From the first Tri Short Story Collection Love Isn’t A Mood Swing
Maybe my parents forgot what love was, or failed to understand it. And that was why they had decided to go their separate ways. To grandma’s house my mom and I went, and my dad stayed where for the first six years of my life I had stayed. Prohibition came into my life. To my mom, dad had become like alcohol during the American prohibition period—forbidden. No phone calls. No letters. No visits. I walked out that door with my little hand in my mom’s hand, glued by her anger. He wore a black pants and a black T-shirt. How appropriate. The burial of twelve years of marriage.
Although I have much to say about my complicated relationship with my parents, I am not here to write about them.
We moved out of grandma’s house when my mom got a job. I became a latchkey kid. Mom went to work; she came home tired.
I first saw him in the apartment complex where we lived. I was fifteen. He lived two doors down from us. I stayed home from school and the sound of ‘I don’t want to go’ echoed through the hallway. I opened the door just as he was being dragged to the elevator. He saw me. In his eyes fear was mingled with those angry words. It was morning.
A few minutes later he was back. ‘I’m not gonna,’ caught my ears. ‘Okay,’ was the reply. ‘See you later. I love you.’ He said nothing.
He opened the door and went inside. I came out. Who was he? We lived there for four years and I had never seen him before. I left the apartment and went over to his place. I knocked on the door. He did not answer. I banged on the door. He did.
“Who is it?” he asked. From the outside it sounded as if he moved and came and stood cautiously behind the door.
“Your neighbor. You saw me earlier.”
“What do you want?”
“I just wanna know if you are okay?”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Yes, it is.”
“I’m not okay, but you can leave me alone.”
“I will just sit—”
It was not until lunch time that I returned. Do you ever get a feeling, or something tapping on your nerves, telling you that something is not right? I got that feeling. I guess that was why I tried again.
“It is me.”
“I made some lunch.”
“Who said I was hungry?”
“I just thought—”
“I will not.” I sat in front of his door, and twenty-three minutes later, he opened it.
I spent that day with him until his mom came home. He surrounded himself in silence, in a blanket tagged leave me the hell alone. I found myself not being able to do that to him. I talked most during that day. My presence felt like an intrusion. We were both pigheaded. He did want me to go; I decided to stay. The next day he told me his name. He told me why he became a hikikomori.
His mom was surprised when she met me there. Another human being talking with him. And in person. I did not grasp the reason for that, not until I went deeper into his world.
A lit candle slowly began to burn itself out. He opened up to me on day two. Do you think that some people wait for the right person to come along to talk to?
“My name’s Cabot Brandt Cain.” He hesitated after letting me know who he was. “You’re not gonna make fun of my name, huh?”
“Do you want me to?”
“No. Everyone used to tease me about it.”
“That is not true.”
“Yes, it’s true.”
“I do not think you know everyone. You never will.”
“My dad gave me my name. He’s dead. I’ve heard everything from Carrot Cain to Coward Cain. And even people asking me where’s Abel? I’d never heard about Abel until they started mentioning his name. He was killed by his brother you know.”
“Is that how you feel?”
“Rejection is an overplayed record.” He got up and walked over to a bookcase in a corner. Picking something up, he stared down at it for a few minutes. “This is a picture of my dad,” he said, avoiding my question. I got up to look.
“You look like him.”
“I get that a lot.”
“How did he—”
“Die? He just died—that’s all. You missed school today again.”
“So did you.”
“I don’t go to school.”
“That’s where everyone is.”
At that moment, I got it. Everyone was not the world. Not the billions and billions of people on planet earth. But them. Yes, them. His schoolmates and teachers. Those whose opinions mattered to him. I was a year younger than he was.
“So this is it for you,” I said, going back to sit down.
“I got tired of the name calling and the bullying.”
“You allowed them to win.”
He scoffed. “I’m not like you.”
“I did not ask you to be like me.”
“I don’t know why I’m even talking with you,” he said, pushing my anger button. “You think you know everything.”
“I do not know everything.”
“That’s right, stare at me.” I was not staring. “Look at this boy who decided to hideaway from the world because he’s tired of being hurt. I’m not gonna get hurt anymore.”
“You are loud.”
“Yeah, I can get louder,” he said, doing just that.
“Gosh, the neighbors know now that you exist.”
“Get out!” I stood up. “I said to get out!”
I wanted to react. I was angry, but I just walked to the door. “And by the way,” I said, turning to face him, “God never rejected Cain.” And I was gone. But I knew that I would go back the next day.
I always looked forward to Saturdays; it was the time my friends and I went to the movies. On Sundays, my mom and I would have what you could call a conversation. She went to work at a later time on that day. On that particular Saturday after my moment with Cabot, she found out about him. We were seated at the kitchen table that morning. I made breakfast.
“Are you much better now?”
“School on Monday.”
“So, what are you going to do today?”
“Movie with my friends.”
“No babysitting today?”
“They are out of town.”
“I know, take the clothes to the dry cleaners. I will do that before the movie.”
“I’ll be home late.”
“I know. I will be by Cabot.”
“Neighbor,” I told her, getting up to leave.
“Hold on, who’s Cabot?”
Do you ever get the feeling that a conversation between parent and child can turn into an interrogation, or sometimes feel that way? I told her about him and his mom. And she told me to invite them over for dinner.
Dropped off clothes and later hung out with my friends. I did not tell them about him. I got that feeling that he never wanted me to. I went home.
I walked pass his door. Up, down. Yes, I was still angry. How long does it take to forgive someone? How long should it take? I forgave him, but I was still angry. Was that true forgiveness then?
After I stopped pacing, I was about to knock on the door. But it opened up instead. His mom came out.
“Hello Ms. Cain.”
“Hi. I don’t think he wants to see you.”
“Still angry, huh?”
“I am also angry.”
“I’m going on a date.”
“I am going back home.”
“You should not apologize. It is not your fault that he is being an idiot.”
“I heard that,” a voice said from the inside of the apartment.
“You should not be eavesdropping.”
“Ms. Cain, you look beautiful. Hope you have a good time.”
“What are you, an adult? You talk so adultish for a teenager. And life’s about surviving.”
It felt to me that he wanted another round; I ignored that temptation. “Goodnight Ms. Cain.”
“Goodnight,” she said, locking the door and then heading for the elevator. I went back home. I had no idea what to do. I was restless and bored. I was sitting on the couch when there was a knock on the door. I asked who it was and called out his name. I was hoping it was him. I wanted it to be him. I called out his name but got no answer. I got up, walked over to the door, put my ear next to it and nothing. And when I opened it, there was a piece of paper that had, ‘I’m sorry, come over.’ Obeying, I went.
“So what are we gonna do tonight?” I asked.
“We’re gonna watch anime.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of it. You need to get out more.” We laughed. “Let’s order pizza.”
“You are happy tonight.”
“Blame it on the full moon,” he said jokingly. There was no full moon. “Here.”
“What is it?”
“Money for the pizza. I’m gonna get some extra snacks from the kitchen.” I was afraid. Why was I afraid? He was not his broodingly self. For me that was strange.
We sat on the couch while waiting for the pizza. He was talkative. We exchanged emails and phone numbers, home phones; I did not have a cell phone then. He thought that I was strange and out of touch because of that.
“I’ll show you some B-boy clips as well. They’re awesome.”
“You’ve been teaching me about life. Tonight I’m gonna teach you about living. This way.” I did not move. “This way,” he said again, pointing to his room. I had never been in there. “Anime. B-boy. Movies. Let’s go.”
I followed him nervously like someone being dragged. I saw his room for the first time on that day, and what a room.. Tech store. Electronic store. Gadget store. That was his room with extra stuff like a bed, desk, set of drawers, and chairs. On his wall was one large poster. ‘Hikikomori, it’s not a state, it’s a place.’ That was his statement in large red letters. On his face was a big smile that he wore like a nicely snugged sweater. His room was an oasis from everyone, and he made me a part of it.
That Sunday, there were four chairs around the table. Three were filled and one was empty. Guess who did not come to dinner?
Ms. Cain and my mom spoke as if they had known each other for a long time. She brought over dessert, a chocolate cake she made herself. Just thinking about it has my mouth watering, my stomach yearning, and memories of me licking my fingers.
She made no excuses for him not being there, just that he could not make it. My mom asked no questions, well not in my presence. Without him there, I felt out of place and asked to go see him. Permission was granted.
“I knew you would come,” he said, letting me in.
“Yeah, but the conversation is not. Your mom is a great chocolate cake maker.”
“Yeah. What’s in the bowl?”
“Thanks,” he said, walking into the kitchen. “Had fun last night?” I heard him asked.
“Yeah. Everything was cool.”
He came out of the kitchen with his mouth full. We went into his room. “Want to do it again?” I was excited. “I can see on your face that you have questions.”
“You can read my face now?” I asked.
“You want to know where I got all this stuff. You’re softening up. Since I’ve known you, you just ask questions without hesitating. My dad gave me these things.”
“He helped you hide from the world.”
“I don’t need to be out there. The world comes to me through my TV, internet, games, music, and movies.”
“You will become lonely.”
“I’m not lonely.”
“What are you gonna do, stay in here forever? What about the future, about a job? What are you gonna do to make money?”
“You think too much.”
“And you think too little,” I said, turning off the TV.
“Why’d you do that? You’re such a judgmental starched shirt.”
“I am not.”
“You are.” We were not shouting. Call it arguing, debating, whatever. We did that a lot.
“Life is not just about now.”
“Can you just relax? Like last night, can you just relax and have fun. Stop analyzing.”
I stood up and was about to leave. I did not know where I was going. Into the kitchen? Into the living room? Home? I did not know. I just stood up and was going to leave. But then he called out my name. I turned around and faced him. He slowly moved a few steps toward me and called out my name again. “I love you,” he blurted out.
What do you do when someone tells you that they love you? Do you transform yourself into a love song, maybe wearing a smile?
He told me that he loved me. And what did I do? I ran out of his apartment, back to mine and into my room. I ran not from him but from those words. Scared. No one had ever told me that kind of I love you. No, not that version.
My mom knocked on my door and asked if I was alright. You know when you just want to be alone, or you do not want anyone to know how you are really feeling, and so you answer yes to that question when it is really no.
I sat on my bed. I stood up. I lay on the ground. I sat on the ground. I screamed into my pillow. I did everything except smiled, giggled like a blushing school girl on a cloud nine of amour.
I tried to call him, but my fingers would not dial the numbers. I went back to school. My mom asked once again if I was alright, and I told her that I was fine. I was physically. Emotionally, Cupid’s arrow was pointed at my heart.
I was absent-minded. My friends tried to cheer me up. They tried to find out what was wrong. Questions rattled on in my head. For the first time, I wanted school to last longer. But, no, oh no, the school bell rang at its usual time. I had chores and errands. Did they take up most of my time? No, they did not.
Who said that I had to go see him anyway? My heart. I missed breakfast and skipped lunch. I was hungry but could not eat. I had to go see him.
“You look terrible,” he said.
“Yeah, school would do that to you,” I told him, trying to be funny.
Did he forget what he said yesterday? I thought. I tried to act normal, but the nervous demeanor I wore was not any help.
“So, how was school?”
“My mom’s thinking about getting me a private tutor.” I was convinced he had forgotten.
“Yeah. I told her okay as long as it was you. I was also thinking that I can do an online class or something. Are you okay?”
“You don’t look so hot right now. Are you sick again?”
“Cabot . . . I . . . I . . . Cabot.”
“Online class or something, great. Cabot.”
“Got anything to eat?”
“Want a sandwich or something?”
“Sandwich or something?”
“Are you okay?”
Those words were not mentioned. I took a deep breath, smiled and said, “Fine. Yeah, I will have a sandwich.”
“Surprise me. I am good at the dreaded math.”
“Not the dreaded math. If you’re still here when she comes, then you can talk with her. She invited you and your mom to dinner on Sunday.”
“So that means that you are going to—”
“I won’t be around for dinner. I’ll be in my room,” he said, leaving the room and then coming back with a sandwich. “Let me get you something to drink. Here,” he said, returning with something to drink. We sat in the chairs by the bookcase. “Do you remember what I said yesterday?” I choked on the drink. Rushing toward me, he lightly tapped my back.
“I think I have homework.”
“No. You can sit down. I am okay.”
“Yeah about that, I—”
“I told you to relax, to have fun.”
“I called you—”
“You are not going to apologize, huh?”
“Good, neither am I. Can I have another sandwich?”
“Surprise you again?”
I ate four surprised sandwiches not to satisfy my hunger. Not once did he mention he loved me.
His mom came home and we talked. I still had to babysit on the weekend. But three days out of the week, I became his math tutor. She smiled at me a lot.
I left earlier than usual. My mom was not home yet. I took a shower and thought sleep would take over. But something was pounding at the door of my heart. I got up and went into the living room to use the computer. I emailed him four words. “I love you, too.” Is telling someone that you love them simple?
After I turned off the computer, I sat there with a big smile on my face. I was about to go back to my room when there was a knock on the door. It was him.
“Don’t open the door,” he said softly. “I just want to say thank you for loving me.” And he was gone. I was blushing. I was in love. We were in love. What next? The next day gave me the answer.
“Three days a week,” my mom said after I told her about tutoring.
“I am still going to babysit.”
“I don’t want you getting too close to him,” she said, moving closer to the sink.
“It is too late,” I told her, getting up quickly and wanting to rush away.
“What do you mean by that?”
“It is not what you think. I have to go or I will be late for school.”
“Be late. What do you mean by it’s too late?”
“I love him.”
“You what? This can’t be happening, you’re only fifteen.”
“I thought I was fifty. It feels like that sometimes.”
“Don’t give me sass.”
“When I get home tonight, we have to talk.”
“May I go now?” I asked not waiting for an answer.
Why do some parents cloak their kids with a mistrust that they did nothing to earn? What did she read in it is too late. No, why did she even go there in the first place? Sex? Gosh, I had not been kissed and she jumped to the conclusion that I meant sex.
The day before, I wrote and told him that I loved him. It was time for me to tell him, But after school. That day started off great. I felt light-headed and everything was alright. But then I thought about that conversation I was going to have with my mom.
Maybe it was the big smile that gave away the emotion that enveloped me. My friends, still in the dark about him, saw that I was happy.
I was impatient to see him. Do you feel that way sometimes when you are waiting for something or yearning to see someone? Yes, I wanted to see him.
Hung out with friends after school. Did errands and homework. And then I was standing at his door. All of a sudden, I was scared. I waited with anticipation, but . . .
“Why didn’t you knock?” he asked, opening the door.
“I was going to.”
“How did you know that I was there?”
“I didn’t. I opened the door to see what was taking you so long.”
Showing him what I brought over, I said, “Math books. You have not changed your mind, huh? You know—”
“No lecture please. I haven’t changed my mind.”
“How are your math skills?”
“I know a little”
“We will go over everything. For an hour it is you, me and math.”
Do not mind how with ease that conversation sounded. We were nervous. I kept looking away, not capable of looking into his eyes. I caught him looking at me. He would quickly put his head back down and look at what was on the page of the book. After it was over, we were silent. I sat on the couch while he sat in one of the chairs by the bookcase.
“Now what?” I asked, my heart racing.
“Want to watch some TV?”
“No. I forgot to tell you that I love you.” That came out wrong. Has that ever happen to you. You want to say something but say it right? He came over and sat on the couch. He was at one end and I was at the other.
“I wrote it but did not say it.”
“I know. Want anything to eat?”
“Yeah, so. I should go,” I said, getting up to leave. “Do not forget to read that chapter.”
“Okay teacher.” I was almost out the door but forgot my keys. “Are we gonna be this nervous around each other?”
“Gosh, I hope not. I am using up a lot of energy.”
“Here, your keys.” He was smiling at me. His eyes were happy. I finally looked into them.
“Bye,” he said, kissing me on my cheek.
When I was out the door, I squeed. Is that a word? He kissed me on the cheek. By the time I reached home, he called and we talked and talked. No nervousness. By the time my mom came home, I had to get out of that blissful, natural high.
What she said to me felt like she wanted to say long before he came along. And about him, she wanted to meet him. The next day, I had to tell him that my mom wanted to meet him.
As I stood inside his apartment listening to him sing, my mind went back to what my mom told me the day before. His dad had left one morning to go to work and had never returned. Killed in a car accident. They were very close. That was two years ago. But the world he had created had started before that.
I stood there looking at him singing, even doing a little dancing. And later on after that lesson, I had to tell him about my mom’s request.
“Did you read that chapter?”
“I read more than one.”
“Can you turn off the music so we can start?”
“Let it play ‘til the end,” he said, coming up to me and in my face. “You sure you don’t wanna dance?” His eyes were dancing.
“Are you zonked?”
Back up to my face again. “Why? Never mind. You’re okay?”
“I am fine.”
He played an air guitar until the very last chord of that song. “Nice, huh?”
“It was okay.”
“It was more than okay. I love that song.”
“Can we start?”
“How many chapters did you read?”
“Did you understand them?”
“We will go over the part you understood and wrangle with the part you did not.”
“Wrangle away.” After we completed and I got up to get some water, he went into his room for something. “This is for you,” he said, holding up the something.
“What is it?”
“Take it and find out.”
“Wow, a pack of pens.”
“Yeah, you always say you misplace them. So there you go.”
“Oh and . . . this.” Another box, bigger. “It’s been a week since I’ve known you and . . . I just wanted to get you something special. Your friendship’s important to me . . . and your love. I picked it out and my mom got it for me.”
My hands were shaking a little opening that present. I was not expecting what came out of it. A ring. “It is beautiful,” I said, giving him a hug. “Cabot.”
“My mom wants to meet you.” His hands dropped like he had released something dangerous. “She is coming here tonight to see you. I think she spoke with your mom.”
“I’m not seeing her.”
“I’m not seeing anyone.” The door to the apartment opened; it was his mom.
“Hi,” she said to the both of us.
“You knew?” he asked.
“That I’ll be getting a visit tonight. What, were you gonna wait until she comes to tell me that she wants to see me?”
“I’m not seeing her!”
“Honey, please listen.”
“What did you tell your mom about me?” he asked me. That fear I noticed when I first saw him was back in his eyes.
“I told her that I love you.” He went into his room, slammed the door, and locked it. Both his mom and I tried to get him to open it. I became frustrated. I did not ask him to go outside. I did not ask him to meet just anyone. “I am leaving,” I said after nearly an hour at our attempt to get him out. “Just remember, I am not your savior. I am no Jesus.”
“Is that what you want?”
“No,” he said, cracking open the door and peeping out. “Will you stay with me when she comes?”
“I cannot. She wants it to be just you and your mom. Give me your hands.”
“Give me your hands.” He came out of his room. And taking one of the pens he gave me, I drew in his hands two smiley faces. And underneath I wrote I love you. “If you get nervous, look into your hands.” A knock at the door. She was there. After giving him a hug, I was gone. I was apprehensive about the next day.
I stayed up for most of that night. I heard when my mom came home. I heard when she came and stood in front of my room door. I heard when she went into her room.
I saw the full moon through the slight opening of my blinds. I wanted to go there. I wanted to be far away. I got no sleep. In the morning, I checked my email. There were messages. But none were from him. No phone calls either. I was expecting, no, I hoped for either one of them. Both I would not have mind. But none?
My mom was not up, that was odd. I knocked on her door. No answer. Her door was always unlocked. I opened it and went in. And she was not there. I did not hear when she left. I was worried. After leaving a note, I went to the elevator. And when it opened there she was. My mom, his mom, and . . . him.
They said good morning. He did not. Questions went off in my head one after another like an over zealous reporter on his first assignment. What was going on? Instead of heading into the elevator, I turned around and followed them.
“Where are you going, honey?” my mom asked.
“I want to know what is going on.”
“You’ll be late for school.”
I was not happy. My curious cat instinct was miserable. He never looked at me. He went out. School, why there had to be school at that very moment. I could not be absent; my mom would have found out.
School was miserable. Nothing replaced what I saw that morning. Not my friends, not my favorite teacher, not some guy that yelled, “Hey, watch where you’re going.” Not the chores or errands. Nothing.
No homework. Thank goodness. With one knock at his door, I was already inside the apartment. With a big smile he said, “Hi.”
“So what’s our lesson for today?”
“I thought we can go over what was taught over the two day period.”
“Okay. Hungry?” he asked as if everything was alright.
“No. Are you going to explain about this morning?”
“What about it?”
Was he kidding me? “You went out.”
“What did my mom say to you?”
“I think we better start.”
“Cabot?” Ignoring me, he took his usual seat. The lesson began. I was not happy. But even I knew when not to push him. “You are really good at this. Soon you would not need me to tutor you. Some thing fell on the page. Some liquid. A tear. He was crying. “Please tell me what is going on.”
“It is me you are talking to, remember.”
“I love you.”
“I love you. Why were you and our moms out this morning?” He got up and went over to the bookcase. He picked up the picture of his dad. “Cabot?”
“I have to change.”
“I have to change to be with you.”
“No, no, you change because you want to. It should be a choice.”
“I chose you.”
“I am not understanding.” He came and sat back down. Looking at me, I wiped his tears.
“For me to be your boyfriend, I have to be normal.”
“Normal? Who defines normal?”
“Was that my mom’s suggestion?” He did not answer. “Cabot?”
“My mom agreed with it.”
“Agreed with what? Please do not shut me out.”
“This morning was the beginning of the new me. It’s the right thing for me. We took a walk around the block. It was right for me. It was the right thing for me.” He got up and wiped the tears that began to flow again. “I have to be strong.”
“You did not have to speak to me when we first met. You came out of this apartment and came to my door twice. You are going to take online classes. Small steps but huge. Courage can come in small doses,” I said, standing up. “My mom meant well. Your mom meant well.”
“I’ll be coming to dinner on Sunday.”
“Yeah. Tomorrow’s Friday.”
“The last day of school.”
“I’m asking you on a date.”
“Cabot, you do not have to do this,” I told him, fearing that he was trying to do something that he was not ready to do.
“On the roof, early morning.”
“You do not have to.”
“Really early morning.”
“Now I’m hungry.”
There were two things I looked forward to the next day, my date with him and the questions that I wanted my mom to answer.
There I was, three-thirty in the morning, putting on my jeans and T-shirt for our date. Flip-flops and the ring he gave me completing my attire. Excitement had overtaken me. I tried to be as quiet as possible.
He told me to bring nothing. I went to the elevator, our meeting point. He was there waiting. He placed his finger over his mouth, indicating to me not to speak. When we were in the elevator, he spoke.
“Morning. What is in the bag?”
“You’ll see when we get on the roof.”
“Yeah about that, the door that leads to the roof, is it not always locked?”
“I mean like now.”
“How do you know if it is open?”
“Because it is,” he said, opening the door.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Look at that moon.”
“We’ll sit over there.” There was where two crates had been strategically placed. Taking his backpack off, he said, “Breakfast.” Wrapped sandwiches and two bottles of orange juice fell out of his bag.
“Yeah. Cold?” he asked, noticing me shivering like a feather being blown by a fan.
He took off his jacket and had handed it to me. He had on a white T-shirt and black jeans.
“Do you miss your dad?”
“Um . . . I do not know. You aren’t eating.” He took a bite into his sandwich and chewed as if he did not want to swallow. “I know you miss your dad very much.”
“We used to talk about everything. He was cool.”
“Keep those memories.”
“Sometimes it feel as if they’re not enough.” I did not know what to say, so what I did was to hold out my hand. He took it. “Stand over there.”
“I want to take a picture of you.”
“Now your time.”
“I don’t think so.”
“My pictures always come out . . . you know. I mean, I just don’t . . .”
“Let us take one together. Come stand next to me. Do not forget to smile,” I told him, holding up the camera. “Oops, I think we have to take another one.”
“I will go stand over there, you stay here.”
“I know what you’re doing.”
“You do? Smile.”
“Take the picture already.”
“Alright, alright.” I went and stood next to him. Showing him the picture, I asked why he did not smile.
“This place feels so cold.”
“It is going to warm up.”
“I’m not talking about the temperature.”
“Let us sit back down.” I said not wanting to go down sulky street. “Wanna watch a movie tonight? I will bring over one of my mom’s DVD. Why that look?”
“I have some that we can watch. I want you to listen to a song.”
“The one where you played the very last chord on your imaginary guitar?”
“I’m thinking about getting one.”
“You will become a musician, filling the airwaves with—”
“Will you sit back down.”
“But I have not finished my speech.”
“That’s the name of the group.”
“May I have your sandwich if you are not going to eat it?”
“Do you know what time it is?”
“Why is school five days a week?”
“To give young people something to do.”
“There are a lot of things that we can do like sleep and not get up—”
“It’s time to go back down.”
“And once again, you have interrupted my speech.” We collected the garbage we created and took one last look at the sky. Soon the sun would be up and all the lights that broke that darkness would be no more. “Thank you for this morning,” I told him as we stepped out of the elevator. “I wish it was longer.”
“Maybe next time.” He walked me to my door and then headed for his.
“See you later,” he said, taking it and then kissing me.
“Later.” I got some sleep, not much. After taking a shower, I met my mom in the kitchen. “Morning.”
“So, how was your date?”
“You knew about that?”
“Mom, what did you and Cabot talked about?”
“Eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”
“You will not tell me?”
“I’m going to take a shower.”
“Will he tell me?”
He did not tell me everything—not yet. That night, we watched two comedy movies, and I listened to that song. He finally told me. He told me what he had to do. The rules that he had to follow in order to be with me. I cried sorrowful, angry tears, not only because of those rules but for what I did the next day.
Will you help me find me?
Lost in the mire of this world.
Searching? Yeah, I am.
Guiding light, where are you?
At the end of the tunnel?
Searching? Yeah, I am.
Ch// Lost but willing to be found.
Need a helping hand.
Searching for that hand.
Yeah, I’m searching for that hand.
Those were some words to the song that I listened to. Was he trying to tell me something? I woke up the next morning and my eyes were red from all the crying I did. I stayed in my room. She was the last person I wanted to see, the last person I wanted to hear. I made up my mind that I was not going to let her let me be the cause of his pain. Little pushes I could accept, but she threw him across those lines that he was not ready to cross.
Rule one. He had to show up to dinner on Sunday.
Rule two. He had to go out in public by himself.
Rule three. He had to go to class, a building with other students.
Rule four. If taking me out on a date, it had to be out of the apartment.
Rule five. He had to go out with his mom.
Rule six. He had to see psychiatrist. Others would be added if necessary.
She left for work. I babysat. Skipped the movies with my friends. Stayed home. Made no contact with him. Did not check my email. Did not call. Ignored the phone and the knock on the door.
He was making changes. But they were not for him. It did not seem real. I was the reason for his rules. Love was helping. Love was hurting. It was bleeding.
What to do about the next day? About dinner at their apartment? That was my decision. I had to cut away from him. But why did it not feel right?
Do we have to explain why we are letting go?
I prayed. I cried. I felt like an overfilled glass teeming with confusion. We went to church and there was an anger that was in my heart toward my mom. I was angry but a tinge of guilt crept in. After I spoke with grandma, that guilt overthrew that anger. It had staged its coup and won. Why did that guilt made my anger feel dirty?
I thought I still could not face him. But if I decided not to go to dinner, then what was I doing at their apartment door with my mom?
“You’re early,” Ms. Cain said.
“I came to let you know that I’m going to buy dessert.”
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“I’ll be right back,” she said, leaving me behind like someone being sacrificed.
I sat on the couch. But for the first time, I felt very uncomfortable, almost like being suffocated. Ms. Cain was busy setting the table and moved lightly, as if her world had finally come together, or was close to it.
“Cabot’s in his room. He’s been in a mood since yesterday.”
“I . . .”
“Are you okay?”
“I will go see how he is doing,” I said quickly getting up.
His door was opened, and I went in, as if entering a place I did not want to go. He was lying out on his bed. His back toward me. The hikikomori statement had been torn from the wall. I told myself not to cry, but I did not listen. I did not know what to say. He moved. I walked slowly toward his bed, and he turned around. He was crying, too.
“So yesterday was special?” he asked sarcastically.
“I am never going to do that again; I am never going to abandon you.”
“Is your mom out there?”
“She went to buy dessert.”
“I think we’ve cried enough,” he said, getting up and wiping my tears. I wiped his tears away, too. “You be my strength and I’ll be yours.”
“Okay. Can I borrow a pen?”
“Why? Never mind, I know.” I drew a smiley face into his hand; he drew one into mine. “My mom cooked a lot.”
“We better go.”
“What is it?”
“I have something for you.”
“Not another ring, this one is enough,” I said, looking at the ring he had given me.
For the first time, he kissed me on my lips. My first real kiss. I still remember it. The sensation that rushed through my body and the happiness of my heart. Even in the midst of the hurt that surrounded us, I experienced something so beautiful, so natural. I am smiling right now. He took my hand and we went out. My mom arrived. We sat together, our hands clasped. There was much talking between our moms. We only spoke when we were asked a question. In the midst of their conversation another rule had to be carried out. The next day, Cabot learned more about rule number six.
“Is he good?” Ms. Cain asked.
“Highly recommended,” my mom replied.
“It’s a private matter.”
“I used discretion.”
“What do you think, honey?” Ms. Cain asked him. “We’ll meet the psychiatrist on Tuesday. At what time?” she asked my mom.
“I made the appointment for the afternoon.”
“Good, I’ll ask for that day off.” She rubbed his hand reassuringly. “It’ll be okay.” That was part of the conversation on Sunday.
‘Where are you? When will you be here? Got a new movie to watch. Don’t forget the anime. Where are you? Are you coming? Why aren’t you coming?’ Those were the seven emails he sent that Saturday. I read them on Sunday. It was Monday.
He squeezed my hand when he heard that he had to see a psychiatrist.
I really wanted to miss school. I spoke to him before I left. He told me that he was okay. I did not believe him. I decided to do something different that afternoon. I invited him over.
“Is this a picture of your dad?” he asked, noticing a picture on the living room wall.
“There are no pictures of my dad in here. Want anything to eat?”
“Good. About tomorrow?”
“Let’s not talk about it.”
“Okay,” I said reluctantly.
“Can I have some water please?”
“You are not comfortable.”
“I feel like your mom’s going to come home any minute.”
“It is way too early for that. We can leave if you want.”
“Want.” She had him on edge. He was relaxed when we went back to his place. “Do you wanna dance? Heard this cool song last night,” he said, heading to his room and returning with a CD. “I downloaded it,” he said, holding it up.
“What is it?”
:Canon in D major by Johann Pachelbel.”
“May I have this dance?”
“You may,” I said in a terrible aristocratic accent. “Cabot?”
“Sh-h-h, don’t talk. Let the music take over.” I did not realize when the music and dance ended. He lifted my head that I did not know was on his shoulder. He stared at me. I wanted to turn away but could not. I loved the look in his eyes. “I love you,” he said. “You mean so much to me.” I was speechless. He was good at expressing his heart. I was not.
We danced again, but to no music. It felt comfortable being there in his arms. We sat down on the couch and talked. His mom came home and went into her room. I did not want to leave, but my mom would have soon been home. He walked me to my door and kissed me once again on my lips—longer.
“Don’t forget our breakfast date.”
“I won’t.” I was looking forward to that.
I remembered my jacket. My mom knew again. I met Ms. Cain at their apartment door; she was smiling.
“Haven’t done aerobics in ages,” she said as if she could have gone all day doing that.
“They have classes this early?”
“It’s a twenty-four hour gym.”
“But it is very early.”
“I’m a morning person.”
“O-kay. Is he up?”
“He was asleep when I left. But I’m sure he’s up now,” she said finally opening the door. “See, the light’s on in his room. Go ahead, I’m gonna raid the fridge.” She was in a happy mood. Maybe it was the day off or something else.
“I am here for my breakfast date,” I said, opening the door. I wish I did not. “Cabot! Cabot! Ms. Cain!”
“What is it?!”
“Call an ambulance! Cabot! Cabot!”
A world can crash in a few seconds. Happiness can be taken away in a few seconds. Life can change in a few seconds.
He decided to leave life. His note was on his wall. Bright red letters—”I’m not ready!” Within my grief, I was mad. I was mad at the world; mad at his mom; mad at my mom—but most of all, I was very mad at him. Who gave him the right to murder himself? I hate him. But yet I love him. Days with him were schizophrenic. But I loved him.
The day after, I checked my email. ‘Sorry about breakfast. Love Cabot.’ That was the last message sent. I have a copy of it. I carry it around with me to remind me. Remind me of what? About life, love, and choices. But, God, even now I still miss him. I still do not understand.
This story is an original idea written by me.© Thanks for reading.
See you next Tuesday, God willing. 🙂
End of Love Isn’t A Mood Swing collection.
First Story The Farm Team
Second Story We Grew Up