When his mother came into his room to tell him his father had died, she also told him what to feel. You should feel sad, is what she said after saying, honey, I’m sorry, your father is dead.
So the boy was determined to feel sad like his mother told him to even though he wasn’t sure if he was doing it correctly. To practice, he looked longingly out the window at the trees and the flowers that were in bloom because it was the beginning of April and there is a particular type of orange flower that blooms every year in their yard that makes everything look like a cartoon. So he looked out the window mournfully at the cartoon yard and frowned and tried to well up some tears but only ended up smiling at it all.
He looked away from the window and decided to go some place dark, depressing. The closet. He opened his closet door and plopped down onto the pile of dirty clothes on the bottom, then shut the door and closed his eyes and thought about his father, thought about not having a father anymore, thought about what was the last thing he said to his father, what was his father wearing the last time he saw him, what did his father smell like, what was his favorite food, his job, his hobby, his history, and it wasn’t long before he fell asleep.
He woke to the light of his bedroom, to his mother having just swung open the door to the closet and asking him, honey, why are you sleeping on your dirty clothes? I’m practicing feeling sad. His mother said, oh I’m sorry, do you need to talk about it? I don’t know, is that what I should need? Maybe you still need some time to let everything sink in. So he said, okay, and his mother shut the door and left him alone in the dark closet, and this meant that going to the closet in the first place was the right decision for feeling sad and so the boy was happy.
After a little while, the boy discovered that feeling sad was boring and that he wanted to go back into his room and play video games. How long did his mother want him to sit in the closet? Suddenly, feeling sad seemed a lot more like he was being punished for something he couldn’t remember doing. So he decided to leave the closet.
He turned on the television in his room, the video game console, and ten minutes later his mother came in again and gave him an odd look with one eyebrow raised. How are you feeling? she asked, and the boy said, I’m still feeling sad, right? Yes, honey, you are. Then she said, dinner’s ready.
Macaroni and cheese, the boy’s favorite. He sat adjacent to his mother and scooped large bites of macaroni and cheese into his mouth. His mother stared at the picture on the wall in front of her which was of a single daisy in a flowerpot. Every once in a while, she brought her napkin to her face and wiped her mouth a little, her cheek a little. Then the boy remembered he should still be feeling sad, so he stopped eating, put his spoon down and looked at the picture in front of him just like his mother was, a framed poster of ten or twenty men sitting along a construction beam, legs dangling, eating lunch. It was a poster his father had persuaded his mother to buy and hang because he thought it was funny. The boy thought it was funny too, all those men dangerously eating lunch on a construction beam with their hard hats and tin lunch boxes, and so he was happy it was there on the wall, something funny to feel sad at.