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- You know, sometimes I feel like I'm trying to do the right thing, but things get lost in translation somewhere. Like...not only are my efforts having little to no effect on the situation at hand, but I actually might be making things worse.

I always seem to make things worse.

My heart is in the right place though. I swear. I just don't want to leave everything up in the air and let it linger like I did before Summer break started. kinda started with me talking to my Dad earlier on in the day. I made myself a promise to at least call and say hello, even though I was nervous about it. He'll actually be gone by this time tomorrow. Like...actually...'gone'.

Something else that I'd rather not think too much about. Not as though I'm being given much of a choice at this point.

Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and talk to him for a bit and ask if everything was packed up and ready to go for the big trip. He assured me that it was. He even sounded kinda anxious to get on the road. I can't really say that I was thrilled about that. It didn't hurt my feelings or anything, I just can't claim to be happy that he was happy. That's all. Then he asked me what I was up to for the day, and I told him that I was going to take the bus up to work and get my paycheck today. I hadn't even spent HALF of the last one yet! Good thing I've got that bank account to put stuff into. I should totally look for more stuff to buy. Just...pointless stuff! Hehehe! Just so I can say that I have it and that I bought it with my own money, you know? It's like....maturity bonus points or something, being able to work that out.

My dad was quick to offer to come pick me up at the house and give me a ride instead of having me take the bus. He even said, "Maybe we can go get a couple of chili dogs and a few ice cream sundaes at that place I used to take you when you were a youngster. You remember?" I giggled and told him that I did, and I figured, 'why not?' Free ride, right? I thought it might even be really cool if I paid for lunch for the first time. Just for me and my dad! How cool would that be, ya know?

I can't believe how much I took something as simple as talking to my dad for granted before the last few weeks. I mean, like...when he was still in the house. Where I could always walk around a corner and expect him to be watching the football game on TV, or raiding the fridge for a few cold pieces of chicken from last night's dinner. He was actually talking to me. I think I never noticed just how easy it was to have a conversation with him and have him respond. I think that was a part of the reason why I was so jealous when Trace moved In and started going on and on about how great my dad was.

It's not that he treated Trace and Mikey any better than he did me. I just never took the time to really appreciate him like I should have when I had the chance. At one point during our lunch together, I think he caught me just...just staring at him. I can't explain why I was doing it or what I was thinking about at the time, but...this really warm sensation of hero worship rose up within me and I just felt proud to be sitting there with him and that crusty old booth by the diner window. Hehehe, it's true.

He's like, "Something on your mind?"

I just shook my head and smiled. I said, "Just...wondering how I missed all this before. I should have visited you more. After you moved out, I mean."

He nodded a bit, a tiny smirk on the side of his lips. He said, "I can understand...if you were angry with me, Billy..."

I was quick to be like, "No! Really, I wasn't angry. I just..."

He could tell that I didn't really have the words to describe it. So he said, "You were angry. And I don't blame you for that. After what happened. Just know that I love you with all my heart..."

I looked around the diner, like, "Dad..."

He's like, "I know, I's hard for boys your age to hear that from their old man, but it's something that I felt needed to be said. Not just here. Not just now. But from here on out. Every time it crosses my mind." He wiped his hands off on his napkin and looked me directly in the eye. He said, "You know, when Trace and his brother came to stay with us...there was a bit of an adjustment to be made. The staying out late, ditching classes, the alcohol...that wasn't going to work for me at all. But I realized something. Trace is the same age that you are now. And the more I looked at what he was going through...the more I understood that I wasn't paying as close enough attention as I thought I was. To you. Maybe to your mom too."

I'm like, "I don't...I don't understand."

So he says, "I just don't ever want you to think that you have to face anything in this life alone. And I never want you to doubt, even for a second, that your father's not standing in your corner. Ok?" With a heartfelt smile, I nodded. He was like, "I just want you to be a good man, Billy. The very best that you can be."

I said, "I try. Really, I do. But...more times than not, I just find a way to screw everything up."

He grinned and told me, "Well, sometimes you can learn a much better lesson from a thousand failures than you can from one instant success."

I asked, "So, what is it? I mean...what do I do?"

He said, "That changes from person to person. Everybody has to set their own standards. But...basically it's just a matter of doing what your heart tells you is right. Never expect receive more than you've given. Never expect to keep what you didn't earn. And more than anything...just know that your character as a man will be heavily judged by the way you treat other people. With love and respect. With patience. With care. Because all of the bad things you've done, the ones you know you shouldn't have done...they chase you, Billy. And they never stop. Not until you stop running and deal with the consequences they've got in store for you."

I guess I kinda remember learning that the hard way. From Brandon, from Bobby, from everybody. I'm happy to say that I've put my 'deliberate asshole' days behind me. At least, as far as I know, I have. I said, "I think I messed up a few times. Couldn't really help it."

He said, "That's bullshit. Don't start telling yourself that. You might as well say 'the Devil made me do it.' We make choices, and we should own up to every last one of them. Good or bad. Just remember...those selfish decisions that we make so many excuses for? They may seem like they carry some kind of instant reward, but they don't. In the span of a lifetime, they're all just a collection of tiny little baby steps. And they're all going in the wrong direction. I want you to be better than that, ok? Listen to your heart. You'll always know what's right when you listen to your heart. That's how you work towards being a good man." He gave me a heavy pat on the back of my shoulders, and I just...I felt good. You know?

After all the awful things that I've done, he always made me feel like redemption was possible. I could change my ways and be a better person, inside and out. I appreciated that.

After he dropped me off...the whole conversation got me to thinking. Maybe a little bit too much.

After being able to sit down and talk...I mean, really Brandon about all the things that had happened since we had been apart, and all the things that I wish had never happened at all...I felt another burning itch inside of me that I couldn't let go of.

That itch...was Jimmy.

From the moment I got home, it started bugging me. Seriously. My brain was just overwhelmed with guilt, my heart under such intense pressure that it felt like it would splatter to pieces if I didn't take a chance to do the right thing. Or...I dunno. I THINK I'm following my heart, aren't I?

I reached a moment when I just couldn't take it anymore. If I didn't talk to Jimmy and say...I dunno...something, I was going to regret it. It was going to remain this open wound for the rest of my life. This whole thing just seemed so stupid to me. It's been WEEKS! And Sam has been over there working his magic without me for a while now. I'm sure that the blow must have been softened quite a bit by this point. At least a little. I, right?

I stopped debating it in my head, and made a decision. Again...I was just so tired of running. I picked up my phone to text him a really short message. Just a quick, one sentence, message...made out of three or four words, tops...just to let him know that I was thinking about him. I figured that was harmless enough.

But...when I saw his name on the list and I thought about didn't seem very 'personal' on my part. What could I possibly say to someone in three or four words that would have any real merit at all after everything we've been through these past month?

So...without thinking...I changed my mind...and I gave Jimmy a call.

It was one of the scariest things I've ever had to do. I was trembling from head to toe when I heard that first phone ring. Would he answer? Would he see my name and hit 'ignore'? Would he pick up and curse me out for being such a heartless bastard with his feelings? Or would he simply be glad to hear from me...and open some kind of communication where we can at least begin to put this chaos behind us? I wondered if he was looking at my name right at that moment and started thinking those same thoughts. Who knows?

Two rings. Then three.

Then...Jimmy picks up the phone, and he's like, "......Hello?"

The 'question' in his voice was super exaggerated. Like he was almost afraid to fall for the idea that I could possibly be calling his number right now and have it not be an accident. But, keeping my physical shaking to a minimum, I said, "Jimmy? Hey. It's me..." Right. Like I needed to tell him that.

There was a brief silence. Almost as if Jimmy was trying to figure out what to do next. I think he was really surprised. As spontaneous as the idea was...I have to admit that I kinda surprised myself.

Jimmy way like, "Billy? Hey...ummm...hey! What's up?" He tried his best to make it sound normal, but it wasn't.

I was like, "Nothing. Nothing much. I was just...sitting here. It's been a while. I thought I'd check in and see how you were doing." I tried my best to make it sound normal, but it wasn't for me either.

Jimmy said, "Oh. Well, I'm ok, I guess." He seemed really lost, but it was still good to hear his voice. It seemed like it had been ages. He was like, ", how is Summer n' stuff going for you?"

I said, "It's cool. It''s cool. You?"

Jimmy sniffled a bit, but he tried to stifle it. He was like, "Yeah. It's ok. I haven't done much with my Summer yet, actually. I just kinda sit around the house all day. I don't go out much anymore."

That sting hit me in the center of my stomach again. I could almost hear the resentment in his voice, even if it was mixed with the sudden thrill of having me talk to him again.

I kept up a half-assed smile, just for the sake of keeping the peace for another few minutes. I was like, "'s nice out. You can't let it all pass you by without at least enjoying a little piece of it."

Jimmy's voice softened, and he said, "Yeah. I guess." I might have imagined it, but I could have sworn that I actually heard tears rolling down Jimmy's cheeks. Maybe it was the tone of voice, or the quiet sniffle he tried to hide from me by covering his phone with his palm...but I heard it. That's when the trembling in my chest got worse. And he said, "I miss you, Billy. I miss you so much."

Getting a bit more uncomfortable, I said, "It's ok, Jimmy. Look, maybe some day soon we can get together and talk ok?"

But as Jimmy began to break...the sniffles got louder, and his tears flowed freely. With a whimpering sob, he said, "I just miss you so fucking much! Some days...I think about you, and I can't even BREATHE!" He began to sob on the line, and started saying, "I'm sorry. I'm just...I'm sorry." Then, before I could say anything else, he said, "I have to go, ok? It's not you. I just...I have to go. I miss you, and I love you, Billy. Ok? I mean it. Bye."

I started to say goodbye, but he hung up the phone right away so I didn't get a chance.

Sooooo...maybe following my heart wasn't the best choice in this case. Sighhh...I'm trying to be a good man, Dad. I really am. K?

Anyway, I don't know if I made things better by letting Jimmy I was still here...or if I made them infinitely worse by tearing open the scar all over again. Sometimes it's just hard to figure out what I'm doing. But I'm going to try to make amends for what I did. Even if I have to go right to his front door with Sam at my side to make sure he doesn't try me to death or something. never know...

I've gotta run. I want to get up early tomorrow to see my dad off before he leaves for good.

Another book almost gone. At least I've got enough money to keep myself in constant supply. Thank goodness for a job, a bank account, and responsibility-free spending.

Take care. And to Jimmy...dude...I'm sorry. :(

- Billy

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