May 26th 2015
The woods were dark in my dream. There was barely enough light to even make out the towering oaks and pines that densely covered either way that I looked with a thicket of dark leaves and needles. I was walking, looking everywhere for something important, my mind knew what it was, but the thought was barred from coming to the surface of my mind. I searched desperately trying to shout out to whatever it was that I was missing, but when I called out I was invaded by the darkness and my voice was taken from me.
My sight began to give in to the dark, unable to discern the trees from the dark and the moon began to fade as dark black clouds hovered ever nearer before finally enveloping it. The darkness seeped through my body and my veins, causing me to sink to my knees and try to force out some air from my lungs, only to be greeted with a burning and choking sensation as the black tar around me suffocated me.
I woke with a start, head pounding and sweating profusely, clutching my blankets to me for security, taking in the light that covered the room, even though it was still dark.. There was a sigh of relief, while I still shivered and panted, trying to recover from the dream. It shouldn’t be that scary, it was just the dark. Yet, it was the most terrifying dream that I’d had since I was five and my father left.
I rolled over, still clutching the blankets and shaking, I felt the anxiety in the back of my heart creeping through the precipice and mocking me. I got up, my boxers shifting as I got out of the bed and rummaged around for some sweat pants, pulling them on with one leg and then maneuvering the other into it. I picked apart my dresser and found my pack of cigarettes and lighter I kept. Then, grabbing my charcoal colored hoodie that hung on the doorknob and opening my room up to the abyss of an empty house. I paused for a moment, listening for any type of noise that gave away awakened people. There was nothing but the loud sound of snoring and the wind that bent the trees to tap on the windows gently and rake across the side of the house.
The floor creaking started softly, and then got louder until I was out the door and on the porch. The door unhinged with a click and then hissed as it moved out of the way. I let it close behind me and sat on the porch swing, taking out one of the cigarettes and lighting it. The smell of tobacco and vanilla accompanied by the burning sensation that rushed down my throat felt comforting. I didn’t usually smoke, but every now and then I just needed a cigarette to calm me down.
On nights like tonight, when I knew that there wouldn’t be any sleep afterwards, I would come sit out and smoke while I watched the stars and swung back and forth. The air was colder tonight than usual, a frigid wind blew and I pulled my hoodie in closer as I took another drag of the cigarette.
“You’re looking bored.” A voice said, startling me from my thoughts.
When I turned, Zach was standing in the doorway and then made his way over to the swing, taking a place next to me. He had on a similar outfit as me, a yellow hoodie zipped up to a little below his bare chest, and a pair of red sweatpants that he probably picked up off of the floor of his bedroom.
“Why are you up?” I asked, looking over at him as I took a drag.
“I couldn’t sleep,” he said, turning his eyes over to me, “Obviously you couldn’t either. I thought I might want some fresh air.”
“It can help a lot,” I said quietly, “Especially when you have a lot on your mind.”
“We most certainly have that now,” He said quietly, “Now don’t we?”
“In spades.” I replied unenthusiastically.
He looked over at me with some emotion in his eyes that I wasn’t familiar with. They were slightly glossed over from the sleepiness, but they looked pained almost, like whatever he was feeling was eating him up.
“I can’t believe he came back,” Zach said, “After all of these years and he just walks in one day and decides to be a father.”
“He’s never made any sense,” I scoffed, “I’m more surprised you and Sean actually gave him a chance.”
“I was too to be honest,” he said, running a hand through his hair, “I guess I just wanted to see if he’s really going to try. I can’t get anymore disappointed with him.”
“Don’t speak too loud,” I said sarcastically, “The universe might hear you and decide to prove you wrong.”
He chuckled at this and then we fell silent again. Between drags on my cigarette I would puff smoke into the air and watch it float away in the wind. The hinges on the swing sang softly as it rocked back and forth. I looked out over the skyline and remembered my dream, the darkness choking me. I gulped and took a long drag of my cigarette, the burning sensation flooding down my throat and then a great cloud puffing outwards and swirling away in a vortex.
Zach looked over at me and our eyes met for a moment, I looked down, knowing that he could see something was wrong. What did the darkness mean, and what was it I had been looking for so desperately? Maybe it was acceptance, or maybe it was something else my heart longed for that was forever out of reach.
“If I tell you something,” I whisper, barely audible, “Will you promise me you won’t tell anyone? At least not yet anyhow?”
“Of course Austin,” He said, concern mounting in his voice, “What’s wrong bro?”
“I- when I was at that party-” I hesitated for a moment, fearing his reaction, “Michael and I- we- We did stuff. Together.”
“You mean like,” he was hesitant for a moment, “Kissing and stuff?”
I nodded grimly and watched as he looked away for a moment, a little perplexed. I took another drag of my cigarette and the stamped it out, lighting up a new one and taking a heavy puff from it. Zach looked at the ground and then sighed a little, continuing to sway with me and we rocked on the swing.
“Do you like him?” Zach asked finally, “And, does he like you?”
“Yeah, he’s really nice to me,” I said quietly, “And I really like him.”
“Then that’s all that matters to me,” He said, looking me in the eye with a small smile, “You’re my brother Austin. I love you no matter what you do, and besides, I kinda had a feeling you liked guys.”
I nodded with a smile and hugged him, my arms wrapping around his back and squeezing him tight. My baby brothers meant everything to me, especially Zach. He always knew how to make me feel better, and what to say. He and I were really close, not to discount Sean of course, but we just got each other a little bit better than Sean did.
“How do you think Mom and Sean will react?” I asked, letting go and being forced back into reality.
“I think Mom will take it fine,” he said slowly, “She might be a little awkward for a bit, but I think she just wants you happy. As for Sean, well…”
“He’s Sean.” I said with a small smirk, “I expect there to be plenty of teasing.”
“Yeah,” Zach continued with a chuckle, “He’ll tease you, but he won’t let anyone give you shit about it. He’s just that type of person.’
I nodded, dragging on my cigarette one last time and then stamping it out. Black charring marks smearing across the porch landing. I felt a lot better now than when I had been upstairs, alone, and my secret was finally out in the open, relieving a huge burden from my shoulders.
“Who else knows about you two?” Zach asked.
“Just you and Lily,” I said quietly, “I just don’t know what to think yet, with everything happening so quick. I don’t want to go rushing to conclusions.”
“Yeah,” Zach said softly, “There’s no need to rush anything. Just… if you think this is gonna last, don’t wait to tell Mom and Sean. They’ll always love you, but you know how well secrets and lying goes in this family.”