Nate used the next day to do some packing and to buy some supplies for his trip. Occasionally, he would have images of the waterfall and have to push them down so that he would not start crying. He felt like such a weeny and didn’t even really know why. What was it about that waterfall that caused him to feel so much? Nate wasn’t even sure what it was that he was feeling, whether it was anger or sadness, all he really knew was that it was intense.
Nate decided that he should drop by Patrick’s house while he was out running errands to see if there was anything specific that he needed to pack. Nate knocked on the door of the house. He could hear voices inside, they sounded like they were yelling at one another. He was just about to walk away when Patrick appeared in the door way.
“I’ll be back later!” Patrick yelled as he quickly shut the door. “Come on; let’s get out of here.”
Nate was not sure what to do, but since Patrick was walking determinedly towards his car, he figured he should follow.
“Is everything okay?” Nate asked
“Huh? Oh yeah, my dad’s town. He’s always a blow hard, what a dick”
Patrick had never spoken like that before around Nate. He figured he should just let it go. They ended up at a local coffee shop on East Main. Nate ordered them both an iced Chai. He found Patrick sitting in the back of the shop with his chair snuggly in the corner. It reminded Nate of the zoo and how the lions sometimes would stand in one corner and dare anyone to come at them. He himself almost chose to sit somewhere else until Patrick looked up and he could see that his eyes were not that of the lions.
Nate didn’t really want to get into it with Patrick, but he knew that if he did not do it now, there was a slim chance that Patrick might back out of their trip and ruin all his plans to leave. “You want to talk about it?” Nate asked as he handed Patrick his drink.
Patrick sat back in the chair and took a long draw from the cold beverage. The sweat beaded on the plastic cup and fell to the table. Nate could feel each drop as if it were falling on him directly, as if he were sitting under a faucet that was leaking and the sound reverberated inside of him. The scene hypnotized him. He just stared at the bottom of Patrick’s cup watching the water fall drip by drip thinking it was like time floating off in front of him. Nate was startled with Patrick finally spoke.
“I guess it’s just that my dad is never around. He goes off for work and Mom and me have a rhythm. We’ve created a life without him. And then he comes home for a weekend maybe once a month and gets all upset that we’ve made decisions about things without him. He is totally upset that Mom said I could go on this hiking trip. “
Nate tensed at that but bit his tongue, because he could see that Patrick was not done talking.
“Anyway, he started yelling about how he’s the head of the household and that he has the final say on what happens. Whatever,” Patrick said rolling his eyes. “Sometimes I wish I could just go away and never come back.”
Nate immediately jumped on that, but tried not to sound overly excited, “Why don’t you?”
“Why don’t I what?” Patrick looked up. Nate felt that Patrick hadn’t been serious about leaving his family at all.
“Uh, leave…I mean tell me why you and your mom stay with your dad if he’s so bad.”
“Oh, well I guess it is because I would never leave Mom, she’s basically all I’ve got in this world and she would never leave Dad. She says that he wasn’t always like this and that it’s the job, which he needs because of the economy or something stupid like that.”
Nate felt crushed. He had for a moment thought that he was not the only person in the world that hated his family and wanted to escape. But Patrick proved him wrong.
“Hey, man, I have got to start heading home, my sister needs the car for something later.” Nate said in hopes that he could get away from this feeling that was hounding him.
“Sure. I tell you what though, don’t worry about taking me home, I’ll just walk back.”
“Yeah, it will be good practice for our trip.” Patrick said with a smile returning to his face.
“Okay, I’ll catch up with you later then.” Nate got up and walked away. He was not sure what was going on inside of him, but he knew that he needed to be alone. This trip seemed to be getting more and more complicated the closer it got to really happening.
That night Nate had a fitful sleep. He was dreaming. Nate found himself in the woods walking down a path. He felt like he knew where he was going but suddenly the path disappeared from in front of him. As he looked around, he was standing in the middle of his family’s dining room. Everyone was eating and talking with one another. Someone must have said something funny because they all started laughing. Nate tried to ask them what it was, but they could not hear him. He asked again, this time louder, thinking they just could not hear him over the noise in the room, but still there was no response. Nate started yelling. Everything within him was trying to get them to hear him but they kept on as if he were not there at all.
Nate crawled up onto the table and started screaming and jumping, but still they just kept on talking and laughing. He tried to kick their plates and the food, but they didn’t once look at him. Nate tried to talk to his mom. He walked across the table and kneeled in front of her saying her name. But every time he tried to say “Mom” it disappeared from his lips. He reached out to touch her and to grab her, to let her know that he was there, but she always moved away from him, towards something else. Nate got down off of the table and sat right beside her. He put his head on her lap and cried. As he sat there, suddenly he felt someone touching his head, stroking it, as if he were a little boy. He drank in that feeling of comfort and peace. He knew that someone had finally seen him. When he looked up to see who it was that had noticed him sitting there, everything around him had turned dark, darker than any night he had ever experienced. There were not even stars in the sky. Nate could not see his hand in front of his face, but he still felt that sense of someone caring for him and being aware of him. He slowly got to his feet and tried to look around. He remembered that he had a flashlight on his belt so he fumbled for it in the darkness. When the light came on it was pointing to the ground. He swept the area and saw someone’s feet but they were moving away from the light, as if the person was frightened by the light. Nate called out “Do not leave. Who are you?” The figure stopped and Nate shined the light, casting away the darkness from the being that had cared for him. When the light finally got to the face, what Nate saw there scared him so badly that he woke up in a terror.
He could not go back to sleep after that. The image kept playing over and over in his head. Nate could not figure out what it all meant and he was thankful when the sun finally rose outside. He tossed aside the sweat soaked covers and went to take a shower. As he came out of the bathroom, he could hear giggling in his twin sisters’ room.
Kerry and Karen were the babies of the family. They were born when Nate was almost eleven years old. They were a handful for his mom and dad. His mom had to be on bed rest the last month of pregnancy. He could not remember exactly what the problem was, but he knew that she was pretty much stuck in her room. Their dad kept the rest of the family away because he did not want the kids to tire her out too much or for her to catch a cold they may have brought home from school.
Nate remembered waking up one morning and dad and mom were gone, Stephen was making breakfast. That was in their old house, when they lived across the road from Grandma and Grandpa. Nate asked where Dad was and Stephen told him that Mom had started labor and that they were at the hospital.
Grandma and Grandpa came over later that day to check on them and called the hospital to see how things were going. Kerry and Karen were born very late that night, practically the next morning. Nate had fallen asleep on the couch next to Grandpa, waiting for the news of what was happening.
They all went to the hospital the next morning and he got to meet his little sisters for the first time. They were adorable, but they had worn his mother out. She was sleeping when they got there and slept through their entire visit. The twins continued to be a lot of work for Nate’s mom when they all arrived back home. It seemed to Nate that Mom and Dad were always taking care of the twins or they were sleeping, especially his mom. She slept more with the twins than she had with any of the other children. A lot of the housework shifted to the older siblings, including Nate. The twins were older now and did not take as much of Mom and Dad’s time, but the family was never the same after they were born.
Nate was glad to be a big brother to two such sweet little girls. He really thought they were amazing. He was even kind of excited about going to O.P. Taylor’s with them that day. He was hoping to buy them each a toy, something to remember him by.
After breakfast, they all piled in the car and headed into downtown. The girls went straight to the dress up room when they got to O.P.’s. Nate loved watching them have so much fun. They played with some trains when they were done with dress up. He ended up buying them each a stuffed pink bear with pink tutus and princess tiaras. Kerry and Karen loved the bears. He couldn’t even convince them to leave the bears in the bag as they were going to Rocky’s for a milkshake.
Nate was thankful that his sisters were still rather young. They were fun to be around, but they wouldn’t miss him for too long. He reasoned that life would be better for them without him around. He could see that they were going to be smart just like John and beautiful like Beth and Stephen. He was hopeful that they wouldn’t end up being losers like he was. He felt for their sake, he needed to leave so they wouldn’t have his influence in their life, dragging them down.
From what Nate could tell, his each member of his family was perfect in each their own way. Not a one of them had any major flaws, he had somehow managed to inherit every single minor blemish there was so that his brothers and sisters could be perfect. He saw them and the best that they had to offer. Each one of them was beautiful, brilliant, and talented. He had to leave so that he did not ruin his little sisters. They were really starting to develop their personalities and their talents. If he stayed around much longer he would start to drain on them the same as he did on the rest of his family.
Once they were all done with their milkshakes, Nate took his sisters to South Broad Park and they all walked around. As they wandered around they searched for white squirrels. Kerry swore that she saw one and Karen cried because she did not. Nate saw that there time together was about to turn into a temper tantrum so they headed back to the car and home.
Kerry and Karen both hugged and kissed Nate when they got back to the house and thanked him over and over again for their bears.
Nate thought that he had never met anyone as sweet as his two sisters. He wished that he could stay there with the family and see how they would grow up, but he knew that he had to leave or he would cause them to fail in ways he could not prevent.
Nate spent the rest of the day packing up his stuff for the trip. He and Patrick were going to be heading out early on Monday morning, there were only two days left before he said good-bye to all of this.