Favors

“Love Binds Anything”

Reprinted with permission from the artist Jessica Coppedg.

“Love Binds Anything”

“You are picking up Joseph after school, correct?” my mother asked. “Because you know I have to be at work, and I won’t be back until late tonight.” Dark bags appeared under her light blue eyes that were once beautiful. You could tell she was completely exhausted.

“I know, Mom. When do I not take care of him,” I stated, a sigh threatening to escape my lips. Heaving my book bag over my sore shoulders, I glanced up the stairs expecting Joseph to stroll down the steps any minute.

“Speaking of Joseph, where is he? He’s usually down here by now,” I wondered, my eyebrows furrowing. Mom didn’t answer, her mind obviously on other things. She was probably thinking that she was going to be late for work. Shaking my head, I started my way towards the stairs, my thoughts only focused on Joseph. Once I climbed the flight of steps, I knocked on his cotton- white door.

“Joseph, are you ready for school?” I asked as I tried my best to hear what was going on the other side of the door.

“I don’t want to go today, Sissy,” I heard a little boy squeak. I could just imagine him being under the covers in his bed, tightly holding his favorite stuffed animal to his chest.

“You have to go, Joey,” I replied using my nickname for him. “Today is your class field trip, remember? You don’t want to miss that, do you?”

I heard a rustling followed by a soft sniffle. “I just don’t feel like it.”

Realization dawned on me. I softly knocked on the door again, my throat tightening, “Can I come in, Joey?”

I waited for a couple of seconds before hearing a soft “yes”. I slowly opened the door, my eyes searching his bedroom. I saw my seven year old brother sitting with his legs crossed on his bed. He held his stuffed elephant securely to his small chest as a few tears rolled down his flushed cheeks.

I cautiously sat down next to him, silently waiting for him to speak. A calming sensation filled me as I glanced at him. This situation happened every other week. Even though this usually saddened me, I was used to it.

Six months ago Joseph became diagnosed with Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder. Before, I never understood why he was the way he was. I didn’t understand why he would be happy and easily excitable for a few days or weeks and then suddenly turn depressed, clinging to me often.

Joseph remained quiet while fiddling with his stuffed animal. It seemed as though he wasn’t going to tell me what was bothering him. Taking a deep breath I casually glanced at him.

“What’s bothering you, Joey?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged.

Feeling a little irritation bubble in my stomach, I thought back to what his therapist told me. She explained that I needed to be understanding and patient when he is in his depression.

“Well, I still think that you should go on your field trip. You’ve been excited for this day for the past month now! You’ll regret it if you miss it,” I replied. On instinct I wrapped my arms around him, trying to give him comfort.

“Okay,” he whispered. “Can you come with me?” He held onto me, squeezing me as if he was afraid I would disappear.

“You know I can’t. I have school to go to too. Besides, Cameron will be there to play with you.” I exhaled. I wish I could be there with him.

“Come on. We have to get you to school,” I stated after a couple of minutes of holding each other. I stood up, swiftly pulling him up with me. Smiling at him, I noticed the vague shadows below his eyes. Taking a deep breath, I really hoped he would be okay soon.

“So, how was this morning?” asked my best friend, Alaina.

This was a routine question that she asked every morning at school. We both sat at the round table in the library, both busy with homework. I never found the time at home to do my homework since my thoughts and actions always focused around Joseph.

“It was fine. Same things, really. I was just getting Joey ready for school.” I simply shrugged. I refused to tell her about Joey’s depression. It would just make me upset.

She nodded, understanding in her eyes. I could tell that she knew I was hiding something from her. She always knew. Thankfully, she did not question me any further.

A comfortable silence surrounded us as we focused on our work. Minutes had passed by when I felt a soft vibrating against my leg. Confused, I looked down to see a small bright light flashing in my back pack. Leaning down with a groan, I rustled through my bag and frowned. Who could be calling me?

“Hello?” I answered. Alaina looked up curiously, her eyebrows raised. As I shake my head at her, I heard a shuffling from the other line.

“Honey, this is your mother. I need to speak to you.”

Rolling my eyes, I replied, “I know who you are, mom.”

“I need you to do me a huge favor,” she rushed, her voice echoing through the phone. My heart leaped in my throat. Whenever she asked me for favors, it usually meant something had happened. Something that involved Joey.

“What do you need me to do?”

“Joseph’s teacher called and said that Joseph refuses to get on the bus for the field trip. He’s been complaining that he doesn’t feel like it, and he wants to be with you,” she explained. “You know how he gets. Could you maybe skip school just for today and go get him? I would, honey, but today is a big day at work, and I can’t leave anytime soon.”

I heaved a deep sigh as I rubbed my temples. “Mom, I can’t exactly leave either. I have a huge test coming up today. Plus, I have to stay today until four o’ clock for the meeting about the university I plan on going to. I can’t be the one to always get him when something happens.”

“I know, I know. Today is just a big day for me. Can you just do this one favor for me? Please?” The pleading in her voice was frustrating.

“Fine. I’ll do it. But Mom, we can’t do this every single time something happens. I’m leaving for college in a couple of months, and I won’t be there when something like this happens again.” I completely adored my little brother but it seemed as though my mother was not willing to lend a hand when Joey got into these horrific stages.

“Yes, I know. That is in a couple of months though. Nothing to worry about. Anyways, I have to go. My boss is yelling at me to get off the phone. I love you and will see you tonight,” she quickly replied. A click sounded, and the line went dead.

I carefully put my phone down, my thoughts racing. I hastily picked up my bag as I prepared to leave.

“What was all that about?” Alaina asked. I jerked my head up to peer at her. It had completely left my mind that she was still here.

“Joey,” I stated. She nodded, her eyes understanding. I never really had to explain when these situations came up. She knew that I was uncomfortable speaking about it. With a mumbled goodbye, I quickly walked out of the library.

Once I arrived at the elementary school, I made my way to the front office. Turning a corner, I spotted Joey sitting in a chair in the dank office, his head down and staring at the floor. Pain churned in my stomach as I observed how miserable he was. At that moment I wished more than anything that his disorder would just leave him alone.

With a sigh, I slowly walked towards him. “Joey?”

His head perked up when he heard my voice. The principal sitting across from Joey at his desk gave me a sad half-smile.

“Hello. You are Joseph’s sister, correct?” he asked.

“Yes sir, I am,” I replied simply, my fingers wrapped together.

“Well, I am sure you heard what has happened. He kept calling for you.” He sighed. “Thank you for coming to pick him up. It just doesn’t seem like he is in the right state of mind right now.”

I nodded, my heart sinking. I turned my head to look at Joey. “Are you ready?”

“Yes,” he murmured. He picked up his small backpack with no energy.

“Come on,” I said, grabbing his hand. We walked down the hallway with our hands linked as I thought about what to say to him. I longed to speak to him about what happened but I didn’t think it was right to bother him.

The moment we walked into the house, he seemed stuck to me. Everywhere I walked he was right behind me. I eventually set my bag down, and we both walked into the kitchen.

Reaching for a snack, I finally asked, “So, what happened back there?”

He shrugged, refusing to say anything.

Sorrow lacing my voice, I replied, “I thought we agreed that you were going on the field trip. You know, so you didn’t miss it.”

He shrugged again, his eyes downcast. I set a pack of crackers in front of him. He glanced at it, his lips in a frown.

“I’m not hungry.”

“You have to eat. You didn’t eat this morning either.”

He shook his head vigorously. I could tell he was exhausted by the way he hung his head. With an exhale of breath, I finally gave in.

“Do you want to go up to my room? Watch TV? Maybe take a nap?”

“Okay.”

I headed upstairs with Joey right behind me. I turned on my television, clicking to the channel that his favorite cartoon was usually on.

“Do you want to watch SpongeBob?” I asked, turning around to look at him.

He shrugged, his shoulders falling limply.

Taking that as a yes, I put the remote down on my dresser and crawled into bed with Joey. I wrapped my arms around him, trying to comfort him. It was the only thing I could do for him. The only thing that worked at least a little bit.