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He looked at his reflection and sighed, he didn’t know who he was anymore. The cold sink water splashed onto his face as he tried to wipe those thoughts away.
Michael Caldwell had moved to Alaska six months earlier to pursue his dreams of needed an escape from his past.
He walked out of the bathroom and threw on his grey hoodie and knit hat. He quickly checked his voicemail, which was empty, before grabbing his camera and heading outside.
The Alaskan sky was a beautiful shade of blue glistening with white, puffy clouds. Michael began walking towards the woods like he did every day. Driving makes you ignore all the beauty around you, he thought to himself.
When he arrived at his destination, he set his gear down and patiently waited for the woods to come alive. He hated this part of the day, it forced him to think. Thoughts flooded through his mind and he couldn’t stop them. He remembered the summer before his senior year of high school; he remembered when everything changed. He pushed every thought to the back of his mind as he saw a deer approaching.
He gently lifted the camera and focused in on the deer. It was completely unaware of his presence as he snapped the photos. At least I have one thing I’m good at in life, he thought to himself.
After crouching in the woods for several hours waiting, Michael packed up his gear and headed to his cabin. He opened the door and added wood into the stove. Once again he checked his voicemail to find no messages. Why do I even bother checking it? he asked himself. But deep inside he knew why, he was desperately lonely. Since moving to Alaska right after high school, he hadn’t spoken to anyone. He lived in a fog spending each day the same as the last. He hadn’t even heard from his family but why would they want to talk to him after what he did?
After daydreaming for a few minutes, he fell asleep. He often did this to pass the long, painful days. He was sleeping soundly when his phone began to ring. He awoke suddenly at this now unfamiliar sound. He picked it up hesitantly and looked at the caller ID. “Mom,” it read. He quickly flipped it open and said, “Hello?”
“Michael?” the voice asked.
“Yeah, it’s me,” he replied with a shaking voice.
“We need to talk,” his mother told him.
“I know,” he said trying to control his emotions.
“Listen Michael, I know you feel horrible about your brother’s death but you can’t just run away from your problems! Don’t you understand that we miss you here at home?” his mother screamed through her sobs.
“I can never forgive myself for what I did,” Michael replied through his own tears.
“I know how you feel! Why do you think we haven’t contacted you, Michael? I couldn’t even bear to look at pictures of you after the accident! It’s taken me this long to forgive you so I know that you haven’t forgiven yourself!” she exclaimed.
“What am I supposed to do?” Michael asked raising his voice.
“You need to come home! You can’t run from it anymore!” she told him. Michael sighed and tried to gather his thoughts.
“Honey,” his mom said, “We need you here.”
“I don’t know,” he told her.
“We love you and forgive you, it’s time for you to come home and forgive yourself,” she told him and hung up the phone.
He stared at the open screen for what seemed like hours. He knew that she was right, but how could he go back? He set the phone on the table and cried himself to sleep.
During the night, the most vivid flashback came to him. He saw his hand starting the ignition of the car, he saw the tires begin to move in reverse, and he heard his brother’s screams as his life can to an end.
Michael sat up drenched in sweat. Tears rolled down his face as the memory rushed through his head again and again. He had to go home now; it was the only thing to do. He could never forget it, but perhaps time could heal.