Max

By
“What’s going on sweetie?” My father cracked open my door and peeked inside as I lay on my bed wishing I could be someone else for just one day. Someone prettier and funny, more intelligent and the life of the party.

“Nothing. Why?”

“You just seem a little out of it these last few days.”

“No, I’m fine. I’m just really exhausted. This last semester really was hard for me to get through for some reason.”

I had just gotten back from my second year at NYU. The last semester was extremely hard for me and I enjoyed the thought of a relaxing summer before heading off again. I had gone to the doctors when I gotten back home because I started becoming uneasiness and tired.

“So tell me what’s going on with you lately?” the doctor had asked.

“Nothing. I just haven’t been felling really good for the past few days.”

“Well, has anything happened to you lately? Break-up, death in the family?"
“No, nothin’ like that.”

“Okay, it might just be stress. I’m gonna give you some pills. Take them once a day. And make sure to set up an appointment in about six weeks so I can check on you.”

I left with that and the pills in hand. I walked out to the parking lot and got into my car. I sat in the diver's seat and looked. Stared. Glared at myself in the rearview mirror for what seemed like ten minutes. Why hadn’t I told him my sister died not even a year ago? Oh well, that couldn't possibly be the thing that was catching up to haunt me.
It had almost been an entire year since the passing of my sister and the thought of a family get together was the last thing I need right now to remember her. But why would I care? At her funeral I felt nothing. Nothing for her. Yet on the outside I shed tears that meant nothing and went dry and shared heartache that was absent. But why, at my own sister's funeral, had I not shown any emotion and pretended to care and be mourning when on the inside I was hollow with emotion and parched of tears? Was I jealous of the attention she got? Was I angered she left me alone to go on with my life without her? Or did I just not know how to react?
I would be lying if I said that I had never been envious or resentful of Lauren. Besides the fact that she had a natural beauty people adored and intelligence, she was also full of personality and spontaneity. I remember the early summer mornings she would toss on her bathing suit and want to go swimming at seven in the morning. My parents acclaimed her and as bizarre as it is for me to say this being her older sister, she was my role model.

She was the girl in school people always wanted to become friends with, yet she was also the girl who stood up for herself. She formed her own opinions and beliefs, not by what others thought, but by what she truly believed. She seldom judged people and was never conceded or showed signs of arrogance, even with her high level of intellect. Deep down, she knew she was highly talented. School was considered “a breeze” to her and unlike me, she never had to put much effort in her studies. Like her beauty, her intelligence came naturally to her.

It was my grandparent's idea to have a family get together in honor of her passing and our house was nominated to hold the occasion. Family and friends were invited to memorialize along with her friends from high school. Neighbors and cousins, teachers and kids she babysat all packed our house. Little children ran around as if it were some sort of birthday party.


Pictures of her occupied the fireplace mantel and sat atop the tables with floral arrangements scattered throughout the house. Food in Tupperware and vegetable casseroles in glass containers overflowed the countertops along with liters of soda pop. This was what the remembrance of my sister included; hotdogs, potato salad, paper plates and plastic utensils. Yet, knowing her, this is what she would have wanted. A barbecue- styled party. It was all about her today. This is what I had to keep telling myself the entire time I sat at the table and watched as the guests mingled with one another and shared stories of Lauren. Once again, I felt nothing. Nothing for her. Here, we were holding a 'party' for her and she wasn’t even there to have all the attention.

"Why are you just sitting here?" my father asked, breaking my train of thought.

"Just thinkin'. Why?"

"Well, a lot of the guests are wondering where you've been cuz' they want to talk to you."

"I've been sitting here the entire time." I shot back.

"Why don’t you walk around a little, talk to a few people. It'll do you good."

I stood up with a sigh as I let my eyes wander around the room and glanced at the little groups the guests had already formed with one another. I slowly started to meaner throughout the room picking up on different bits and pieces of conversations.

"What are you doing next weekend?"

"How is your new job going?"

"Did you hear about the person down the street?"

By this time, people had become uninterested and bored. No more talk of Lauren. No more stories to be told. No more mourning period. I walked into the family room and glanced at my mother standing with our neighbor as my mother laughed and slapped her knee. I was on my way to sit on the couch and out the corner of my eye, I caught sight of my little cousin, Max, throwing his Lego trucks against the wall. I looked at him in confusion and then looked over my shoulder. Where the heck are this little kid's parents? Why was he chucking his toys against our wall? I walked over to him and picked up the truck and handed it to him nicely, in an attempt to demonstrate the nice way to play with his toys.

"Max, what are you doing? Why do you keep throwing your toys against the wall? You know that's not nice."

"I don’t care!" he yelled as he threw it once again.

I picked it up again and looked around the room but still couldn’t spot his parents
"Where are your parents?"

"I don’t care!"

"Max, stop yelling. Where is your mom?"

"I don’t care!" he shrieked.
This time, heads turned and eyes glared. What was I supposed to do with this boy? I couldn’t control his temper. Where are his parents!

"Max, what's wrong? Are you sad about something?"

"I want new toys! I want new toys!"

"What’s wrong with the toys you have right now?" I knelt down beside him on the carpet.

"I hate them! Everyone at school has new cool toys and mine stink!"

"Max, don’t be upset about this. It'll be okay. You don’t always need what everyone else has, you know."

"Yes I do! Yes I do!"

"No Maxie, you don’t! You have to be happy with what you have right now."

"But I want new toys and mommy won't get me any more."

"That's because you already have more toys than you know what to do with. What is it you want so badly?"

"The new Hot Wheels car."

I looked at him. I studied this little eight year old boy wearing a light blue Polo shirt and khaki pants. He had everything in the world and yet he still wasn’t happy. He was healthy, had a bed to sleep in, and a family to love and care for him, yet he hated the world at his moment because he didn’t have the new Hot Wheels car. How innocent and lucky was this little boy, he had not a care in the world. He had no idea he was here because his cousin had died. Right now he didn’t have to deal with college and his future. All that was on his mind was the fact that he didn’t have the same cool toys the kids at school had.

As I looked at him, I saw myself in him. I saw Madison in Max.

"Maxie, it’s okay. You have to be happy with the toys you have here because somewhere out there, a little boy just like you has nothing. He has no Lego truck or Superman figurines and you know what?"

"What?"

"I bet he doesn’t have the new Hot Wheels car. So you know you're not the only one in the entire universe without the new Hot Wheels. Okay?"

"Okay,"

This was me. I was just like him. I was like my eight year old cousin Max upset over not having a toy. He was unaware of the things he really had, until someone shoved the facts in his face and made him realize that he had everything in the world. I had my sister. I had her memories. I had her. Yet I took advantage of the time I had with her and in the blink of an eye, she vanished. She was gone from my grip, my hold, my grasp. I was always jealous of her. Her beauty, intelligence, personality. Was that the reason I only pretended to be mourning at her funeral? She had everything I never possessed. I showed jealously but was that really a way for me to get back at her? In reality, it had taken me a year and an eight year old to make me realize that Lauren had been the best thing in my world. With her gone, I knew a piece of me went away with her.

Right then a tear slid down my cheek and onto my hand. It was the first tear in a year that meant something to me and at that moment the façade went away and the realization of the love I had for Lauren came back and looked straight at me.


"Maddy, are you okay? Did I make you cry?"

"No hunny. You didn’t do anything."

"Why are you crying?"

"I was just thinking, that's all. Hey, Maxie. How would you like to go get some ice cream? Would you like that?"

"Yeah, let's go Maddy!”
And there we went, hand in hand.





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