The Dozens of Times Eddie Kapbrak Came Home, and the One Time He Didn’t
(A Story in Sonia’s POV)
–There was the one time Eddie came home angry. Slamming doors, cursing under his breath. I was upset at the language, but more worried he’d catch a little finger, or a toe in the cabinets or doors. I asked why and he pushed me away. He had always been doing that lately. Am I being too much of a worrier? Maybe I am. He’s older now, and doesn’t need me as much. As much as that hurts to admit, seventeen is old enough to be independent.
–He came home crying again. He’d been doing a lot of that, too. Something was different. He came to me for once. I was selfishly happy, but that left me when I saw him. He had a bruise under his left eye. His lip was cut, and his hands were shaking and red, a sign that he’d had a panic attack again. Those signs used to be foreign to me until he told me those weren’t asthma like I had thought for years. I’d like to think of myself as an almost expert on them now. The only thing hard for me to tell anymore is what might cause them. He has them so often. Eddie comes to me, and sits down, panting. He looks worn down and sad and resigned, as if he’s accepted a heavy fate, or like he was waiting for a piano to fall on him.
This time when I ask him what’s wrong, he crumbles and starts to cry again. He tells me Henry and his psychopath friends cornered him in the locker room, and roughed him up. He shows me his ribs, and I see red. Partly the dried blood, partly rage. That little freak carved the word “Fag” into Eddie’s little side. It takes everything in me not to take him to the hospital, but Eddie insists he cleaned and dressed it as much as it needed, and it wasn’t deep, no stitches needed. I prayed with everything in me that it wouldn’t scar. When I asked him why they would choose that word, he becomes silent again. He seems to be trying to find the right words to say, and eventually he does. He tells me, stuttering more than the elder Denbrough boy, that it’s because they saw him kissing Richard Tozier. I had nothing to say, and he goes to his room before I could find the right words. I did eventually, over dinner. I tried to make a lighthearted joke, and said he could do better than little Richie Tozier, and that I loved him. He did laugh, but he also cried. This time it was the good way.
–One time he came home excited, his feet barely touching the ground as he ran upstairs. I called out to him to get the door, but he was down just as fast heading out again. His cheeks are pink and his eyes are bright, and I can’t help but to think that just a few months ago this same boy was crying in shame over what had happened. He was a lot happier in general, due in part I suppose to coming out, but mostly Richard. Richie, Richie this, and Richie that. I almost wanted to tell him I was tired of hearing it, but his happiness wasn’t something I could get tired of. Despite being a trouble maker and a bad mouth, he did take care of Eddie. I did tell him to stop coming home with love marks- unsanitary and shameless little things. I tried not to think about the fact that he still probably got them where I couldn’t see them. He may be an adult next month but he’s still my little angel.
He tells me he’s finally going out on a real date, just the two of them. That they’re going to see a movie, and he tells me not to wait up. I know I’ll try to, but he always manages to come home after I fall asleep. Sneaky little boy. He tells me he’s already left the name, address, and number of the movie theatre on the counter, and that he’ll be with Richie who can be reached as well. I have his number in my Rolodex, as I do his parents, and the rest of his friends- you never know when you might need them. He kisses my cheek and practically skips out to the beat up truck Richard drives. It has a bench seat and the driver seatbelt doesn’t work most of the time, and I cringe thinking about Richie just sitting on it so he doesn’t get a ticket for not actually wearing it. Eddie promised me he’d never drive it, so at least there’s that.
–He came home today, silent. It’s almost worse when he does that instead of crying. Eddie was pale, and he had dark circles under his eyes. I asked if he was okay, and he just stares at me. It feels like an eternity when he opens and says “The school won’t let Richie and I go to prom together… They said if we showed up they’d kick us out.” His voice sounds so fragile and small, like he doesn’t feel like a real person. I’m furious. I tell him I’ll call the school, but he begs me not to. He says it’s okay, he knew it would happen, that this is just the way things are. I, however, will not stand this. As soon as he goes to his room, I call his principle. I can’t remember exactly what I said, though I am equal parts embarrassed and proud to have used foul language in place of his name. “Mr. Shitstain” and I came to an agreement that they may attend as long as they are within a larger group. He will not allow them to have couple’s pictures, but he did reluctantly allow that they dance together. I tell Eddie in the morning and he cries and hugs me. He goes to Richie to give him good news.
–He comes home after prom with a photo- the whole group is in it, all holding a sign that says “Loser’s Club”. I cringed at the name, but they chose it for themselves years ago. Eddie and Richie are next to each other, and I suppress an eye roll that Richard had ripped open his shirt to reveal an exclamation point painted on his pale abdomen at the last moment. The picture is slightly blurred, and Eddie confirms my theory when he laughs and says the camera guy was startled and tried to lunge at Richard to put all of his clothes back on. Despite this, I see the stars in his eyes. He is happy, so I am happy.
–Lately he’s been coming home with heaps of papers, college letters, essays, SATs, tests. I try not to think about him leaving. I turn up the volume on the TV or the radio when he uses the phone to talk to his friends about it. It hurts and he knows it hurts. I’ve never been good at not worrying. This goes on for weeks. I fail to keep my tears in when he’s at school or out with friends, but at the same time, I’m immensely proud. He’s such a good boy.
–This time he comes home, and he doesn’t say a word, and I can’t see him from the kitchen but I know something is wrong. His feet are dragging and his breathing sounds funny. I drop the spoon into the soup when I hear a crash. He’s laying on the floor and crying. Despite him being curled up in a ball I can see he’s covered in bruises and cuts, and bleeding badly. I try not to scream but when I rush to him I can’t hold it, he’s been cut up badly again, more words carved into his soft belly and his thighs. I can see the word “Queer” seeping through his khaki pantleg as he sobs. This time, he does need stitches. In many places. The only thing he says to me from the hospital bed is that he is oh so tired of this town. Richard never leaves his side, growling at anyone who causes him pain or wakes him up, like a wild animal. I’ve decided that I am incredibly grateful that he is who he is.
He’s in the hospital for three days. Night one was cleaning and stitching and recounting what happened. The police had been called to file a report. He hesitantly confesses that Henry, Patrick, and the other cretins did this to him. Chief Bowers is red with rage. I hear him in the hallway calling my son a “flamer” but that his boy was “going to get it”. This is the first and only time I’ve yelled at a cop. Richie laughs and holds up his hand for a high five, something I wouldn’t usually reciprocate, but tonight is a night of firsts. Night two was observation and tests to see how bad the internal injuries might be. He has a concussion, but they found no internal damage aside from bruises and a cracked rib. They send him home wrapped in Ace bandages and taped up like Richard’s glasses. That night he tells me he needs to leave, that he can’t take this anymore. I’m angry, and admittedly irrational. We do not speak to each other for a week.
–When we speak again, he walks in the door with Richie, William, and Michael. Out of his friends, Michael is my favorite despite where he lives being so messy. He brings me flowers and fresh fruits and vegetables. He washes them himself, but only once he gets here so I can see it. He’s a very well mannered and intelligent man. William is wonderful too, but I feel guilt in having trouble understanding him, and he has a habit of talking with his mouth full. He’s not as messy as Richard, so at least there is that. Eddie has healed nicely so far, most of the stitches are out already, and the scars he has, though sadly legible, are hidden under clothes. His lip and eyebrow have small scars, but they are hard to notice. The boys have folded boxes in their hands. I knew this was coming, but I still couldn’t bear it. I stubbornly told him I wouldn’t help him, and that I wouldn’t watch him either. He only nods his head, looking down.
They pack up his belongings, and I step out into the yard, smoking my first cigarette in years. I swiped one from the Marsh girl months ago, when Eddie was starting to talk about college. I thought that was the worst, but this hurts more. He’s leaving too soon, and I can’t stop him. He promised me he’d finish high school, and go to college, but that he would not live here, in Derry. Because we weren’t completely speaking, I have no idea where he’s moving, and now I’m too embarrassed to ask. When I go back inside, William hands me a piece of paper, his handwriting surprisingly neat, with Eddie’s address, and number. He was moving just outside of the city, into the matchbox apartments. With Richard. I can’t help it. When he walks out of the front door with his things, he kisses my cheek. I can’t help it. When the car drives away, their silhouettes in the windshield. I can’t help it. I sit down on the porch, and I begin to cry. I can’t help it.
–He doesn’t come in the door anymore. Not the way he used to. No angry slams, no excited pops as the door hits the wall. No silent entries when he’s tired. No little footsteps. He doesn’t come home. He visits, sometimes with Richard, and with his friends. He calls frequently, too. He’s a good boy. Time passes, and he came to visit after graduation. He got accepted to a college in Maine. I try to hide how happy that makes me. I promise I won’t go to the dorms too much. He and Richie talk about their lease ending and moving on campus. His little group of friends are trying their best to stick together. They all got accepted to the same school, and will try to attend until their majors take them elsewhere. It’s nice knowing that he’ll have so many friends.
He doesn’t come home, but he visits. Holidays he even stays in his old room. Sometimes. Other times he stays with William in his new house, just down the street from mine. Sometimes they visit Richie’s parents, or Michael’s farm. It’s a lot like it used to be, but it isn’t the same. I know it never will be, and while I’m sad, I’m happy too. He doesn’t come home, but he gets married in the same church I was married in. They make the paper as the first same sex couple to get married in Derry. Someone booed them as they walked to their car, but before anyone said anything, Richard flipped them off. I don’t tell Eddie, but I caught it on camera. It’s framed in my room, shameful but endearing. He doesn’t come home, but he visits often, asking for advice. We’ll have lunch together and talk about stain removal, and he’s picked up cross stitching for Richard’s anniversary gift. He’s going to make a sign that says “Tozier-Kaspbrak” for their sitting room.
He doesn’t come home, but he visits often. Many times with Richard, and even more happily with their new daughter. I’ve always wanted a daughter, so I spoil her rotten. I try not to be so overbearing as I was with Eddie. I know it had the wrong impression on him, and I don’t want her to feel the same. I give her sweets when they aren’t looking, and I teach her all about keeping a good home, and let her watch football with me when they need a babysitter. Eddie doesn’t know, but sports are a guilty pleasure of mine. I want her well rounded, too- to know that girls can like whatever they please. Her name is Amelia Isabelle, and she grows so fast. He doesn’t come home anymore, not like he used to. And I’m so, so grateful. He’s leading a good and proud life, and I’ve never been more proud to be the mother of Edward Tozier-Kaspbrak. He doesn’t come anymore, but when he visits, it’s like he never left at all. I’ve lived a good little life, I feel.
“Sonia Kaspbrak, 65, passed in her sleep in her home of Derry, Maine. Natural causes. She leaves her son, son-in-law, and granddaughter. Funeral to be held this Saturday, July 17th at the First Church of Derry. She will be fondly remembered by all who knew her. Everyone is welcome to attend the open service ceremony being held to celebrate her life.