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Letters to David

"Okay Charlie focus," Marcus said. Marcus is my counselor. He didn't want me to call him Mr. Asher because he thought I would be more open to talking if the sessions didn't feel so formal and seemed more like casual conversations rather than counseling. But regardless of what he asked me to call him I still wasn't going to talk. I never did, but he still tried.

"Marcus its not that I'm not focused because I am, I'm just focused on not listening to you," I said, as my eyes inched along the seams on the arm of the dark brown leather sofa in his office.

"You're going to have to talk to me about David eventually, otherwise these sessions are going to be for nothing," he said. He clicked his pen out of irritation. I shifted my eyes from the seams to the lines on his empty notebook, trying to make it obvious that I wasn't listening. "I know its hard for you but I think your brother would want you to-"

"You have no idea what my brother would want, Marcus," I said as my eyes shot up from the notebook. "and anyway, all these sessions have been doing is wasting my time, and why I stayed this long is beyond me," I was yelling now. I grabbed my coat from the cushion beside me and walked out. Marcus yelled after me as I left, but he didn't follow me. I guessed it was because he was just used to people running out all the time.

As I was leaving the office, I passed dozens of posters that were supposed to be encouraging but constantly annoyed the crap out of me, because what is a freaking kitten hanging on a tree branch going to do for me? Nothing. When I finally made it to my car, I sat for a minute. Watching my breath turn white as I exhaled. I wanted to go home, but I didn't at the same time. Spending all day in the house alone waiting for my mother to come home from her office didn't sound too appealing. Especially since that's how it was just about every day.
Two years before David died my dad cheated on my mom. They got a divorce and my mom spent more time in her office than she needed, I assumed just to hide the fact she was so devastated. But when my brother was diagnosed with cancer, she spent every waking minute with him. At the hospital and at home, but after he died she went overboard. She would be away from home sometimes for two days at a time and she would stay in her room on her days off, working on countless projects, some of which I'm certain she made up, looking for an excuse to stay cooped up in her room. Apparently she thinks she's the only one hurting.
When I finally got home, I went to my room, dropping my coat by the door as I walked in. I plopped down onto my bed and pulled a box out from under my bed. As I opened it, one of the several pictures I had in the box fell out. It was a picture of David and me at the hospital the week before he died. My throat burned as I tried not to cry. I put the picture beside me on my bed and began looking at the others. I found one of David holding a fishing pole over the side of a boat and smiled as I remembered our camping trips. We used to go camping all the time with our Uncle Ryan. We loved camping because it was the only time our lives felt semi-normal, and no one had to worry about hospital visits or treatment days or anything that had to do with cancer. I put the camping picture with the hospital picture and found one of the both of us with our heads poking out from inside the fort we made out of blankets, smiling. We used to stay up all night in our fort, talking by the glow of our flashlights until our mom came in and took them. I put the photos back in the box, and as I placed it under my bed a little slower than actually necessary, I began to cry. I hadn't cried in a while, but at that moment I felt like I had no one. I lost my best friend, my parents, and slowly but surely, I was losing my sanity.
The crying turned to sobbing and I could feel myself losing it. I screamed as loud as I could as I grabbed my little league baseball trophy and sent it flying into my closet door. I watched as the tiny shattered pieces fell to the floor, seemingly in slow motion. I sat on the floor next to my bed and cried for about two more minutes before getting up and going to the bathroom. I splashed my face with cold water, and as I dried my face off with the sea foam green hand towel that hung on the hook next to the sink, I looked in the mirror at my red and puffy face.

"What happened to you?" I said aloud. I was half-hoping I would actually have an answer, but after staring at my reflection for a moment I realized I didn't. I turned the light off and went back to my room. I kicked my shoes off and jumped into bed, not bothering to change my clothes. I shut my eyes tighter and tighter until I finally fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning to the smell of dark brewed coffee and vanilla creamer. Mom was home. I walked in the kitchen and she was facing the sink, looking at the yard from the small window above the faucet.

"Hey mom," I said. She jumped before turning around. "Sorry. I wasn't trying to scare you or anything,"
"You're alright. How was your night?" she asked. She looked as exhausted as ever.
"Fine," I replied. I cringed as I thought of the trophy crashing against the door.
"Good," she said, turning back around to pour herself some coffee. I stared at the blinking numbers on the stove clock, contemplating whether or not I should tell her about counseling. I knew she would find out regardless if I told her or not, but I decided I didn't want to make things worse between us by hiding the fact that I quit.

"Mom there's something I need to talk to you about," I said. She looked up abruptly from her coffee mug and put the stirring straw she had in her hand on the counter.
"What's wrong? Did something happen at school? Something with Marcus?" she relied. She was a little more worried than she needed to be.
"Actually something did happen at counseling."
"Oh god," she said. Her eyes widened and she put her and to her chest like I told her I had just committed a felony.
"It's nothing major, mom. We just got into a little argument and I decided that counseling wasn't the best thing for me," I said. She seemed to be thinking about how to reply.
"Alright," she said finally.
"Alright?"
"Yeah. If you feel like counseling is the best thing for you then I won't force you to go," she said.
"Uhh...okay.." I said. She walked past me on her way to her bedroom and it seemed like she might've smiled at me as she pressed her mug to her lips. I didn't move until I heard her door close, as if the slightest movement would reverse everything that just happened. I almost felt like if I made a noise or breathed the wrong way she would come back and yell at me and tell me how disappointed she was in me, because usually, in a situation like that she would be extremely ticked. But that was probably the strangest conversation we'd had since David died. But it was also the strangest because she gave more than one-word answers and she wasn't yelling. It felt kinda good to finally have a semi-normal conversation with her.

I went upstairs and opened my closet and reached for my binder. But it wasn't a regular binder. On the outside it was plain, totally black. But the inside was filled with pictures, pamphlets, letters from David that he sent me when he was at summer camp, birthday cards and notes, all about David. The binder also held the letters I had written to David after he died. I figured since I hated counseling, I had to do something to find closure. I obviously wasn't ever going to send them but as long as I wrote to him, I felt like David was still here. I carried the binder to my bed and read part of the first letter I wrote to him.

David,

How are ya man? I miss you a lot, dude. You better be missing me right back. But anyway, I think mom has lost her marbles. I'm not far behind her though. It's really hard here without you David. Mom has me in counseling and it hasn't helped at all. That's why I'm writing to you. I thought it would help. How's Heaven? I bet you have hair now. Ha. ... Anyway, I gotta go. Say hey to the Big Guy for me. I love you bro.





-Charlie.

I started to write another letter, but I decided I would go to write. I hadn't been in a while, and I thought it would be nice to get out of the house for a day. So I showered and got dressed, grabbed my binder, and started to leave when I remembered my mom was still in her room.
"Hey mom," I yelled, "I'm headed to the library."
"Okay Charlie, have fun," came her muffled reply.

When I got to the library I sat at the most secluded table I could find and began to write. And I continued to write for about two hours. Other than the first one I wrote, this was the longest. My butt started to hurt from sitting in the flat wooden chair for so long, so I grabbed my binder and started to look around the fiction section. Just as I was about to grab a book, I saw Marnie Stevens, my best friend from middle school.

"Marnie," I said. Her eyes darted around the room before landing on me.
"Oh my goodness. Charlie Hollins. How've you been squirt?" she said.
"Wow. Haven't heard that since middle school," I laughed. She called me squirt because she was taller than me in seventh grade and even after I hit a growth spurt the name still stuck.
"Well I haven't seen you since middle school, dork," she said as she hugged me.
We sat down and I told her about David. I told her about the letters and my mom and I even told her about Marcus and the freaking kitten poster. But most importantly, I told her about my search for closure.
"Well I've heard that if you bury or burn or do something symbolic of moving on with something that represents your loved one you find closure sooner," she said.
"Really?" I asked.
"Yeah." I had to admit it made sense.

"Hey, you wanna go to an early movie?" I asked
She smiled, "Sure."

We left the library and went to the movies. We spent an extra hour at the mall after the movie, and another hour and a half at Applebee's. It was the happiest I had been in a while. When we left the restaurant, I drove Marie home.

"Marnie I can't thank you enough for tonight," I said.
"No prob, squirt," she replied. I watched her walk to her door before I went home.
When I got inside, I walked past the living room and saw my mom at the kitchen table. She looked like she had been crying.

"Mom?"
"Hey honey," she replied.
"What's going on?" she gestured for me to sit down beside her.
"I realized I haven't been the greatest parent and we haven't really been communicating very well since we lost your brother," she paused to see if I would reply but I let her talk, "and I am so, so sorry," she began to cry.
"Mom, don't be sorry," I said, reaching over to hug her. "Losing David has been hard on me too." She cried for a few minutes as I held her, and eventually we were both close to breaking down and sobbing.
"Why don't go see him tomorrow?" my mom suggested. I hesitated at first because I had only gone to the cemetery once since his funeral, but after I thought for a second, I decided I wanted to go to see David but also so I could spend time with my mother.
"Sure mom," I said. She smiled a real smile for the first time in a long time.
"Alright. Then maybe we should get some sleep because I want to get there early," she said.
"Night mom,"
"Night sweetie," she replied.

After I left the table, my mom sat there for a minute, thinking. She seemed a little distant. Lost in thought. I made my way up to my room and changed into my pajamas. It took me about half an hour to fall asleep. Right before I drifted off, I heard my mother's door shut. I smiled. I was actually excited about tomorrow, and I think my mom was too.

I woke up the next morning at 7:30 to my alarm clock, but apparently my mom couldn't sleep because she was already up before I even took my shower.

"Hey kiddo," my mom said as I came into the living room.
"Hey mom. Couldn't sleep?"
"Not really," she said as she slipped her left shoe on. "You ready?" she said, as she stood up. I suddenly remembered what Marnie had said last night at the library.
"One second," I said, "just let me grab something real quick." I went back to my room and grabbed my binder. I opened the binder and looked at all the letters I had written. For a second I thought about leaving them and taking something else, but I decided to take the letters. I put them in a manila envelope and carried them out to the car with me.
"What's that?" my mom asked.
"Just something I'm leaving with David."
Once we got to the cemetery, we walked over to David's tomb stone.
"It's petty warm out here," my mom said. And she was right. It was the middle of November and I could almost take my jacket of and be totally comfortable.
"Now that you mention it, it is a really nice day," I replied. We stood in silence, just looking at his tomb stone for a minute until I reached down and placed the envelope on the grass in front of it. My mother didn't bring anything to leave so she kissed her hand and placed it on the stone.
"You know, I've realized that I'm not always going to have you in my life and I could lose you at any moment," my mom said, "and I just want you to know that I really am going to try harder to be a part of your life." she said. I looked up at her and saw that she was beginning to cry again.
"Thanks mom," I replied. "I love you."
"I love you too, honey," she said. I grabbed her hand and we walked back to the car. As we were pulling away, I looked back at the letters lying on the ground.
"I love you too, David." I whispered.



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