I'm the Reason You're Alone Now

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After Michael let the dam break and cried on his knees on the freshly packed dirt in the graveyard, there was no resistance left.

He’s been shut up in the guest room at his aunt’s house for two days. He hasn’t left at all, his aunt’s worried enough to bring him food so he won’t starve and the bedroom adjoins to a bathroom. He does what he has to so he can live, goes through the motions and picks at the meals his aunt brings three times a day, showers every morning. He looks alive, but doesn’t act like it, with sleepless nights and untouched food. He lies in bed most of the day, listening to music and writing throwaway songs that won’t make it out of his phone, ignoring any and all contact.

His aunt knocking softly on his door and saying, “I brought breakfast,” marks the third day of Michael’s chosen mourning period. There’s been no motivation for Michael to get up, nothing that can persuade him to break out of the cycle. So he doesn’t respond to the door. She’ll go away soon.

But this time, she doesn’t.

“Michael, let me in.”

“Please, no.”

“It’s been two days since I’ve seen you last. I need you to open the door. There are things I have to talk to you about.”

“I don’t want to talk.”

“Let me in or I’ll--stop bringing you food.” Michael just wouldn’t eat. And they both know it. “Just open the door, Michael. I mean it.”

Despite the wavery quality lingering from the turmoil of the week, he knows she does mean it. She has a key to open the door, which she hasn’t used, mostly to give Michael some peace. But she knows to balance her sympathy and her concern.

“It’s open,” Michael says, and the door swings inward to reveal his aunt holding a plate with a waffle and some strawberries on the side. She puts it on the bedside table and comes to sit at the end of the bed by his feet.

He fixes his attention on his hands, afraid to look up at her, and afraid of what she wants to talk to him about.

“It’s been a couple of days,” she starts. “How are you holding up?”

“Fine,” Michael mumbles.

“You sure?” she asks, rubbing his knee. Michael curls his knees to his chest instinctively, escaping her touch. She retracts her hand, but doesn’t take her eyes off his face. “You’ve been cooped up in here for a while. Do you want to do something to take your mind off things?”

“No.”

She doesn’t let up. “We could go to lunch or something, just you and me, or go see a movie.”

Lunch and a movie are practically sacrilegious in lieu of recent events. Michael doesn’t want to even leave the room. “No thanks.”

She sighs. “Come on, Michael.”

“What? I’m not leaving. I’m fine in here.”

“Really, Michael? You expect me to believe that? You hardly eat, you haven’t left this room. It’s okay to hurt, but don’t shut me out. I’m trying to be there for you.”

Michael’s hands clench. “Stop with the pity. I get it from everyone else now, I don’t need it from you.”

It feels so low, retaliating because he knows she won’t stoop to that level. But he wants to be mad at something. It’s better than not feeling.

“It’s not pity,” she says, as sharply as she ever has been. “It’s concern. And I can’t force you to do anything, because you’re eighteen and stronger than me both in will and physical strength. But I won’t leave you alone if I think you’re doing harm to yourself. And you really, really worry me.”

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