Character: LJ (Gen)
Summary: LJ waits for someone to say something real.
Love is a lecture.
When I was your age… I know how much you want to, but… Now you listen to me…
It’s hard to call these words of wisdom, because the people doing the lecturing don’t have wisdom to show for it.
His mom got pregnant as a teenager. Remember to use protection, every time, because it only takes once and it can change your whole life. His dad married her just to do the right thing, to try to fix it, to provide security and a family for their baby. You have to accept your responsibilities, son, even if you’d rather just walk away. You have to do the right thing.
That security was short-lived, or maybe it was never even real. There was fighting, he remembered that, and nights where his father didn’t come home. Soon it was weeks that they didn’t see him, and then one day—it was over. Sometimes when two adults just can’t get along, it’s better for everyone if they just go their separate ways. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love you, and it’s not your fault. You understand that, don’t you?
He would visit his father on the weekends, sometimes during the week. But then the excuses started, and soon his mother just kept him at home. Your father’s going through a hard time right now, and he needs a little time. You just need to be patient. After that, he wasn’t allowed to see his father at all. If anyone ever offers you drugs, or you ever even think about trying them, just say no. Just walk away. Drugs can destroy your life just like that. You might think it’s a small thing, but then it becomes big, and pretty soon everything’s out of control. If I ever catch you even thinking about…
He’d had no idea how bad it was until his father was arrested for murder. For murdering the Vice President’s brother. He could not imagine that the man who had played trucks with him, who used to carry him on his shoulders, would ever become involved in something like that. What had happened? If you start using drugs, or get involved with the wrong crowd, you might find yourself doing things you never expected. You could find yourself in prison, doing hard time. It’s a short step from the wrong decision to the wrong life.
His mother had gotten remarried years ago, to someone LJ had never liked and who didn’t seem to care for him much either. People have to move on with their lives, and I don’t deserve to be alone forever. You’ll understand when you’re older. He wasn’t even sure if his mother loved his stepdad, or if it was just that she was afraid to be alone. Your problem, young man, is that attitude of yours. You think it’s all right to mouth off at your mother that way, but let me tell you, if you were my son I’d have put a stop to that long ago.
He’s tired of being on the periphery, of being a good kid who gets ignored. All it’s ever gotten him was warnings about not becoming like his father, about being somebody. Not being like his father hasn’t kept anyone from assuming that’s where he’s headed anyway, and since he’s doing the “time” why not do the crime as well? I can’t believe you would even think of getting involved in something like this! We are going to straighten you out, that’s for sure, because you are not ending up like your father!
Across the glass, his father is still this man he doesn’t understand anymore, a man he hasn’t known for a long time. But even he thinks he has something to offer, something important to say, and it isn’t “I missed you,” or “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you were growing up.” It isn’t the important things. It’s Don’t ever let this happen to you. You don’t want to wind up in prison like me. That’s no kind of life.
His ears are worn out, they are overflowing with all the wrong messages that just never seem to stop. There are no more balloons or ballgames, no more ice cream cones or trips to the zoo. There is no more him anymore in any of this talking, all that’s left is “Don’t” and “I” and “Do you hear me?”
He remembers when it was simple—at least he thinks he does, but his life was never as simple as it should have been and never for long enough.
Now he thinks of that look of terror on her face, as she told him to get out and he left her to her fate while he escaped out the back door. He knows he couldn’t have saved her, and probably not himself either, but leaving her just seemed so wrong. He never got to tell her that he understood, to tell her what she meant to him.
I know it hurts, LJ, but we have to keep a low profile. We can’t go back—it isn’t safe.
Love is a lecture that uses all the wrong words and never waits for a response. He knows it shouldn’t be like this, but it’s the only way that’s familiar. You should have run while you had the chance, Mom. I would have waited for you.
You should have run.
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