She read the news on the two-and-a-half-inch by five-inch screen of her phone about three teenagers killed when their car inexplicably (for now) careened off the roadway, not the first tragedy she had read about this year, and hardly the worst, and it affected her like all the horrors of the world did, causing her to question the very existence, or at least the benevolence, of the God she has (or is it now had) put so much faith in, but this day—and who knows why this day and this news—the news about the three dead teenagers in a car accident brought her to tears, and she felt she had to hear from her son who was away at college, only thirty miles away, yet not seen since winter break, away during spring break with his father, not heard from in over a month, just one short phone call on her birthday, which she knew took effort (the phone call, that is) for him to make time for in the midst of the busy (but not really busy) schedule of a college student, and so having only recently learned how to text and knowing that it was his, and everyone else’s under forty or fifty, preferred mode of communication, she—having regained composure—messaged him: Your mother needs to know you are all right and she foolishly expected an immediate response, but when none came she realized how unreasonable that was, though she kept waiting for an imminent response that was not coming, and she knew there was no real reason to be concerned for him because despite being energetic and active, he was always conscientious and careful, even as a young child he was rarely reckless and impulsive, unlike her sister’s kids, who were troublemakers as children and are now disasters as young adults, but her son was strangely private, not reclusive, or introverted, but so unusually reserved as to be unknowable that one would think he were exceptionally shallow if not for the genuinely charitable nature of his social interactions, or so she thought, and thus she worried about him, but it was not a frantic worrisome concern that a mother would have with a clearly troubled child, it was a suspicion that something was not right, that something horrible was destined to strike such a person as her only son, something melancholic about his reserved nature, and now she worried that he was driving and that was why he had not seen the text because he was a cautious boy and wouldn’t look at his phone, let alone text message while driving, but her worry about him not responding would transcend space and he would be compelled to check his phone and text back and he’d crash and kill himself and she would never forgive herself and for good reason and that was probably what caused the car accident that killed the three teenagers in the first place—and as she waited for a reply she checked on her daughter, who still lived at home and was a typical teenage girl with her heartache over boys (some boy named Ryan) and obsessions with celebrities (some actor named Chris) with no rhyme or reason, who told her that the chances of any one or two people dying suddenly were slim and out of the six or so billion people in the world the few hundred thousand that died tragically were just a mere drop, and she told her daughter that she understood the math, but that it didn’t change how she felt, and the daughter, not bothering to understand emphatically, stated that it should change how she felt about the chance of harm befalling any of her kids at any one moment—but the mother wasn’t sure about that because there still was no response from her son, and now it was making her angry because he had to have seen it by now, kids nowadays constantly looking at their phones, or had things changed already again, and maybe college kids rarely looked at them, left them behind on the counter when they went out, deep in their backpacks while in class, which she took to be another sign that he was distant, and now she knew why she was uncommonly worried about her uncommonly untroublesome son, his uncommon reserve was his natural detachment to her and his family and he was going to drift away as he always had, creating his own life if not family and she might only become a greater part of his life years later, when she was old and fragile in both mind and body, while she knew her daughter would always be around, clinging to family; oh, it was all terribly silly to worry about this, not that she was certain that he was fine—she wasn’t—though she admitted it was most likely that he was perfectly fine, as fine as a young adult could be, but regardless of whether or not he was fine or in dire trouble she had no control over it because she could no longer make him healthy and secure and happy, those things were now all up to him and he was going to be however he made himself to be and she was on the fringe getting further and further out of the frame, so she put her phone in her room, shut the door so as to not hear anything, and cleaned bathrooms, the kitchen, the laundry room, and part of the garage and two and half hours later, after work had chased away all worries about her son, she entered her room and seeing her phone those worries rose up once more until she saw that three short messages had come in one after another an hour earlier: got this bruise on my thigh from soccer . . . other than that aok . . . love ya.
When the last ship vanished into the sky, afterburners flickering briefly in the dense black cloud ceiling that shrouded our world, there were fires. There were more of us then, and we poured, angry, through the streets, a human pyroclastic…
He wants her to believe he’s not fit for the world, no matter how well she’s tried to raise him, or what tools she’s given him. God is her witness, she’s tried hard.
When Mom found my stash like she had drug dog senses or something, she made a huge deal then called me into her bathroom, my sack in one hand and the cordless in the other, threatening to call Dad, which of course she never did.