Why We Do This

Erin Robinson

He inhales and lays his fingers on the keyboard.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m writing an e-mail before I call so that you can have some time to think about what I have to say. I’m doing okay in school. Not great. I know I should put my grades first. I’m really trying. But I wanted to tell you something else. Not sure how to start this. I got myself into a little bit of trouble, nothing to freak out about. Just some money I owe from a credit card I got in September. I didn’t realize about the interest thing, not sure I even really understand how it works now. But the balance kept going up way more than I was spending, and now I owe a lot.

His finger holds down the delete key. This all sounds so lame, he thinks. There is just no easy way to do this. The sweaty Coke can fizzes on his desk. It sits by a pile of credit card statements. He thumbs through the folded papers, the most recent one on top. It pulsates, NEW BALANCE $19,458.69. MINIMUM PAYMENT $162.00. He tries again.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know that money is tight right now at home. Financial aid money is a little short this month, and I need some help. I had to buy some stuff for my room, and books were really expensive this quarter. I got a credit card to pay for it.

He hits delete again. There’s no use in lying. Of course he didn’t need things for his room, and the books were no more expensive than last quarter. As he scratches his dirty hair, he swivels in his chair and lets his eyes wander around the room at his stuff. The bedspread his mom bought him was fine. He didn’t need to buy the new one, charcoal striped instead of bright blue. His roommate had all these grandiose ideas about sexifying their room for the ladies. All his friends at school had Apples. He had a PC. It just wouldn’t do. Now he stares at the white screen of a Mac. He had to get some new clothes. For the ladies, his friend said. Plaid was so not what the girls were into anymore. At least not the ones that put out. God, how stupid, he thinks. He hasn’t met any girls who would even let him near their pants, anyway. Then the ski trip. What a waste. All of his friends bailed at the last minute. And the videogames. He’s not ready to address the videogames, what has become an obsession, an addiction, the source of most of his problems. Yes, gamers do sell weapons for their games online, and yes, there are idiots who will spend hundreds on an intangible saber so that they can reach the next level. He is that idiot. To explain these things which have so little meaning to his parents seems impossible. His stomach hurts from the worry, and he reaches an epiphany. None of this matters. He takes a swig of Coke.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Okay, so I really fucked up. I know, Dad, you told me a million times about how to balance a checkbook, how to keep track of your bank account balance, how to budget. But did you really expect me to listen? They hand out credit cards like candy bars at school. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m sure you probably did some pretty stupid things in your day. You’ve got some pretty messed up tattoos that you never want to talk about. There’s got to be some story behind that, right? Look, I just need some help here. I promise to pay you back. I won’t do it again.

He holds delete down again. This approach is doomed from the first sentence. Appealing to his dad’s wild side is not going to score points with his mom. It will only give her motivation to be more reticent to help. Her voice rings in his ear. “You need to learn these lessons on your own, honey.” No, that won’t work at all. He leans into the back of his chair, ponders his future, after college. What does it look like, life? Is he supposed to get some kind of job at a pharmaceutical company? What does studying biology get you these days? Is he supposed to get married, have kids, buy more stuff? He doesn’t know much about girls, but he knows they like stuff. That is one of the reasons he is afraid of having a girlfriend. He would have to buy more stuff. He sees the beer bong poking out of the closet, and he gets a good laugh. That night was fun. Leave it to a bunch of science geeks to build their own bong from a Home Depot run. But God, he was sick the next day. All that beer money, literally flushed down the toilet. Literally. What does that even mean? A flood of thoughts overtakes him. “What are we all here for? Why do we do this? Will we ever not feel alone? Will a woman ever want to have sex with me? Will a woman ever love me? Did any of the line items on these statements get me closer to anything real? How can I get ahold of a gun?” God, he feels so stupid, so pathetic. He’s not going to be “that” guy. Sweat rolls off his forehead. His chest flutters. He might be sick. He rolls his chair back and faces his computer.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Sometimes I get depressed, and I’m not sure why. I feel so alone here. I really miss you guys. Could I come home for a while? I just want to be home.

He hits send.

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