CHAPTER 2 - #NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

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                                                                             Max



It's not summer without the New York Skyline in my view from several hundred feet in the air. It's about three thirty in the afternoon as my flight from LA begins its descent towards the JFK airport in Queens. Relief washes over me as the Captain's voice comes over the intercom stating that we'll be landing any minute. My summers are spent in a quiet little town on the south shore of Long Island, and I love everything about it.

The tires squeal as they touch down. I'm nervous and excited all at once. I'm most looking forward to seeing my friends Dan and Maya, and getting under the hood of a car to lose myself for a while. Working on cars makes the time pass, and helps me forget the drama that is my life. I have my Uncle Rob to thank for that.

The plane comes to a stop, and the pilot starts going over the off boarding announcements. I'm half listening, half not, anxious to turn my phone back on and check in on mom. She has been through so much, and depression has swallowed her up more than once. This year I fear it might seize her after my father left us this spring. And she wasn't the only one spiraling towards the darkness. For me my escape is my summer in New York, she still has to find hers.

The humid air hits me as we deplane and I start for the baggage claim, but stop right at the waiting area to pull out my phone. My leg shakes while I wait for it to turn on and it takes forever because it's so ancient. I don't want to burden my mom with the expense considering everything going on. Her two jobs are just enough to cover our rent and the essentials, but a new phone and other luxuries are out of the question. I will forever be thankful that my plane ticket was paid for in full for me, otherwise I wouldn't know what to do with myself this summer.

The thing finally starts up, and I begin typing a message to my mom when someone slams into the back of me. My phone tumbles from my hands but thankfully I have the reflexes of a cat. I grab it just before it hits the ground and turn to curse out the stranger behind me but before I can say anything I come face to face with the offender, and I'll admit for a second I'm starstruck.

I'm good at reading people and just from her interviews, I could tell what kind of person she was. What I've seen hasn't made me a fan of Lennox Taylor, or her awful portrayal of my favorite character, Andi Miller from Starlien. My eyes wander down, and I notice she's on her phone as well. No doubt that's what distracted her and made her crash into me.

"Learn to walk asshole," she says.

My jaw drops open.

She stares at me with such intensity, like I was the one who bumped into her. Her eyes roll so far back into her head I think she might have even seen her brain. I don't even get a chance to get a word in when she whispers something else under her breath and walks away.

A moment later she turns, her thick blonde hair makes a whooshing motion as she spins. Her bright green eyes meet mine again and she scowls in my direction. It looks like she wants to say something else, and I'm ready for any insult that this Hollywood starlet wants to offer, but she spins back, heading towards baggage claim with a sigh so loud that I can hear it over the murmuring of the crowded airport.

A notification pops up on my phone and my heart races. I hope it's mom checking in. I dump the encounter with Lennox Taylor in the back of my mind and stare down at the screen half disappointed when it turns out to be an Instagram notification, but Maya and Dan arguing on my page puts a smile on my face.

I can't wait to see them. They were the glue holding me together even from three-thousand miles away after my father left. In retrospect it was inevitable that he would leave. In a way we relied too much on him. He kept us afloat and in the end it was all too much for him.

Another notification pops up on my screen from uncle Rob to let me know that he should be home when I get there and that pizza is on the menu. Every summer I pack on the pounds in pizza and Chinese because he is the worst when it comes to making an effort to cook something edible.

Finally I call mom instead. I don't need to be checking my phone every few seconds wondering if she's okay. After a click and some static her voice is there. "Max."

I can breathe again.

"Hey honey, did you land?"

"Yes, just did. I wanted to check on you."

I pace while I wait for her to answer.

"I'm okay. Aunt Dawn is here right now." She sounds happy to have company.

Hearing her voice fills me with relief. After dad left I feared that mom would go back into her shell and I hated leaving her while she was still down, which was why I convinced my aunt to stick around and keep mom grounded.

Mom had always been the type of person that was there for others in their time of need, and the one person that should have been there for her after my sister died wasn't. Dad tried at first but when his grief got the best of him he distanced himself from her and I. No one should have to bury their child and it messed up both of my parents. I was eight when the accident happened. The happy family I'd once known faded away into a memory. With dad absent, I had to step up and become the man of the house because mom deserved better. Leaving her this summer was hard for me, even with my aunt agreeing to help. I just hope mom really meant it when she said she's okay.

"I'm glad to hear," I say. "I still gotta get my bags, but I'll call you when I'm settled."

I head over to the baggage claim area, conscious that I still have to catch the air train to Jamaica train station and then change to the east end train. Then, once I'm at uncle Rob's, I can call her back and hear all about her day.

"Sounds good honey, be safe." Mom says, she sounds in good spirits.

I nod even though she can't see me.

"Love you, mom."

I always make sure to tell her that I do.

"Love you too," her voice wobbles a bit, but not enough to make me worry.

An agitated voice pulls my attention when I reach the conveyor belts, one I'm now closely familiar with. Lennox's phone is pressed up against her ear and she's shouting about how her luggage is missing. I'm pretty sure the whole airport now knows that her suitcase is light purple with cherry blossoms on it.

I ignore the scene going on in front of me and retrieve my own bag. It's easy to spot because it's got silver duct tape wrapped around it with my name scribbled on it. Lucky for me it's about to pass right behind Lennox, who is busy yelling at an innocent employee. I grab my bag before it reaches her but the position helps me catch sight of her face. Her green eyes are puffy and red.

In the corner of my eye I notice something purple on the floor behind the carousel. It must have fallen off when someone else tried to get their things. Just leave it Max, she'll realize it eventually, I tell myself. I can do something nice for someone who deserves it. I square my shoulders and head for the exit. Someone like her would never appreciate a kind gesture.

Her voice still rings loud and clear from the distance, and guilt grows heavier on my shoulders with every step I take. Mom taught me to always be kind to others and I can't just ignore someone so upset at something I could fix. Sighing, I turn back for the piece of luggage. Who knows, maybe good karma will come my way after this. I sure could use with some of it.

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