This is sort of a continuation of Day 46. Prompt: I did not see that coming.
The night feels quiet after the din of the party, the soft breeze rustling my hair and pushing it into my eyes. I swipe it away and look at Darryl. He seems much more relaxed out here, away from all the people and noise. Not that I blame him. Parties used to overwhelm me, but now it’s as though they mirror the din in my own head, giving me a nice reprieve from any thought other than beer and being a wallflower.
We walk together, not speaking, letting the bustle of the night talk for us. I hear the distant whine of a siren; probably a kid with alcohol poisoning. The silence between us is easy this time, all the tension from the party melted away by the crisp night air. I shove my hands into the hoodie’s front pocket, curling them together to keep my fingers warm.
Darryl breaks the silence with a question: “So what are your parents doing now?”
I sigh, blowing a puffy cloud of breath into cold night air. “My dad is still working as an investor at a bank. Pretty dull work, I think, but ‘it pays the bills.’ My mom… I don’t know. She had quit her job when I was 11; she was too stressed out to be an interior decorator. I don’t know if she’s gone back to work since I left.”
“You didn’t leave. They abandoned you.”
His face is stubborn and I see some personal heartache in those smoky eyes.
“What about your family?” I ask gently.
Now it’s his turn to sigh. “My parents are both teachers. My dad teaches history at the local high school and my mom teaches fifth grade.”
He pauses for a moment and I wait for him to continue.
“My younger brother… Alex. He died two years ago. He was… He was driving from Ohio to see me. I went to undergrad locally, so this was the first time we were apart. He was so excited to see me. It was raining and a semi truck lost control. The paramedics said he died instantly on impact.”
Darryl goes quiet, and I gently take his hand. We don’t speak, just walk hand in hand until he’s ready to continue. I try to imagine what it would be like if Jo died and a shudder goes through me.
“My parents… they blame me for his death. I shouldn’t have gone to school so far away. I was accepted at the local college and they wanted me to stay close by, but I wanted to get out and try a new place. If I had stayed… he’d still be here. They haven’t forgiven me.”
We’ve stopped moving and are silent for a moment while I digest this new information.
“Your parents are ignorant,” I tell him.
Startled, he looks at me, plain shock written on his face. It’s really not like me to insult people, but…
“Any number of things locally could have killed your brother. Statistically speaking. For your parents to single out and blame you is an ineffective coping mechanism developed to deal with the sense of guilt and failure they feel as parents.”
Darryl stares at me for a moment longer, my stubborn gaze meeting his. He smiles and tilts his head away, taking my hand and continuing our walk. I look up at the stars, trusting him not to let me run into anything.