On Sunday, Frank wakes up to the sound of his phone ringing with a string of text messages. He's startled by the sudden noise, a generic ringtone he's been meaning to change since he bought it, but keeps forgetting to do.
During workdays, he never loses sight of his phone. He can't since he has garnered a few regulars over the years who prefer to contact him personally, avoiding the hassle of going through Charlie first. Whenever it rings, he thinks it's one of them, even on the weekends. The truth is not many people wish to get to him aside from requiring his services.
Still, Frank has come to hate on his phone as of lately, directing wary glances in its direction whenever it does ring. If Gemma has his number, that means Nate could have access to it, if he wanted. He would like to think she has his best interest in mind yet, after all, she's Nate's mother.
Frank isn't waiting for him to call, of course, he doesn't expect anything else than what he's been granted. A brief encounter, a confirmation that the person who left him years before isn't coming back. And that's enough for him, in all honesty, probably the closest thing to closure he'll ever get.
He's been going over their conversation, unable to stop himself, replaying the exchange in his head again and again. In one of those revisions, a sort of inventory of the damage taken, Frank realizes he doesn't remember Nate apologizing in any moment: not for leaving or lying about it for God knows how long, not for avoiding him during years or coming back suddenly and demanding to see him without a single explanation.
Although it's foolish to cling to the past, Frank keeps telling himself the old Nate would never do that. For a moment, he entertains the idea that the departure has left a mark on Nate too, that he lost some pieces of himself over those years of separation as well. Perhaps the Nate he knew was gone as soon as the plane transporting him to Norway took off, maybe even before that, which was the only reason he managed to leave as he did.
Frank tries to chase away those thoughts. The harm has already been done, it has settled inside his brain and rotted there. No wishful thinking can erase it or change the course of their story.
Seeing Nate again hits him harder than he even thought. He wasn't wrong, all those years, not knowing how would he react if they ever met again because nothing could have properly prepared him for it.
He keeps discovering little things that he didn't notice at first, too busy trying to conceal all the conflicting emotions he felt seeing him again, like the way Nate kept rubbing his fingers. For the longest time, Frank thought he did it because they hurt after practice, before realizing it was a sign that he was nervous.
The few days after the encounter, he's a mess. A zombie driving around the city without being aware of his surroundings. It takes a while to reign in the weird mood that overtakes him, to get a hold of those feelings that took him so long to put under control.
By the end of the week, especially after registering Nate wasn't capable of even the bare minimum, saying sorry after he fucked everything, he's fully recovered. Or at least, that's what thinks until he sees the texts his sister sends him.
mom keeps asking if you fixed your window. Sarah writes. which in mom's language means to come home and let her feed you! please, prodigal son, show up ASAP!
COME HOME! She insists shortly after.
Since when did you become fluent in mom's codes? He answers. I'll go this afternoon.
i had to manage. She responds. none of you make it exactly easy!
Frank isn't avoiding his family. He calls home every week and goes to see them whenever he can, dedicating them as much time as an adult man with a job and plenty of responsibilities does. It's only normal that he isn't available every single day and, yes, sometimes he chooses to stay at his apartment when he's free, but that's because he's goddamn tired after his shifts.
He tells himself it doesn't have anything to do with his mother's attitude, the way she doesn't seem to know how to treat him anymore, carefully tiptoeing around what to say and how to act around him. The silence between them, that used to be the trademark of their relationship, had lost its ease somewhere along the way and what remains is a cautiousness that puts him on edge.
It isn't related to his dad's absence, either, how empty the house feels without him there. Sarah talks a lot, she takes after him in that sense, always has a snarky remark or a joke ready to lighten the spirits, but not even her is capable of filling the quiet atmosphere and weighing down its heaviness.
Sarah claims that she's tired of the two most important people in her life being so emotionally unavailable. She complains that he doesn't try hard enough because she's under the impression he's too busy moping to realize how much they need him. He finds her complaints a bit unfair because he tries really hard.
And if he needs to spend the entire morning psyching himself to go see them, it's simply because he had already planned to spend the day in bed. It isn't avoidance, it's weariness.
Frank genuinely enjoys his job, but sometimes it takes its toll on him. Too much traffic, an unbelievable amount of terrible drivers roaming around the city, too many hours spent in that mechanical carcass he practically lives in. Being a driver isn't only about taking people from one place to another, as some might think, he always needs to be alert. The possibility for something to go wrong is ever-present and danger lurks around at all times, awaiting the distracted.
Frank can't allow himself to lose focus, his job demands him to count with all his senses. Thinking about Nate does the opposite, clouds his mind and confuses him. It's all good now, though. If there's one thing Frank has learned in his life, that's discipline and self-restraint. His therapist would probably choose other words to describe it, such as punishment and self-censorship. He doesn't agree and that's why these days he spends the forty-five minutes of the session's duration running in the park. It's easier and cheaper.
He takes the bus to go to his mother's house. He likes being behind the wheel, but there's nothing wrong with being driven. The ride is long enough to give time to try and calm himself. Seeing his mom makes him anxious and there's a little voice in his head that tells him that's not okay and that if he wasn't so deep in denial, he would see it.
He closes his eyes and dozes off for a bit.
I was sad, then I wrote this and got sadder.
Thanks for reading!