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  • annedouglas8


Today my son Robby returns to college. I won’t say goodbye, I prefer: see you soon. Anticipating the sadness that will shortly wash over me I’m grateful I planned ahead. Weight training, a haircut and my therapist. Robby puts his luggage in the car and turns to face me. Neither wants to make the first move.

“I have to go, Mom. I’m sorry, it’s a nine-hour drive.”

“I know.I’ll see you soon. I hug his six-foot frame. He’s gotten so tall. I tilt my head back to get a good look at his face. He hugs me back, a big bear hug that lifts me off my feet.

“Please drive carefully.” I sense how conflicted he is these days.

“I will.” Questionable. He has a lead foot.

“Mom please don’t cry, you know it makes me sad.”

“Okay. No tears. Study hard, be safe, make smart choices.” How many times have I uttered those words?

“I love you, Robs.”

“I love you more.”

“Mom, you’re crying.”

“No, the sun’s in my eyes.” He backs out of our driveway, rolls down his window and waves. His music serenades our street. I don’t recognize the song.I holler,

“Who’s singing?” He stops the car and turns down the music.

“Travis Scott. Skyfall. Listen to it.”

“I will.” I probably won’t. I take a deep breath and go inside.

“Where are you going? If it’s where I think, don’t do it.”

“I’m not.” He thinks I’m going to Robby’s room. I will later, at the end of the day.

“I’m getting my keys and going to the gym. I’ll see you later.”

“Are you okay?”

“No but I will be.” I don’t return home until five. I climb the stairs to the third floor and sit on Robby’s bed. My chest hurts. I miss him already. His carpet is covered in clothes,— a mixture of clean and dirty, he’s not discerning. His bedside table is littered with remnants of last night’s midnight snack. I toss empty wrappers. The wallpaper I chose when he was five still covers his walls. A seaworthy man on the ocean during a storm. Ticket stubs, memento’s of sporting events are taped above his bed. A photo of Robby with his late “Nonnie” graces the wall above his desk. In the picture he’s a toddler. A photo from the summer of 20011. We both miss her. I lie down on his bed, surrounded by stuffed animals, his childhood, nighttime companions. A green sweatshirt lies across his pillow. Greek letters indicate a sorority, the inscription,“Fall Formal 2019,” printed on the back. He sent me a photo. I search my camera roll and locate it. My handsome son standing casually, his right arm around the waist of a thin, blonde, southern girl. I press the sweatshirt against my face and inhale deeply. I put it on and wrap my arms around myself. I text him.

“Hi, Robs. Did you make it back okay? I’m in your room wearing the green sweatshirt you left behind. It smells just like you.” He’s quick to reply.

“What do I smell like?”

“Yourself.” A bubble appears, he’s texting back.

“My guess, a little sweat, Old Spice, and weed.”

“Yup, that’s it.” A photo I took on a trip to St. Barts in 2003 rests on his bookshelf. Robby’s three. I capture the moment just as he jumps over a large mound of sand, tackling his older brother.

A month passes. I’m sitting in my car waiting for my daughter to emerge from dance rehearsal. I open the most recent text conversation with Robby, it’s strained and sense him drifting farther away. I hear from him less frequently. I worry I’m losing him.

“Mom, stop trying to help. It only stresses me out.”

“I’m sorry, Robs. That’s not my intention.”

“Don’t be mad, Mom. My classes are so hard I don’t have time for anything else.”

“I’m not mad.” Where’s my contagiously happy, blond, blue-eyed boy? I’ve said that too often, it’s become a burden. Robby’s passion lies in far-away countries and their cultures. He dreams of traveling the world. Over Christmas break, as we’re sitting in front of the fire he says,

“You know how much I admire Jeremy Wade.”

“I do.”

“I’m just like him. He loves the ocean and the elusive underwater creatures who dwell there. Can I read you a sentence from his book?”

“Of course.”

“My background is just getting into the kinds of places where outsiders don’t normally go, with enough physical energy left to put a line in the water.” Robby’s dream too. For Christmas his father gifts him a land caster. An expensive pole, an investment in his future. It’s the dead of winter, still off-shore, summer fishing lurk in the forefront of his mind. His need for adventure is all-consuming. He’s impulsive, unpredictable. I sit at my desk in the kitchen and lookthe window. Neighborhood children fill the streets. One little boy is the spitting image of a younger Robby. I send a simple text.

“Everything okay?”

“Mom, I’m trying to call more often. It may not seem like it but my intentions are always good. I’ll always love you more.”

My eyes well up. He’s kind and loving but at times his mood changes with no forewarning. A sudden squall. Perhaps driven by music? He prefers Rap, lyrics I don’t understand. What was he listening to as he pulled away? I promised I’d look it up. I want to create a stronger bond between us?

“Robs, send me a selection of your favorite songs. I’m trying to understand a part of you I’ve previously ignored.”


“Yes, really. Start with one.”

“Try Kid Cudi, Soundtrack 2 My Life.”

“I’ll do it now.” The chorus is startling. It wakes me up.

“I’ve got some issues that nobody can see and all of these emotions are pouring out of me. I bring them to the light for you. Its only right, this is the soundtrack to my life.” I realize I’m crying. He’s communicating with me through song.

“Robby, I’m sorry I didn’t listen earlier. You’ve asked me to and I should have. Keep the music coming.”

“Thanks Mom. Thanks for trying. I won’t send the explicit versions.” He sends the uncensored one. It don’t care, we’re communicating. I’m not losing him after all.


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