“And my Mom starts to never talk to him anymore. I mean, I guess, at least my Dad got what he wants, right? THEY got what they want.” Atdhe drew a small circle on the ground using a twig he found. Fire cracked five feet after his shoes.
“And your sister?” Liam asked softly next to him.
“She doesn’t help. Being caught up all the time with her stupid friends. She’s lucky to be a 16 year old.”
“I’m 17 and I don’t feel like that.”
“Hey, you’re an orphan, I get that, really. And I respect that, okay?”
“Not like that. What I meant was I feel lucky all the time. You know I’ve been places, met different people… I’m just trying to have fun every time.”
The 13 year old looked at him in a flash. “I don’t know why I’m trying to put weight on my mind. I should give no crap on a crap.”
“You want to rationalize your inner pain. That’s normal.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Uh, you know…you want to feel like the problem all came from the outside… Because…it’s more sustainable than inner pain. It’s sort of your defense mechanism to prevent your mind going too deep down and losing control.”
Atdhe took a second to think. “So why can’t I just switch from caring to NOT caring and thinking about something else?”
“Because your real problem is yourself. You can try to reduce the symptoms of your anxiety upon whatever is happening in your family… You can sit here by the woods with me, light up a bonfire and get some good ol’ fresh air… That’s how you let yourself become less tensed for a while. But eventually, you also gotta find a method to let yourself go of the current issue and get yourself liberated in peace. You could go from trying to solve your problem, or not at all and just get yourself out there. Let it go. Stop taking it personally and just continue only your favorite parts of life.”
“That sounds impossible to me. Can people really do that?” Atdhe broke the twig into two and threw one piece to the fire.
“Sure. All the time. You’ve done a lot of things because you believed in yourself on doing them.”
Liam raised his shoulders. “I don’t know. Simple things like learning to use the toilet when you’re little, how to eat, where to get the fruit punch in a party, talking to people…”
“That’s common stuffs. I can do that because I saw everybody does it. I’m no ahead-of-the-curve type.”
“You did learn from past experiences of others. But then you believed that those would be new experiences for you. Because, if you wanna find out what’s good for you, you simply gotta try.”
“Yeah, okay, but how can that solve my family’s problem?”
“I’ve said it and I’ll say it again. It’s up to you which way you wanna go. The question is: what do you WANT to do? What’s your idea? Talk? Then talk to them. Tell them what you think and how you feel these days.”
“I just want us to go to Disney Land again like when I was 6? Do you remember that?”
“Yeah, I remember. You got pretty excited about seeing Peter Pan.”
“I know. I noticed he’s being so kind and supportive to visitors. Like this one girl who had cuts on her arm from self harming. And eventually he made her promise to stop cutting because, he said, every time she cuts, a fairy dies. She hugged him and cried in joy. Do you remember that, Liam?”
Atdhe stared at the ground. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“You’d be sort of sad.”
The boy looked at his best imaginary friend and sported a bitter smile. “Do you think I really gotta try?”
“Letting it out of your chest in an actual action will get you feeling so much better.” Liam touched the boy’s shoulder. “I’m not lying.”
The next dinner time, Atdhe talked it out on the table. He just said that it’d be nice if they can go to Disney Land again. He didn’t necessarily hang his hope on anyone. Simply saying what he believed would be good for him. Because, at this point, he came to understand his self-worth as a young kid who deserved having fun. That’s all.
After that, the stuffed chest lost its huge amount of tension. The boy went up to his room and smiled at what he’s done. And that’s liberating.
His parents started to talk again in a couple of weeks. By summer, they talked about going to Disney Land within the first month of the season. The house was warm and alive again. Atdhe’s sister secretly stared at her little brother and smiled in gratitude.
The next evening, Atdhe took off of the chair, leaving the glowing laptop screen and stared outside the window. He turned around and found a teenage guy sitting on the edge of the bed, didn’t age ever since Atdhe saw him in the first grade. The kid sat next to him and watched Liam’s pony tailed light brown hair and tan jacket. Those pale blue eyes were always Atdhe’s favorite physical feature. He decided the color of those eyes in 2nd grade.
“You’re not real, are you?”
Liam looked at Atdhe in the eyes and smiled. “I don’t have to be real to be your friend.”
Atdhe smiled lightly and whispered, “Thanks.”