By , Elk Grove, CA

My father's regular doctor is dead, which is partially my fault. Now, there's a bubbly forty year old blond with enough botox to preserve a mummy, and she's cleaning and wrapping up my dad. "Back so soon." She croons at first, pulling on rubber gloves and addressing the problems. No broken bones. Many cuts, and more scratches. Possibly a dislocated shoulder. The heavens, or fate, whatever you believe in it was smiling down on Emily and my father that day. She informs Emily and I about this fact multiple times. "I just can't believe it!" She exclaims, every other sentence marked with "so lucky", and " incredible". She could've been a professional hype man. "It's so lucky you and your boyfriend were there." She directs at Emily, who blushes but doesn't correct her. The doctor senses our unease."Your dad is resting for a while. You can leave for now." She finally admits, after consistent probing to see him. I have no other choice. Emily and I are once again in my car, going to my house. She's whiteknuckling the urge to scratch or pick at her gauze. Conversation is a welcome distraction. "He was coming after me." She morosely relates. The statement causes her to slump in her seat, a sign of her irritation. At herself, at the attacker. "You've had enough guilt." I assure her, keeping my eyes on the road. "Should I still feel guilty now?" "I don't have the answers." I state proudly, and I imagine she nods as I turn onto our street. "I'm serious. I have no plan for my life. This gap year thing is just procrastinating making decisions." I keep the playful tone of voice, but as the words leap off my tongue I feel a release. It's strange how well I can relate to Emily, more than my family and friends. "I still feel..." She starts, but trails off. She can't self consciously rub her neck due to the scrape, so she sits back and embraces the silence. "Like we don't really know each other." I fill in. We're at the house. Neither of us are jumping to get out."When the nurse said you were my boyfriend, I just thought, Is this believable?" I can look at her face now. It's glazed with worry. "Is it because I'm younger than you?" I question, something I had been wondering myself. My car still had the lingering smell of spoiled milk. My stomach retched for other reasons. "I left. I wasn't planninto come back. And this fate, or whatever it is that's pushing us together-" "Fate." I repeat, bewildered. Fate pushing us together? Doesn't that make it meant to be, whatever it is? She shakes her head. "This part of my life is over. I never want to come back here again." She spits out, calm but firm. I'm speechless. The kiss by the empty lamp post flickers in my mind. Crouching in the forest and digging for a gold charm. Humming along to Fats Waller as we drove to Neil's house. I don't want to say anything to her. And I want to say everything on my mind. "This is just a part of your life? Me? I guess I'm just a part of everyone's life, my dad, you, Jean!" "Carson. I didn't mean it that way." The anger is swelling in me. Whatever way she meant it in, I got the message. I storm inside, not bother into address my mother. When I get to my room I close the door softly. I can hear the front door slam as I slump down in front of my own. Voices and mumbling. Ten minutes pass, maybe less, before I hear the door shut again. I close my eyes and focus on chilling out. Angst is the silver lining on every clouded thought. No one loves you, no one will ever love you, I tell myself. This is the worst time for a breakdown. I repeat the childish phrase until the words lose meaning, as blurred as my tears. This isn't about Emily or Jean. It is not about my dad. It's just me, alone in my room, crying over all the time I've wasted caring about people who couldn't care less.

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