The floor shifted slightly beneath my feet. Suddenly everything in the room seemed too bright: the white sheets on Adam’s bed, the mother of pearl buttons on Adam’s mother’s shirt, the fluorescent light overhead. I wanted to throw up, but I was afraid if I left the room Adam’s parents wouldn’t let me back in. “Maybe there’s something wrong with his voice.”
Adam’s father turned around. “There’s not a thing wrong with him, he just doesn’t want to talk to us. This… performance is for our benefit. He knows he’s in trouble and he can’t face it.”
“That’s not fair!” I said. Fear of Adam’s father drifted up and out of me like a ghost. “You’ve no idea how hard it’s been… how much he’s tried to…and now he’s sick and you’re acting like you don’t even care.”
“Jenny,” Adam’s mother looked at me like she’d never seen me before, “I understand you’re upset, but Adam is our son. Do you know what it’s like to get a phone call at four o’clock in the morning telling you that your son’s in the hospital? Adam’s father and I just spent two hours in a car worrying about what would be waiting for us when we got here. Can you imagine what that’s like? Can you?” The polite hostess mask slipped from her face like an overripe berry from a vine. Throughout her speech, she alternated between twisting the string of pearls she wore around her neck, and digging her French manicured hands into her sides as if to punish them.
I wanted to tell her I was sorry, but before I could form the words, Adam’s father started shouting at me. “You and Adam spend every waking moment together! You must have known that he’s been drinking, getting into trouble at residence. Why didn’t you call us, Jennifer? How could you have let it get this far?”
I couldn’t breathe. Adam’s father’s words were like an invisible hand reaching into my body and pulling out my breath like a long, twisty piece of rope. And then Adam spoke: “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Why are you even here? I don’t want you – I never want to see you again. Get out, get out, get out.”
My whole body went rigid at the sound Adam’s voice. Even the tears on my face seemed to still with shock. Was Adam talking to me? Did he want me to go away and never come back? Was he mad at me for leaving him alone? I looked at Adam’s mother, her too bright eyes seemed to have forgotten how to blink, and her hands shook as she reached for her pearls.