as I wipe away tears.

“She sat me down. Plus, Dad’s been out of the house for a couple days. They were gonna talk to you too once you got home.”

We thought it would be fun, camping and drinking. It’s not.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

For a second, I consider the possibility of leaving in the middle of the night to live in the woods. I’d survive by stealing food from unsuspecting people on the campsite and seducing people to let me sleep in their tent. No funny business though.

I hear the muffled shouts of my friends as they mess around by the fire. They’re happy, even though I know they have just as much shit in their lives. We’re out here, drunk in these unfamiliar woods, to ignore reality. The thought of returning to the suburbs made me queasy.

Now the car feels hot, the temperature grows by the second. A panic attack. I try to stay calm. So Alec doesn’t see. He can probably tell anyways.

When I was young, when my parents would have the occasional fight behind closed doors, I would silently debate which parent I would choose in case of divorce. My mom was the obvious answer. My brother could live with my dad because Dad was the coach of his hockey team and they liked sports. Mom could be kind of a nag, but she picked me up from after school activities on time. Dad never has understood me very well.

And so in that moment, when my brother finally told me what I had feared was brewing for months, I thought I would be stronger. I thought I wouldn’t cry, wouldn’t have a panic attack, wouldn’t be so emotional. I thought I would know how to handle it, because I had felt its presence for so long.

I cried though. I cried because my dad was a drunk and my mom was on anti-depressants because my dad was a drunk. I cried because my “best friend” was hanging out with her other best friend who she liked more. I cried sheepishly, embarrassed that I was always the emotional loser in the face of my obstacles.

“It’s okay, it’ll be okay,” Alec says as he sips from his beer. Tears stream quietly, they make little strips of my face cold and clammy. I don’t know that he’s right, but I trust him.

Look at me. I’m crying in my little brother’s car holding a Mike’s Hard Lemonade because my life is shitty. Because life is pretty shitty in general. Because everyone lied to me when they said these are the best years of my life.

I want to go home.

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