Josh heard all the fighting before Dad left. Josh blamed himself. He had gotten into another fight in school. His mom and dad were fighting about it. He didn’t think his younger sister, Kayla, and his older sister, Rebecca heard it, but he did, and he knew the truth. They were fighting about him again. It was the last straw, and then his dad was gone. He made his parents divorce.
It wasn’t like they didn’t fight about other things. He always knew on some level his parents didn’t get along. For instance, they always seemed to fight about the bills. And then there was the time they went on that trip, and he woke up because they were screaming at each other right in the room with all the kids there. He didn’t know how his sister slept through that one (Kayla wasn’t born yet). When he asked his mom about it, his mom just waved it off and said, oh, we were just drunk. It was nothing. Josh didn’t know much about what “drunk” meant, but he knew it involved drinking that smelly stuff they always had at Christmas, and when a person drank it, they stumbled around and acted stupid, like on those old cartoons. And he also knew that the fight was not “nothing.”
There was a lot Josh knew. For instance, he knew that his parents fought at least three times a week when the kids went to bed. He also knew when his mom was upset and crying all night. Her eyes would be swollen, and she would say the mom things she normally said, but he could feel how sad she was. It got to the point where Josh was woken out of his sleep because he knew they were fighting, and it would happen very often during the week. He always felt tired. He started to stay up to see if his parents were fighting or not. It worried him.
Then the fights at school started. Some kid made a comment about him falling asleep in class, and the kid was annoying him and making comments at him all year, and he had enough. He got up and decked him. He didn’t know why it felt good. It just did. He heard the counselor at school tell his mom that it was a way for him to “feel in control”. He didn’t know about all that. All he knew was that it felt good, because half the time he didn’t know what to feel.
It wasn’t like his sister, Rebecca, was any help. She was too busy being Ms. Perfect Teenager, and Kayla could hardly talk. There were times he felt completely alone. Every time Kayla started to cry and ask where Daddy was, Josh just got a pang of guilt inside of him that wouldn’t go away. He was mad at him. Not so much for leaving, because he knew they didn’t get along. It was not coming back to see them. His mother blamed his father and told him that he’s always been like that. It wasn’t how Josh remembered his father. He was so confused.
Now they haven’t seen their Dad in a month. Josh supposed he was such a bad kid; he didn’t want to be with him anymore. His mom was just upset and crying all the time, and he started hearing a lot of comments about men, and they weren’t very nice. And his mom had changed too. She didn’t smile much anymore. She didn’t fix her hair for weeks. She didn’t ask him how his day was at school anymore. She figured it was a good day when she didn’t get a call from the principal again, Josh thought. All of this had to add up to it being his fault. He just wanted to disappear. If he did, maybe his parents would get back together again. Such is the impact of divorce on a family.
Josh didn’t know what to do. If it weren’t for Kayla, he might have tried to run away already, but he didn’t want to leave his little sister alone. He wasn’t sure his mother was going to be able to keep up on taking care of her alone, and with Rebecca always out doing something since she could drive, all Kayla had was him. He felt stuck, and there was nothing he could do about it.