In the morning I had to go to the college. The road to it took more than an hour, so I had had to get up earlier. And I even allowed myself a thought that maybe I should go back to the dorm. Mark wouldn't even know I was here.
The road was long, and the landscape outside the window was conducive to thoughts. However, thoughts were not pleasant.
Why am I clinging to Mark all of a sudden? I need to make friends. Ted is well suited for the role of a friend – the first friend in my life, actually. And also, there are so many girls around, and I should have already had a girlfriend. This is how I imagined my college life. That's what I wanted. Why am I desperately trying to get back now?
Until the end of the class, I didn't decided where to go. So, I stood at the exit from college for a while. Eventually, I made up my mind and went back to Mark's place.
This time he was at home. But he was gloomy. He answered my questions reluctantly. We had dinner, and it was not the way I imagined it.
"Okay, I'll go, I guess," I say, feeling uneasy.
"It's late, you can stay here," says Mark.
"I just… I wouldn't want to meet Ian again."
"He will not come!" Mark answers sharply. "I mean… I'm sorry, you have nothing to do with it."
"Have you had a fight?" I ask without looking up.
"You can say so..."
"Because of me?"
Mark just looks at me and doesn't answer.
"Anyway, you can stay here for the night." He utters at last.
I agree, but it's hard for me to look at Mark. I've never seen him so upset. He probably really loves this Ian...
I try to distract Mark with a conversation, I tell him everything I haven't told him in the last few months. Mark is surprised by my talkativeness, but after a while I even make him smile. And then I say that I had been expelled from the dorm...
"Did you smoke in bed or something?" Mark grins.
"Sort of," I smile.
"Well, your room is your room. I won't expel you."
I am glad to hear it. I'm not homeless actually. I have an apartment left from my parents. Mark rented it out. Also mom and dad had a hut in the mountains. We used to go there almost every weekend. These memories seem like a vague dream to me.
"Let's go to our house in the mountains," I suddenly suggest. Mark looks at me in surprise.
"I thought you didn't want to go there anymore."
"Why do you say that? I do. I really want to go. Let's go this weekend?"
"It's strange to hear it from you. Every summer you turned down every offer to go there, what has changed?"
I take a moment to think, lapsing onto silence.
"Probably me..." I shrug.
Mark, fortunately, agreed to my proposal, despite its suddenness and even despite his own depressed mood.
The next day we packed up and departed. The journey was supposed to take two or three hours. And looking at the trees flashing by, I suddenly caught myself thinking that I was not inflamed with a sudden longing for my old place. No, I wanted to take Mark away from his apartment so Ian couldn't make up with him.
I'm selfish, right?
The house of my childhood greeted us with cold and desolation. And also fine snow completed the picture. However, as soon as I looked away from the dull house I could see the surrounding nature was breathtaking. The forest, sprinkled with snow, covered the mountain and was torn apart by a mountain stream that ran past our house and into the lake. It all was frozen now. But still it was amazingly beautiful and quiet here.
Mark unloaded our belongings, and we entered the house. There I realized that it would take us at least a couple of hours to put it in order. A thin layer of dust lay on everything. Light barely penetrated through the dirty windows.
"You light a fire, and I'll bring the brushes and everything," Mark said.
While I was fiddling with the wood and matches, Mark had already started wiping the windows, and the room became noticeably brighter. Then we cleaned out both rooms. There was an attic but we had no strength nor desire to clean there. It was my brother's room. And I didn't want to go up there.
The fire in the fireplace blazed brightly, the house began to warm from up its long frozen sleep. And Mark and I sat together and watched the fire. I felt good ... and bad at the same time.
The house brought back sad memories. They were not sad in themselves, on the contrary, they were good. Here my family would celebrate the New Year, give gifts, make snowmen, my father would teach me to fish in the lake. Mom would pick flowers in the summer, read a book while lying in a wicker hammock. But that was too long ago to be true. When they were all gone, these memories became like this house for me – cold, distant, and alien.
I felt bad because, despite the fact that I was here with Mark, Mark's thoughts were elsewhere. He either recalled their quarrel with Ian, or imagined the scene of their reconciliation. I do not know for sure…
I know what suffering is. No, really. Without sentiments and whining. Suffering is like an intense hunger that you cannot satisfy. Only this hunger is somewhere at the level of the solar plexus and everything is constantly shrinking there, not allowing you to forget about the cause of your suffering.
I suffered when my parents died, because I wanted to see them, I wanted to hug my father again, to hear how my mother wishes me good night. But I couldn't. They disappeared in an instant. A wave swallowed them, washed them off the raft and smashed them against the rocks.
But before I could even begin to comprehend this, I lost my brother. On that trip, my brother was with our parents. He made it to the shore, they did not. He came back completely broken. And then suddenly he began to test himself and fate, until one day he went bungy-jumping and a rope tangled and broke his neck. And I still wanted my brother to steal my gifts as before, to make fun of my acne. But this could not have happened. He was no longer there.
Mark is all I have left. But…
I looked at Mark, he was completely absent-minded.
Our relationship, in a form of "elder brother – younger brother," has outlived its usefulness. We had to become equals, friends, so that we were bound by something more than his promise to take care of me. After all, he had already done everything he had to. I'm not a kid anymore. After college I'll be on my own and Mark too. And I don't want that. Why didn't I think about it before?
Perhaps Mark kept his distance from me, remembering that he should be not a friend but a guardian. Maybe he felt his responsibility and wanted to grow a good person out of me... So I could take care of myself. And be on my own.
And maybe ...
...I shouldn't resist it... maybe Mark finally wants to live his life, a considerable part of which he has already given to me...