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A Twist On A Hero’s Story
Alejandra Gonzalez

I remember the day he disappeared. The weather was shitty. There was fog everywhere, and everything was covered in dew from the night before. I watched him get on the bus for school, waved at him, and then he was gone. His face. He looked so drained, hopeless, full of pain. I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I saw my son. I was so oblivious. I’d been noticing changes with Jackson’s mood, activities, and behavior. I thought they were normal teenage growing pains. But I was wrong. It was right under my nose and I was too wrapped up in my own shit. I should have paid more attention.

I think this all stems from the fact that his mother left without any warning. He was about five years old. She went to get groceries for the house, and never came back. I remember coming home to our trailer, seeing him patiently staring at the door. It looked like he hadn't moved for hours. When I asked where mom went, his sweet innocent voice said, ¨Mommy went to the store. She´s been gone a long time. She must be getting a lot of food!¨. I realized quickly that she was gone. She left. That bitch left. After a couple of weeks, things started to get worse with Jackson.

When Jackson started kindergarten, he was a little different than the other kids. When I picked him up from school, he was always alone. He was standing with his teacher, but no other kids. His teacher pulled me aside and talked about putting Jackson in a special program. She explained to me that he wasn’t focusing on his work and he didn’t understand what she was saying. He couldn’t read, write, or speak as well as the other kids. Concerned, I agreed. Throughout elementary school he stayed in that program. Nothing was working. He was too distracted, too spacey. I tried working with him at home, but something else had his attention. He told me about the tapping that kept him up at night. The whispers that kept saying his name in class. I didn’t think much about it. I just thought it was his imagination.

As he got older, the more odd he got. In fifth grade he became more shy, more quiet. He didn’t ever want to leave my side. He would cry uncontrollably. He would scream, shouting things like “Don’t leave me with them! It’s scary!”. My only thought was that he was being bullied or just didn’t want to leave home anymore. He felt more at ease at home. But his odd behavior was still there. He would stare at the corner, like he saw something standing there. I asked him about it, and all he said was, “It’s nothing Daddy.”. Always with a smile. But something about the way he moved. It almost looked like he was, uncomfortable. It was just weird to see him move around on the floor or walking. I should have paid more attention.

His mood and behaviors changed drastically in middle school. We moved to Cougar, Washington the summer before. New house, new environment, new people. It was hard on both of us. I tried so hard to be a good dad to him. I thought a new home would improve his mood. I thought that if we weren’t in the same house Helen left him in, he would be better. I tried to understand his quirks, his habits, his way of life. But he just continued to get worse. His thoughts were all jumbled together. He couldn’t focus on a single subject. He was so disorganized at such a young age. The move did not help in the way I hoped.

He became more aggressive, more isolated. He didn’t have any friends, nor did he even try. He had terrible grades. He didn’t pay attention in class, he was always off task. He was disruptive. He would get angry with someone else’s opinion and yell at them. He even tried attacking another student. At home, he didn’t talk. He didn’t eat, shower, or take care of himself in general. He was always in his room. Sometimes I heard him talking to himself, or another person. I would check on him, but he always yelled at me to get out. Where did my sweet, innocent boy go? I was in his room when he was at school and I was shocked. All over the walls were these beautiful drawings. They were all the same. A tall, dark figure hidden in the forest. They were so detailed, so realistic. It scared me.

He came home and I confessed that I went into his room. He yelled at me, telling me I had no idea what I had done. Confused, I asked, “What do you mean? These drawings are beautiful. You’re an amazing artist!”. He acted like he had no idea what I was talking about. He looked so confused. He ran to his room and slammed the door. I waited and then went in. He was at his desk drawing. He didn’t yell at me, or even look at me. He was so focused on drawing this figure. I asked, “Are you okay Jackson?”. No answer. I walked closer to him and touched his shoulder. He jumped out out of his chair and smacked my hand away. “Don’t touch me! I don’t want to hurt you.” he said with such pain. I had no idea what was happening to my son at this time, but I don't think anyone could have known.

We didn’t speak after that. I was too stressed. The bills, the neighbors, the school. Everything was piling up. I just wanted to scream! My son was falling apart right in front of me, and there was nothing I could do about it. He’d been staying home from school, never leaving his room. I’m so afraid to check on him because I don’t want him to explode on me. Maybe I was too afraid to see what my son had become. I couldn’t help but think this is my fault somehow. That it’s my fault Helen left, why we didn’t have any money, and the reason why Jackson was so dysfunctional. It was all my fault.

I remember the day he disappeared..
He went to school that day, after staying home for two weeks. I could tell he really did not want to go back. He stepped on that bus, sat in his seat, then looked at me. I waved at him, but he didn’t wave back; pain and exhaustion was written all over his face. I watched the bus drive all the way down the road. I felt uneasy, but I couldn’t explain it. I just ignored it and went back up the driveway.

I sat on the couch flipping through channels trying to find something to watch. Every channel had some sort of bullshit television show with no point whatsoever. Nothing was interesting. All I could think about was Jackson. Wondering how he was doing at school, if he was okay. I just feel uneasy, like something is going to happen to him. Maybe I’m just over thinking, worrying too much. I know he’s fine, and he’ll make through school. I just can’t shake this feeling. I fell asleep on the couch. I don’t want to worry anymore, sleep is the only solution.

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