Short Reads 100% Reviewed : Forum : Thoughts on a Train


Thoughts on a Train

4 Years Ago


I sat there with my head spinning for God knows how long. I thought over the last few days. When did I start to notice it? Had I even noticed it, or was I just telling myself I had to convince myself that I hadn’t been utterly and completely clueless? What was I thinking, of course I had, or else I wouldn’t have bought the train ticket. Why couldn’t I just act like a normal person and have a normal conversation with someone for once? No, I couldn’t do that, of course not. I had to go and act like a paranoid maniac instead.            I think it started with my mom. She’s always the first to try to comfort me when something goes wrong. I know that sounds sweet, but trust me, the sad truth is that it really isn’t. Every time I have a problem, she’ll give me this teary, doe-eyed look and try her hardest to cheer me up. It would work if it wasn’t for the underlying sadness. Like when Dad got sick; she would smile and hug me and laugh, but I could tell she wasn’t even convincing herself. She was barely trying. It’s like she knows trying to make me happy is a lost cause. When someone acts like that, you can’t help but want to make them feel like their efforts are worth something; kind of takes the focus off actually trying to feel better. That was my mother’s backwards way of unconsciously making me feel worse.            My brother is a different story. He’s the kind of person I consider “sane.” I know that’s a fairly inappropriate word for this situation, but sometimes it just feels like the only one that applies. See, in my mind, there are “sane” people and average people. “Sanity” has nothing to do with mental health or even stability; see, it depends on a person’s ability to see things for what they are. It’s not about pessimism or optimism; it’s about real life. My brother’s great that way. He never had any illusions about Mom’s ability as a parent; he grew out of the “world’s best mom” phase pretty quickly. He has a realistic world view, my brother; he always knew that just because she was our mother didn’t make her a superhero. She had flaws just like everyone else, and that was fine. He also knew that our going to church every week and doing the dishes wouldn’t bring Dad back like she said, and figured out why Mom and Santa Claus had the same perfume much sooner than I did. When I think about it, Mom really did the best she could with us.            Back to the point, I think the moment I really noticed something was wrong was when my brother stopped being straight with me. I can’t remember the last time he looked me in the eyes. I know what that means; in his mind, lying is the worst thing a person can do. Not because it’s amoral or anything, because hiding the truth from someone can only hurt them in the long run. He always wants to do right by people. If he thinks doing wrong by you by lying is the best thing to do in a situation, then you must be royally screwed.S**t. I missed my stop. It’s fine, I didn’t want to stop, really. I figure I might as well keep going. Doesn’t matter now anyway, does it?I don’t really remember when it started. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and things were different; gradually, my mom’s baked goods started piling up like casseroles at a wake and I forgot the color of my brother’s eyes. They really tried, I know they love me, I know they want me to be happy. It’s just that they try too hard. I hate seeing them like this; draining themselves to make me better. They can never understand how much worse that is than dealing with something on my own. And they hadn’t even told me what was wrong yet.What I hold onto in times like these are my memories. I remember playing Hearts with my dad, before he got sick. Early-onset dementia. Watching him die was the hardest thing I can imagine anyone going through. Not only did I watch him turn pale and gray and fade away, but he forgot me. You know how you always think your parents love you so much that their love can conquer anything? Bad grades, scrapes and cuts, monsters under the bed? Well it can’t. I learned that the hard way when my dad gave me a slightly concerned look from his hospital bed and told his doctor that the teenager was making him uncomfortable, and could he please make me go away. That’s not what I want to think about right now.My happy memories are the most important things in the world to me. These days, they’re the only things that can pick me up when I’m down. I think of my first puppy, Kip. His scruffy little ears and the way he’d drool everywhere. Mom hated that dog. I think about my first day at school, when the teacher smiled at me and I got a gold star. I think about the time my brother bought me tickets to my first concert and I got to see my favorite band live. The things that make my heart beat, that keep me alive.I put my head in my hands. I should have gotten off three stops ago. I’m too nervous. What can he say that’ll make it better? There’s no point in feeling better, not now. I do feel bad, though. I’d booked the appointment a few days ago, back when Mom and my brother had first started acting strange. Back then I’d thought I only needed to book it because I felt alone and isolated. I thought it was in my mind. I’d allowed myself to go out of my mind with this insecurity instead of sitting down with my family and asking what was wrong. I’d managed to make myself feel even worse when they finally couldn’t take it anymore. They’d worn themselves so thin I thought they’d snap in half if they waited any longer. So here I sat, on a train, too late for my appointment with the therapist, holding the envelope they’d given me in my cold, limp, resigned hands. I opened it and read it for the hundredth time, feeling my world implode once again. Christian Laraby. 17. Hereditary early-onset dementia.