from Wild Thoughts: A Floral Guide to Feeling by Garrett Huon

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There is a bench he likes to sit on by the waterfront, the one at the end settled perpendicular to the boardwalk. He likes it because he can watch everyone while they look out to the water. Can see all the families visiting from out of town, all the friends playing in the grass, all the dogs being walked by their owners. He gets to enjoy being around people without having to interact with anyone. It’s just what he needs.

His chest still feels hollow. The spring wind coming up against the shore floats right through him, and even the sun can’t stop the goosebumps sprouting on his skin. If he closes his eyes, he can lose himself in the gulls, in the chatter of people milling about. He can forget how cold he feels and pretend that he is also a part of the fun and joy surrounding him.

It feels stupid, the reason he feels the way he does. Anyone else might call him oversensitive, but the truth is he doesn’t know how else he is supposed to feel. Should he be angry? Frustrated? Stoic and unmoving?

The corners of his eyes are wet and the only reason he notices is because the wind is chilling the tears building up there. Pulling his legs onto the bench, he brings his knees to his chest and uses them to wipe his eyes.

He brings his phone out to look at the picture his dad sent him. His dog is thin in it, and her eyes are sad, like she knows what’s happening. And she must. He thinks about going home at the end of the semester, about finding her bed missing along with all her toys. He imagines what it will be like when his parents aren’t home, and he’s alone in an empty house.

He begins crying again. Fourteen years seems too short, but it’s perfectly long enough to become irreplaceable.

It would have been nice to say, “Goodbye.”