• It was dark outside, the sound of cars riding down the surrounding streets and going through the Drive-Thru of the Burger King right next door a sort of background music. I was staring at the computer screen, a blank space for composing a post for my Gaia site staring back at me. How long had I been trying to write a single sentence? Glancing over to one of the six tabs I had open, I saw that I had a new email on my Yahoo account. Checking it, I felt my heart drop. It was him, my ex boyfriend...boyfriend...whatever? What did he want, I wondered. Oh yeah, I sent him a message first. Of course he wouldn't talk to me by himself. I logged out of Yahoo without even reading the email; I logged out of Gaia, no reply written up for any of my six role plays; I closed my Youtube down, not realizing that a song hadn't been playing for over half an hour.

    I turned the entire laptop off, leaving me in almost complete darkness. I wasn't alone, not really. Across the table on the other seat of the booth was a black blanket coated with my puppy's hair and I knew that my two-year-old Chihuahua was buried under the blanket. Upstairs was my dad sleeping, exhausted from working nine hours everyday. My mom was at work, probably straightening up clothes, sweeping her section of the Army-Navy Surplus store she practically lived at, ready to get home to her family. Me? I was hugging my knees to my chest like if I didn't my heart would spill out onto my lap, a bloody mess. I couldn't say honestly that I didn't know what was wrong with me, only that I didn't know which of my problems were nipping at me the most.

    Out of nowhere, I grabbed my phone from off the table, the background shining a picture of two guys holding each other: Christian and Olli, from my favorite German soap opera. I hit '4' on my numerical keypad, the speed dial for my older brother Russell. Ring, ring, ring, was the only answer I received. Disappointed, I ended the fruitless call and felt like crying. The sudden need to hear my brother's voice was overwhelming. I had talked to him maybe not even a full week ago, yet here I was, just needing his good-hearted teases and jokes, intelligent conversations about random things, him telling me everything would be okay even if it was a lie. I picked up my phone to see if he called back. Nothing. The minutes droned by, my phone never lighting up for an incoming call.

    I closed my eyes, pressing my palms hard against my eyelids until I felt a strain and saw small spurts of multicolored lights. Removing my hands from my eyes, I felt around for my phone. Shoot! One missed call. Russell! Calling him back, it took a couple rings for my brother to answer. Relief flooded me as I stood up and quietly walked outside to the alleyway right behind my house. We only talked for a few minutes before he admitted that he was watching a movie with his wife and kids and his wife's cousin, who lived with them. Apologizing, I made him promise to call me the following day before exchanging I love yous and goodnights.

    Looking up at the stars, I shivered. It was a chilly night, early to mid-March, and it had to be around nine o'clock. My mind drifted to my deceased grandparents, my heart feeling weighed down by cement bricks. Lifting my phone to my ear, a tremor gently shook my body as I whispered, "Hey Mawmaw." Tears immediately assaulted my green eyes, a burning ebbing deep in my throat and nose. "How you been?" I continued, making my voice sound, though it was small and soft. "I've been better...but I've been worse, so I guess it'd be wrong of me to complain, yeah?" I listened for her voice, which only came to me from a vague and fading memory. My tears dropped onto my cheeks. "I miss you. I miss Pawpaw too. I wish you could still be here. I know, I know. Not like I'd be able to call you now anyway."

    I said that knowing Pawpaw would be asleep in bed by now, Mawmaw falling asleep or already asleep in her rocking chair. I swiped at my cheeks with the back of my hand and my knuckles. The cold of the night was really starting to seep into my skin, and I hadn't thought to grab a jacket. Taking a deep breath in through my nose, for just a moment my guard dropped and I let out a strangled sound, muffled by my hand clamping down over my mouth. I wanted to sink to the ground, curl up in a ball. I wanted to cry loud and hard, to scream into the somewhat peaceful night. I wanted to be in Louisiana, in a casket buried six feet under the ground, covered by a concrete dome-type slab. I wanted to be laying on my right side, watching my beloved grandmother sleep, scared to keep watching but scared to close my eyes. Which would be worse? Seeing her die, or waking up to find her already dead next to me?

    Out in the alley, I put my barriers up, telling my grandparents goodbye, that I love and miss them. My mask went up. Mom should be pulling up soon. Pulling myself together just enough to not worry my mother, I went back into the house, back into the literal and figurative darkness, sitting in solitary silence until my mom came home, a smile on my face.