When someone important to you dies, you’re supposed to cry. You’re supposed to be depressed. You’re supposed to curl up into a miserable ball of hunger and tears and sadness and then emerge one day as though you have conquered a very high mountain. I am not known for doing things because they are supposed to be done.
One day, my brother died. My mother cried. My father scheduled an emergency appointment with his therapist. My sister locked her door. I went out for a sandwich.
As I said, I do not do things because they are supposed to be done, but that is not the reason that I do not not do things. I do what I want. Simple. Easy to remember. Yet, for whatever reason, difficult for my parents to understand.
At 2:45 on Saturday, I was hungry. As my parents sat on the living room floor -my mother holding the landline, my father holding his cell- I retrieved my own phone from my room and called my girlfriend, Chris.
I asked her to meet me for lunch.
As Chris owned her own car, she picked me up. I met her outside so she didn’t have to come in. She knew my parents didn’t like her. I knew my parents would ask her to pray for Colin, even though the reason they didn’t like her was because she was openly an atheist. She also wasn’t a cheerleader (which was a let down to my father), could not cook (a let down to my mother), and had horrible fashion sense (a disappointment to my sister).
Colin had liked her.
We went to Burger King.
“The idea of a uniform is no different than the idea of colonists keeping firearms away from slaves in order to keep revolt out of their means of possibility,” I observed.
Chris laughed and linked arms with me. I quickly unlinked to hold the door open for her. Colin’s girlfriend would have rolled her eyes at the “anti-feminist ‘chivalry’” I was showing towards my girlfriend. But Chris liked it.
Chris ordered a Whopper. I ordered a salad.
“You can’t come to Burger King and get a salad,” Chris proclaimed.
“Why not?” I smirked.
“The name of the restaurant is Burger King. To get a salad is like to go to Church and ask if they wouldn’t mind reading from a novelization of “Mean Girls” instead of the Bible.”
“Like you would know what is and isn’t allowed in Church.”
She looked offended. Not really. “You have to at least get something that matches the level of fat as my Whopper.”
“Coach’ll kill me.”
“I’ll revive you.”
We went like that for ten minutes with Mandy (the checkout girl), Chris’s cousin, and my algebra tutor watching and laughing. When the line started to pile up, I ordered a large fries to get Chris off my back.
We both got milkshakes.
We sat on the hood of Chris’s car. We had a tradition of taking our phones and leaving them between us as a metaphor to the two of us being totally alone. I liked being alone with Chris. She didn’t make me thank God for my food. She didn’t lecture me about how colleges won’t give scholarships to slackers. Which was total BS because Colin got D’s in every class, did less than a handful of clubs, was mediocre at baseball, and got a partial scholarship to a local college.
When my phone vibrated over to Chris, she picked it up.
“25 texts and 17 missed calls. When did you get so popular?”
“Yesterday. Sorry you missed it; it was supposed to be a family only thing.”
She punched my arm. I reached for the phone. She handed it to me.
“Seriously. What’s up? Anything I should know about?”
I checked to make sure that all of the messages were condolences. One of them had details and I read it out of necessity to my future sanity. Nothing I couldn’t have guessed. 19 year-old. Drunk. Car crash. Probably wouldn’t make the news. Probably would make the local paper.
“Hello? Earth to John.”
“What? Sorry. Family crap.” I spit out. “Could you drive me to the mall? I need to buy a suit for a formal thing coming up.”
“Are you too good for Colin’s hand-me-downs?” She smiled. She knew I was.
“No. He’ll be needing his best suit for this.”
Originally appeared in the 2013-2014 edition of Outside In