A Series of Unfortunate Experiences
A Series of Unfortunate Experiences
by Darcie Nadel
"Do you know why I called you in?" the guidance counselor asked me as I walked into her office. She gestured for me to have a seat.
I shook my head as I sank into one of the chairs placed on the opposite side of her desk. I'd been pulled out of my class with no explanation.
"Your mother called the school. She told us that your father has been diagnosed with cancer."
I froze. That was the one thing I didn't want to talk about. I wasn't ready yet.
"So how have you been?" she asked.
I shook my head again. I was determined not to talk about this.
She tried again. "What kind of cancer does he have?"
Well, that was incredibly insensitive. "Pancreatic," I answered.
Finally she started to catch on to how uncomfortable she was making me. She changed tactics. "Do you like books?" she asked.
"Yes," I said quietly, trying not to cry.
"What are you reading right now?"
I told her, and then began to explain the plot of the book, looking at the floor as I spoke. She let me ramble completely uninterrupted. I looked up when I was done, and discovered why she was being so quiet.
The guidance counselor had begun playing with what looked like a set of magnets. She was stacking orange and purple butterflies into a tower.
She realized I wasn't talking anymore. She looked up from her butterfly magnets and asked, "Do you have any friends?"
Tears were threatening to spring forth again. She made an irritated noise, but it wasn't directed at me.
"It's so hard to get them to stick together," she told me, chuckling a little. She was talking about her magnets, on which her attention was still focused.
As I watched silently, she continued trying and failing to build a tower. I don't even think she had noticed that I was no longer talking. I couldn't believe that she was apparently so bored by this counseling session that I had unwillingly been pulled into that she had decided to entertain herself with some toy. Not only that, but she was laughing. Laughing, while she was supposed to be helping me.
At some point I finally started crying, which is when she remembered she was supposed to be having a counseling session with a student. She drew her attention away from the magnets, offering me the box of tissues on her desk.
"You can go back to class now," she said.
I left her office and never went back. That was the first time someone tried to force me to talk about how I was dealing with everything. It wouldn't be the last by far, but it had made certain that it would be difficult for me.
A few weeks later, I was sitting in a waiting room in some hospital that I can't remember the name of. I was waiting while doctors attempted to surgically remove my dad's cancer.
My friend Will's mom, who was also a close friend of my parents, was sitting in the waiting room with my younger brother and me.
Out of nowhere she started talking to me. "Are you okay?"
I ignored her.
"What are you reading?"
I held the cover of the book I had brought in front of her face for a few moments before going back to reading.
"What's it about?" she asked.
I closed the book on my finger to hold my place, then explained it to her. I went back to reading again.
"So how is school going?"
This continued on and on. Will's mom refused to take the hint, but I also couldn't get away with yelling at her to leave me alone. Why couldn't she just understand that I wanted to be left alone so that I didn't cause a scene in public and attract attention to myself?
Eventually, a doctor came out to talk to my mom. They hadn't been able to do anything.
My father died several months later, after much pain and suffering and chemo. On the morning he died, I woke up but didn't get out of bed right away. I must have lain there for at least an hour. I could hear my mom and my aunt Debbie, who had come to stay with us, talking downstairs, but I couldn't make out what was being said.
After a while, my mom came upstairs and talked to me for a bit. I don't remember what about.
I was saying something when she interrupted with, "Your father died this morning. I didn't know how else to tell you."
Everything seemed to shut down. I buried my face in my pillow and cried for the rest of the morning.
Being at the funeral was a far more miserable experience than I had expected, and my expectations had been set high.
Pat and Jane, my mom's older sisters, had invited themselves. When we had arrived at the synagogue they were the first people we saw. I was crying as we got out of the limousine, so Jane came to hug me. I let her, momentarily forgetting how much I hated her.
"It was so inconvenient to fly out here at such short notice," Pat told my mom, as if my mom had deliberately planned the whole thing just to put her out.
Later, I heard Jane say, "Why are you making this all about you? You're being so selfish."
They both spent the remainder of the day behaving like cartoon caricature villains. Somehow it didn't cross their minds that perhaps the funeral they had shown up at completely uninvited to had absolutely nothing to do with them or their outrageously self-centered universes.
One moment of the funeral sticks out to me above everything else. Being that we were the immediate family, my brother, my mom, and I were the first ones to arrive. Will and his mom had also come with us in the rented limousine. My brother and I sat in the front row while we waited for everyone to show up. Will was sitting directly behind us.
After a few minutes, I heard him start sniffling. When I turned around, I saw he had his head down, his face pressed against his arms as he cried. I hadn't realized how much my dad had meant to him. It just made me cry even harder.
After the funeral, we all went back to the house to get ready for people to come over. By this point in the day, I had calmed down enough that I could almost socialize. I thought I could at least talk to people without breaking down into tears.
I was doing okay for a bit. I was eating a bit of sandwich from one of the trays when Mark, one of my closest friends, came up to talk to me. We talked about nothing for a while but then, out of nowhere, he said, "I'm so sorry."
That did it. I threw the piece of sandwich in the trash and rushed up to my room before anyone could see me cry. I knew if I started in front of everyone, at least one person would attempt to comfort me, and I didn't want that.
I stayed in my room until everyone left. It was easier that way.
It was early December when my father died. I stayed home from school the entire month, which was a big deal since at my middle school we went until almost Christmas.
When I went back to school in January, most people ignored that I had been gone. My teachers and close friends knew why and were kind enough not to mention it. Everyone else either didn't notice or didn't care.
But when I got to band class, the boy I always sat next to due to the assigned seating chart was curious.
"Where were you?" he asked.
We weren't really friends, and it was then that I realized I wasn't comfortable talking about it to anyone I wasn't close to.
"I had the flu," I told him. "I was sick for two weeks, but by the time I got better, school was almost over anyway. My mom just let me stay home."
I cringed inwardly a little as I said it, and I felt tears prickling in my eyes, thinking I would be found out and forced to keep talking to him. It was really a terrible lie. I'm not good on the spot.
But he accepted the answer. I don't know if it was because I was actually convincing or if he realized I didn't want to talk about the actual reason.
Either way, I was relieved. I knew it would be a long time before I would be able to talk.