5:47 PM. He wasn’t supposed to arrive for another 10 minutes, but I found myself staring again at the empty gray walkway leading up to the house. The feeling of anticipation relentlessly wracked my brain. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I would never see him. But the email I got yesterday changed everything. She was dead. He had no place to go; he was staying here now. But I couldn’t shake the weirdness of it all. He was coming here, to the domain of my new life.
I thought back to the day I first found out. I could never forget that day she called:
“Chelsea? I-is that you?”
I thought we had broken it off. Why was she calling me?
“So…how are you?”
“Robert, I don’t know how to say this, but….”
“Is something wrong? Is it Ben?”
He was my college roommate, the rebound after we broke it off. They had been dating for two months and seemed to really click. I was glad that someone else could make her happy. Happier than she was with me, at least.
“I’m sorry Robert, I just don’t know how to say…”
“What the hell is it?”
I’ll never forgive myself for getting angry with her. If I had known the enormity of what she was about to say, I wouldn’t have lost my patience. But I was younger then, a ticking time bomb ready to explode.
“Just spit it out Chelsea!”
“Fine! I’m pregnant!”
Silence. I remember feeling it sinking in. I was in shock.
“Robert? Are you still there?”
I didn’t want to answer. I was a coward. I wanted to put down the phone and pretend the conversation had never happened. But I loved her too much.
“Yes, I’m still here.”
“Robert, it’s fine. I’ve made a decision. I’m going to have it.”
“Alright. I’ll take the next flight out and we’ll…”
“No, Robert. Don’t”
She was so sweet. But she didn’t always make the right decisions.
“I’m going to have it. And I’m going to raise it with Ben.”
“We’ve both moved on. I loved you, but now we’ve gone out separate ways. I just needed to tell you.”
“But what about…”
“Our child will grow up as Ben’s son. He wouldn’t tell.”
She was right; Ben wouldn’t have told. But I recognized that although I wasn’t hers anymore, our child was partially my responsibility, not Ben’s.
“I’m sorry Robert I have to go.”
“You can’t just…”
The sound of the dial tone still rings in my ears. Those were her last words to me. About three months later, I got an email declaring the birth of William Robert Evans. I remember staring at the computer blankly for several seconds before deleting it. My wife could never see it. I didn’t want to think about it.
I wonder to this day whether I made the right choice. If I had left my wife, if I had gone to California, if I had exposed the truth, if I had forced my best friend from his true love, I could have raised my son. But then I would have never…
I turn around. She’s standing there, looking worried. I feel guilty about thinking of Chelsea and dwelling on the past. After we got married, I promised Nancy that there would be no secrets. I decided not to tell her about my son, thinking that he would never enter my life. But when I did, sixteen years later, she accepted it calmly. She is so level headed. She always makes the right decisions. Nancy reminded me that my son is my family too. She pushed me to bring him into our lives. She didn’t get angry with me for not telling her; she forgave me.
I turned off the Red Sox game I had been watching and smiled at her.
“Sorry, sweetheart. Spaced out there for a second.”
She smiled and kissed my cheek. Her gaze suddenly slipped past my face, toward shrill ringing coming from our front door.
I walked to the door, my heart pounding, my stomach churning relentlessly. I took a deep breath and opened the door. “Hello son,” I said.
4:56 PM: I was ringing the doorbell. Loud angry footsteps were echoing in my ears. The door opened. A hideous man looked down at me; his eyes were red and evil. “Go away!” he yelled, “You’re no son of mine!” I was running away, the ground was shaking, and then I was falling, falling down into…
I woke up and hit my head against the window. Smooth move Will I thought
“Sir? We will be arriving in Boston shortly.”
I straightened up, and rubbed my eyes.
She gave me a forced smile. How can she even move her cheekbones? I thought, There’s so much goddamn makeup plastered all over her face! She walked away, leaving me against the window like a squashed bug.
I stretched my arms and yawned. My legs were totally cramped up. Why the hell was I doing this again? Moving from California? Sitting on trains for three days with stuffy suit guys shooting me dirty looks? Eating plastic? Riding past endless fields of corn? Moving into anti-Yankee country? I missed California. I missed our little bungalow. I missed…mom.
She was the best person in the world. Everyone says I look like her. Every time I had a problem with anyone or anything, I would sit down with her and talk about it. Unlike the other teenaged boys, I wasn’t ashamed of the fact that I loved her. After Ben was diagnosed, I was there for her through all the chemotherapy. I was there for her as she watched Ben pull strands of thinning hair off of his scalp. I was there for her as she watched him becoming weaker and weaker to the point where he couldn’t stand. And I was the only one there for her at his funeral, where she cried on my shoulder. I never cry. I didn’t cry then, at the death of my supposed father. He was as nice as a father could be, but somehow I knew deep down. We didn’t connect, not like my mother and I did anyway.
At my mother’s funeral, I tried so hard to stay calm. I stared at the sky, letting the tears in my eyes drop rhythmically to the ground. I imagined her crossing the street as the neon Porsche flew around the corner and ended her life as her body flew through the air. With every tear came more hatred. That drunk son-of-a-bitch killed her. He was going to pay one day.
I thought we were a team. I thought she told me everything. But then the letter came.
She had left it with her will, addressed to me and only for my eyes. The letter that changed my life. I read it that same day, sitting in the car being driven back to Nana’s house. I took it out of my bag and began reading it for the umpteenth time.
‘My dear Will:
‘If you’re reading this, I’m no longer with you. I’ve left the world forever. Maybe it was predestined, or maybe it just happened, but I’m not coming back.’
It wasn’t meant to happen. Maybe if that asshole hadn’t driven drunk, I would still have a mother now. She wouldn’t be gone. She’d be explaining this to me herself.
‘I’ve left everything to you, Will, because you’re all I have. Ben’s gone too. But I wasn’t the only person you had. You see, this isn’t easy for me to say. I’ve been keeping a secret from you Will. Ben’s wasn’t your father.’
I remember feeling it in my stomach. A confirmation of what I had felt for years. Suddenly I didn’t want to read anymore. I wanted to pretend nothing had happened.
‘I met your father in graduate school. We dated for four years. But then I got a job on the West Coast. We broke up, and then I dated Ben. I found out I was pregnant a little while after. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t have to the courage to tell your father. But I finally called.’
Whenever I read this part, I felt a sense of anticipation. The first time I read it, I remember feeling shocked. Now, knowing what was coming, I braced myself.
‘I told him that I was having his child. He didn’t know, of course. He immediately wanted to come and help me, but I told him no. You see, we had both moved on.’
I stopped reading and looked outside. Memories of her face haunted my mind. I couldn’t do it. I tried to regain my focus by counting the cows as they passed by but my mind lingered on the letter. I remembered what she had written about my father, how she never heard from him again, how she had enclosed his number. I finally looked down to read the end of the letter.
‘William, you are an amazing boy. You’ll succeed I know it. Thanks for being the best son a mother could ever have. I love you and goodbye -Mom’
My eyes fell on the tearstains at the bottom of the page. A familiar sense of sadness filled me. I was lost without her. I wondered if he could fill that empty space.
I distracted myself from my thoughts by looking outside. The rigid sunburned fields had transformed into a total mess of greenness, overflowing with trees, lawns, and moss covered logs. Welcome to the Land of Oz I thought, I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore.
The train screeched to a stop. I grabbed my bags. I headed out of the train station and grabbed a cab. I journeyed through the Land of Oz along a yellow brick road and arrived 15 minutes later at a plain gray stone house.
The gray walkway stretched out endlessly before me. Suddenly, I didn’t want to know. I wanted to turn back and run, like in my dream. I rang the doorbell, aware of the churning in my stomach. My heart was beating rapidly. Time to meet the wizard I thought nervously to myself.
The door swung open. I came face to face with the man who was my father.
“Hello, son,” he said.
6:08 PM. He looks so uncomfortable just sitting there. I’m trying so hard not to stare but I can’t help it. He hasn’t said a single word to me since I opened the door except for “thank you”. He seems really nervous, probably as nervous than I am. I try to make a stab at conversation, but Nancy beats me to it.
“Do you like the food, Will?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replies, “The food is excellent.”
“Good to hear,” she says, smiling at him, “And by the way, you can call me Nancy.”
He nods and looks down at his plate. I can’t help but notice that he looks exactly like her. I’ve tried so hard not to think about her but I can’t help it. Feeling slightly agitated, I reach for the potatoes, but I find another hand reaching for it too.
“Sorry,” he says automatically, drawing his hand away.
“No, it’s my fault,” I reply, trying to study his face.
Our eyes meet. I stare into his eyes and I suddenly see what he’s feeling. Grief from her death. Worry about whether he would be accepted. The fear that everything is not going to turn out okay. Sadness. Everything I’m feeling too. I realize how much he needs a family, a person to care for, to make him feel at home. I ask the first question that pops into my head.
“Will, do you like baseball?”
10:04 PM: A sense of peace overcomes me as I’m lying in my new bedroom, stuffed with food. For the first time since leaving California, I actually feel happy. My father isn’t at all like I dreamed him to be. He’s pretty nice for a Red Sox fan.
It was that moment when we both reached for the potatoes; I felt something then. Like he was feeling what I was. And then when he asked me about baseball, I was happy to have something to talk about. We talked for hours after that. Now as I’m lying in bed, I don’t feel angry about her death anymore; I’m grateful that I’m here with him. I feel welcome in my new life.
You wanna know something Will? I think to myself I think you’re gonna be okay.
Age 15, Grade 10
Hunter College High School