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"Misery?" I felt my voice crack as I said this and cringed inwardly. This was exactly what my older brother, Adrian, meant when he called me a drama queen My mom sighed dramatically, "Missouri, Jorge. It's a state. In America." She was rubbing her eyes behind her glasses, looking more tired than I had ever seen her. Her voice was patient, but the purple bags under her eyes gave away how she was really feeling. Mom was quiet for a long time, then looked up at me from the depths of Dad's old armchair, "They're transferring me there. I don't have much choice. Without your father, we can't go on living this way. We need the change." I stared back. I knew it was pointless to argue with her. We'd had the discussion of friends and school and my job over and over but it was done now. We were moving to the US.

My dad had been gone for a year now. Nobody in the family really wanted to talk about it. In fact, 'father' was bordering on a bad word these days. One day he woke up and decided that our family wasn't good enough for him. He packed his bags and left for work as if it were just a normal day. He didn't come home that night. Or the next day. Or ever again. A month later, a very official-looking manilla envelope arrived in the mail and my mom sat at the kitchen table, staring at them for several hours with an untouched glass of wine sweating in front of her. She signed them at midnight on the dot, cried for two days and that's when we stopped talking about him. Adrian said that Dad leaving is what turned me into a pansy. I said it's what turned him into an asshole.

A week after the last argument about moving, I opened my eyes as our last flight bumped down onto the tarmac and the fasten seat belt sign flicked off with a ding. "We made it," my mom smiled at my brother and me, a little bit of light returning to her eyes and she tied her sweatshirt around her waist and stood to retrieve her bag from above. I stood, too, bending my neck to avoid smashing my head on the low plane ceiling but Adrian pushed me back down. "Wait your turn, dumbass," he hissed. Adrian had always been a douche, but Dad leaving and talk of the move had made him call me more names and push me around a lot more. Along with dumbass, pussy and queer were two of his favorite insults to lob. At least he wasn't smart AND mean.

After half an hour at the rental car counter surrounded by our small army of suitcases, another 15 playing Tetris to get them in the car, and a forty-five minute drive, we pulled up in front of a brick apartment building. "Home sweet home," mom said quietly. The building was a squat two stories with tiny balconies outside the sliding glass doors and a tiny, grubby pool across the parking lot from us. We hauled the luggage into a little, sparsely furnished apartment and Adrian and I ran to go claim rooms.

I ended up in the bigger bedroom because Adrian didn't want to share a wall with the neighbors. My window looked out on the highway and the sound of cars passing was comforting. Sitting down on the cheap gray comforter, I sat and watched the cars go by and thought of our house in Barcelona. It was walking distance from tons of delicious restaurants, close to all my friends, lively nightlife nearby. This place was quiet, save for the roar of the highway and the soft sound of our neighbors' TV. Mom poked her head in my room, "Do you like it, JeyJey?" She only pulled out my childhood nickname when things were getting a little desperate. I raised my shoulders in a shrug and tried to smile at her. "School starts Monday," she said, "you can waste no time making new friends."
"Mama, can I just be by myself please?" I sighed.
"Mama, please. Go away."

She suddenly looked very stern. "There's no reason to talk to me that way. You should be grateful that you have a roof over your head at all." The bags under her eyes deepened as her voice rose to a shrill pitch. She turned on her heel and closed my door behind her a little too loudly. I knew she was tired. And I knew she was trying to do what was best for Adrian and me, but it was so hard to play the part of doting son when we had been forced to move internationally with only two years of high school left. I laid my head on the pillow and fought back tears.

Before bed, I got up and pinned up one postcard my friends had all signed before I left right above my nightstand. It was a picture of the streets of Barcelona. They had drawn all of us in stick figure form dancing down the road. I told myself it was the sound of Adrian's music next door lulling me to sleep and not the nearly silent sound of the tears I had been resisting dripping onto my pillow.

Softboi Season // benjeyWhere stories live. Discover now