That night, Nate had the dream again. He was walking down that same path and it just ended. He saw his family at the table. But this time, something was different. They were not all happy and laughing like before, they were sad and crying. They still did not respond to him, no matter how loudly he yelled or how he moved. He went to his mother again and this time he looked into her face and saw her deep sadness. She looked at him and saw him. Her look was accusing as if he were the reason that she were so sad. At that point everyone at the table stopped what they were doing and pointed at him. He started to back away until he found himself in a corner surrounded by all of them. Nate crouched in the corner putting his hands over his head trying to shield himself from their accusations. Then he felt a loving hand, the same one that he had felt before and he opened his eyes to complete and utter darkness. He knew that it was the same person from his last dream and fear and curiosity filled him. Nate reached for his flashlight and started to sweep the area looking for the one that comforted him. When the light landed on feet, Nate shone it quickly towards the person’s face. Just as before the sight he found there scared him awake.
Nate lay there in bed trying to shake off the image that haunted his dream. He wanted to crawl into his parents bed as if he were a little child but then he told himself that was foolish and that it was only a dream. He rolled over and eventually fell asleep.
When Nate woke up, he could hear that the house was awake, too. He looked at the clock and realized that Patrick was going to be there any minute. He quickly jumped out of bed and got a shower and dressed. When he came downstairs, Patrick was already there, talking with his parents and eating some toast. Nate took his bag out to the car and headed back in to say his good-byes. He was a jumble of emotions. Part of him was sad that he had to leave and the other part of him was excited about the possibility of finding a place that he could be himself and be accepted.
Nate walked back to the house slowly. He knew that he would never be walking into that home again. Never again would he walk into a house where no one noticed that he had even left. No one would ever forget to ask him to dinner. Never again would he walk into the house full of people that did not love him. He stopped his last journey into that home that didn’t love him and listened. Their laughter and conversations told Nate that they were going to be better without him. His sisters, Kerry and Karen, were going to grow up and become wonderful women, probably talented just like his sister, Beth. Nate knew that Stephen was going to be leaving soon too, but that he would be back often. And John was so smart; Nate just hoped that he didn’t take it upon himself to find him and bring him back to this house where he was forgotten and unloved.
Nate stepped inside the screen door and looked at his mom and dad standing next to each other in the kitchen. The air between them was relaxed and fluid. She easily walked up to this man and rested beside him as if she were created for that very purpose. When she spoke, he looked at her with delight. They were perfection. He could see that they were united and that they loved one another. The image of the two of them there together cut through Nate, revealing envy and sorrow. If they were so perfect, then it must be him who had caused the rift between himself and the family.
Nate found it hard to breath. He sucked in a chest full of air and squeezed out, “Well, I guess we should get going.” The conversation was so boisterous that he was afraid that no one had heard him. Then Patrick turned and looked at Nate with a nod of his head.
“Yeah, we had better get on the road so that we can make it to our first campsite before night fall.” Patrick said as he got down from the barstool.
Nate quickly stepped back outside. He didn’t want to have to say good bye, the fact that he was leaving for good would be too real for him and he might change his mind. As he buckled himself into the car, he heard his brother Stephen yell from the porch, “I’m gonna miss you, man! You make sure that you have lots of fun and take some pictures for me. I want to hear all about it when you come back. Okay?”
Nate ignored his good bye. But his sisters, Kerry and Karen, ran up to the car and reached inside to hug him. “Bye, Nate!” they said in unison. Nate wiped away tears that he hated to show. His heart wrenched inside of him. He couldn’t say a word as his throat closed up from fighting the tears. Luckily, the twins released him and scurried into the back yard to play together.
Beth was standing there as the girls moved away. She reached into the window and gave him a motherly hug. “You take care of yourself. Okay? I am going to need you to move some of my paintings for me when you get back in two weeks, alright?”
John was sitting on the porch with Stephen. He yelled across the lawn “Have a good time. If you get eaten by a bear I’m gonna to take your room.”
Nate just waved in response. Nate’s mom and dad appeared from the house and made their way to Patrick’s car. Nate noticed how their stride was in sync with one another. She had her hand around his waist as he placed his lovingly around her shoulder. He whispered something to her as they continued their journey towards Nate. Her entire face lit up with his words. Every ounce of love that Nate just experienced from his family evaporated into anger and sadness over how he was the weak link in this family. They were going to be fine without him and he was going to be better than fine on his own.
Nate’s mom reached out and touched his arm as she told him to be safe. She went around the car to where Patrick was standing. Nate’s dad stood there for second and then he bent down and was face to face with Nate. “Look, son,” he said “I heard what you said the other day and I just wanted you to have this. It should help you if you need anything on the trail.”
Nate’s dad handed him a bible, one that would easily fit into his back pocket. Nate opened it up and found at least two hundred dollars inside the cover. “That is just a little something extra to have fun with” Nate’s dad said as he winked at him. “I always wanted to do what you and Patrick are about to go do. I am thankful that God has seen fit to give you the opportunity to go in my place.”
Nate’s dad reached into the car and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Nate knew that with his father’s gift, he was leaving and never coming back. The money was a sign from God that he was definitely on the right path and that he had chosen correctly to leave his parent’s home and the family that he had known, in hopes of finding something real and welcoming out in the world.