I wake up to the sound of birds and the rustling of leaves. I look down at the ground and don't see Benin. I begin to panic,
I scream his name for at least ten minutes. I hear someone coming out of the bushes. I crouch down, so they won't see me. Benin pops out and looks up,
I nod and swallow my worries. I climb down and stare at the ants, working together as one, as a team, as a family. I find a stick and draw a circle around them, making sure no one will step on them. I soon feel a hand on my shoulder,
"Where are we going?"
"Don't you wanna explore the world? See things you've never seen?"
"I've never had the interest."
"Tell me more."
"I just was never aloud outside. I sat on my air mattress and looked at the wall, imagining a different life on the other side of it."
"You've never explored?"
"I did once, when I was very young. I wanted to go in the river and no one would let me. I went by myself, almost drowned. I never learned how to swim. My neighbor was walking her dog when she found me passed out. She carried me to my house and my parents beat me till I woke up."
"I haven't been outside since."
"Tatum, if I would've known you when this was going on-"
"Don't petty me. Don't act like you would've made it better. You can't, don't you get it? You can't make me feel better, pretend that I'm better, act like I'll get better because I won't, Benin, I won't,"
"I was just trying-"
"I understand but, don't try to be a small fish swimming with bigger ones, they'll eat you alive."
He stays silent, then, walks down the trail. I follow.
We stop in two roads, one that leads to a river, the other leading to who knows what. Benin looks at me and questions what I wanna do. I shrug,
"Maybe I could carry you across the river."
"Impossible. The water is running too fast."
"Well, then, it looks like we'll have to explore."
He walks in front of me, prepared for any challenges. He finds a sharp stick and puts it in his belt buckle. He turns back to me, holding the weapon. I flinch back and he nods. We continue walking until we stumble upon a little house. He asks if I wanna go see, I say,
He walks by himself to the window of the house. He peeks inside and sees a family around their dinner table, talking, laughing. He looks around a little more and finds a picture of him when he was younger, hanging on the wall. He turns around and walks back to me. I look at him, waiting for an answer. He keeps walking past me with his head low.
We get back to his spot and we sit by a fire. I break the silence,
"That was a nice little house, huh?"
I walk over and kneel and his side,
"I saw, what I think are, my parents."
"Benin! That's amazing! Oh, how great it'll be for you to reconnect-"
"I'm not going back."
"But, their your parents."
"They were my parents."
"I'm sure they still think about you."
"Then, why would they abandon me? Huh? Do you know that, Tatum?"
I jump back. He brushes his face with his palm,
"I'm sorry. It's just, they abandoned me once. Why wouldn't they do it, again?"
"I don't think they abandoned you because they didn't want you. Maybe, there's a bigger picture."
"Why don't we get some food?"
We look for food for hours. Every once in awhile, I'll look over at him, to make sure he's okay, of course or, is it something more?