My Burden

February 13, 2010
By , Waxhaw, NC
The wind was cold as it whipped through my long hair while I shut the door behind my cousins. I jogged to catch up to them as they walked up the street chatting it up. When I caught up with them I joined the conversation and we all talked about what had happened since we’ve been apart and what was going on. Eventually I said “Hey Cate, can we talk……….”
It all started two years ago, when I was fourteen and on top of the world. I happened to be at my uncle's beach house in Delaware for another one of our silly family reunions. These stupid get-togethers were happening more recently as of late for some reason my parents had kept hidden from me, but that night they decided to tell me.
Just a few weeks ago my grandmother had gone to a hospital in Virginia and discovered from a genetic test that she had Huntingtons, a dominant disorder in which the brain basically wastes away. When I heard this the entire world seemed to fade away as I absorbed the truth. My grandmother was going to go completely insane and, in her mind, die alone. As soon as I snapped back to reality my parents then told me that my father had been tested and was negative for the gene and that my brother, myself, and any future children were safe. This made me feel better but my father also said under no circumstances was I to let any of my cousins know, as I was the only child who knew.
Later that same night I was on the beach laying in a giant, shallow pond formed on the beach from the sea water washing on shore. As I stared at the stars I couldn’t help but think about my cousins as they laughed and played and how they didn’t know anything about our grandmother. However as soon as I began this contemplation, my cousin Mickey came over and sat down next to me and said “Hey P.D., do you know what’s wrong with grandma?”
Caught off guard, I struggled inside to tell her what was going on. Mickey had been my closest friend ever since we started the reunions and was really the only reason I went. She and I had no secrets that we kept from each other and were practically brother and sister. Though it killed me inside to lie to her I said, “Something’s wrong? I never really noticed. Maybe you’re just being overly analytical.”
She shrugged and walked off to return to splashing with Cate and Jake. As I watched her go I felt a little part of me break inside. I had just lied to the only person in the world that I trusted above everyone else. I laid back down and breathed deeply as I stared at the stars and thought to myself, if only my life was as simple and as perfect as a starry night on the beach listening to the deep, alluring song of the sea.
After the reunion was over and everyone in the family returned to just visiting every now and again, my life took a turn for the worse. School had started and I had absolutely no idea the inner workings of high school, being a freshman. My friend Chrissy and I had been having trouble adapting and tried to stay as close knit as he had been back in middle school. Yet we eventually began to drift apart from each other and when we were together, we fought terribly. She had stepped forward into the popular group as I faded into the darkness of anonymity, giving us very different views of the world and its people.
From my disappearance into faceless crowd, I grew more mature and intelligent. I discovered that the world is comprised of the good, the evil, the fearful, and the courageous. I learned patience and the qualities of a good and meaningful friendship. Chrissy seemed to learn just the exact opposite; everything in her eyes was damned and condemned. The world was out to get her and the only way to defend herself was to drink and become a cold, heartless shell of the person she once was.
Naturally we eventually stopped being friends but we still continued to fight. Eventually the fights got so bad we never talked to each other again but one day before break we really got into it. The exact conversation remains a blur as I was in a blind fury, but I did remember that she kicked me and something in my mind just snapped. It was as if an incredibly powerful darkness and rage took over as my hand flew through the air and collided with her face while she kicked me in the thigh. When my hand had fallen to my side she just stood there hunched over and speechless. Seeing nothing else to do, I walked off the bus and began my journey into the true darkness of my heart.
My view of the world became cynical and I turned on my friends and treated them like dirt. I began questioning god and wondering how he could let the world be as f***ed up as it was. I turned on my family and treated them like my enemies and only took comfort in my girlfriend who was my only connection to my quickly fading humanity. Yet through all of this I never turned to alcohol or drugs to lessen the pain. I saw them both as a crutch and was determined to be stronger than anyone had ever been in this situation and see it through myself. During this time of my life I struggled with school and to find out who I truly was inside.
Somehow after all of this I pulled out of my downward spiral and began getting my life back on track. I went back to my friends and apologized for what I had done and found out that they knew I would come back from my dark place. I mostly patched things up with my family but I fear that too much damage has been done to completely mend the tear between us. I grew more philosophical and instead of questioning why god is letting atrocities be committed and if he exists, I asked myself why do people turn their backs on god and what is their reason?
Suddenly out of the blue we had another family reunion and it was up to my grandparents for a thanksgiving dinner. It had been a year since I had seen my cousins and I was eager to learn what was going on in their lives, and more importantly how I can help them with their lives. Since the first family reunion I’ve been a kind of guide for my cousins and listened to their problems and told them what I thought or what they should do. So I was eager to get away from the adults and spend some time alone with each of them individually.
I shut the door behind my cousins and jogged to catch up to them as they walked up the street chatting idly. When I caught up with them I joined the conversation and we all talked about what had happened since we’ve been apart and what was going on. Eventually I said “Hey Cate, can we talk? I wanna know if there is anything I should know about.”
So Cate told me everything. She told me about how her recent alcohol abuse since the discovery of grandma’s Huntingtons. She also explained how her alcoholic parents seem to hate her and that she used to cut herself and almost tried to commit suicide a few weeks before. Cate also told me about how she sees no hope for the world and that there isn’t anything we can do but wait for our lives to end.
I sighed and thought about how I’m the only one who will ever hear this, the only one who can ever help, the only one who will ever know. I’m sworn to secrecy by a promise to each of my cousins to never let any adult know anything they tell me. I am the listener, the guide, and the lamenter of my life and the problems of my family. This is my responsibility. This is my burden.

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