Dad got sick and when I asked is there anything I could do I was expecting him to say nothing. Or maybe help out around the house. What he said is that I should be happy. But it came out like an order. I need you to do what you need to do to be happy. Is what he said.
I took it seriously. It meant dropping Chris as a friend and finding new friends, not an easy thing for a kid like me. It meant practicing more, and actually writing music, stupid music, joke music, it didn’t matter, just write it, and play it and show it to teachers. About school, Dad’s idea was that getting good grades actually reduced the hassle, because in the end it was easier to do the homework rather than explain to the parents, teachers and counselors why you didn’t, and boring as it was, paying attention in class actually made the day go by faster. So I did, and did well. And when he was gone, two weeks after my 17th birthday, I realized I could finally stop trying to be happy.
It took a while. The first thing I did was call Chris. Then I put away my violin and stopped doing my homework. Chris was now a smoker, of anything, and he had met some fast seniors and we went to one of their houses in the afternoon and I had sex with a girl I didn’t like. She told her friend I was great so the friend wanted me too. That was no problem. I didn’t like her either. One of the girls had a car and we spent the weekends going down to the beach and partying under blankets. It was November and no one bothered us. Like I said, it took a while.
Then I found my mom crying over my report card. All she could say is we have to help each other. I said nothing.
I broke up with the girls before they could break up with me. I did not explain. In similar fashion I broke up with the grief counselor.
My little brother made the varsity soccer team, as a bright star freshman and I told him every chance I got that his making the team only proved that they sucked and the few games they won were acts of mercy. He began ignoring me so I began stealing the cookies in his lunch as I went to the fridge to make mine. He wouldn’t know it till he opened it at school. He complained to mom and I denied it. Then I started stealing the homework out of his backpack. That was more difficult to replace.
At the unveiling, I threw up on the grave. I was that hungover. Everyone thought it was just emotions. I called the doctor’s office. I asked about the burning sensation. They told me to come in.
Couldn’t avoid the principal’s office though.
“What happened?” she croaked.
I have a series of diseases, I said. I was proud of them.
She showed me the set of janitor keys I’d stolen and hid in my locker. “Did you take these?”
No, I said, they floated into my locker on angel’s wings. I stood up and did some things I shouldn’t have done.
Ten minutes later the police were there.
Five minutes after that I was bloody.
Two minutes after that I was happy.
There, Dad, I did it.
Jon Fried writes from New Jersey.