3:29. 3:30. 3:31. Will counted the time on the digital clock in the car. 3:32. That means 45 minutes have passed since the last time anyone said anything.
Will sat in the passenger seat, alternating between looking outside the window and glancing at the clock. Because of the uncomfortable silence, Will felt afraid to even turn his head. Dan, his dad, was in the driver’s seat, his eyes fixed on the road ahead.
Will didn’t even know why they were going on this camping trip. He had initially refused when his dad had asked him to come last night, but it had soon become apparent that he did not have any choice in the matter.
Despite counting each minute in his head, it still felt like an eternity before Dan finally spoke again. “We’re here.”
The car pulled into a small clearing in the woods. Wordlessly, Will got out of the car and started to unpack their camping supplies.
The rest of the evening passed by relatively quickly. Will kept himself busy and tried to avoid his dad as much as possible. He volunteered to collect wood for the campfire, but spent most of the time wandering around the woods, not wanting to go back to the muted atmosphere of the clearing.
Finally, the sky was dark and the first stars were beginning to appear. The campfire had died down and now cast a red glow on the two chairs on opposite sides of the fire. Will stood up. “I think I’m going to bed.”
Dan looked up. “Okay. I’ll put out the fire then.”
Inside the tent, Will slid into his sleeping bag. He hoped to fall asleep quickly, escaping from the awkward silence that would appear once his dad entered the tent. But Will stared at the roof, wide awake, and after a few moments Dan stepped inside and got into his own sleeping bag.
Will tried to fall asleep after that, but he found himself counting sheep. Raindrops gradually began to hit the roof of the tent, so Will started to count every drop that hit.
The rain intensified. Suddenly, a huge hole appeared in the roof of the tent. “Damn!” Dan exclaimed. A torrent of rain drenched them. “Hurry, let’s get out of this thing.”
Will blindly groped around. “Where’s the zipper?”
“Here,” Dan said, opening the tent. “Go!”
Dan and Will ran outside. It was pouring rain. “Dad! Where are your car keys?”
Dan ran around to the other side of the car, unlocked the door, and climbed in. Will jumped inside and slammed the door shut.
The raining pounded on the windows. Dan and Will sat there, breathing heavily.
“We haven’t been camping for so long, I can’t remember the last time we used that tent,” Will said.
“I should’ve checked to see if it was still usable. One of the seams must have been ripped,” Dan said. He glanced over at Will and gave a small smile. “I’m sorry, I’m always ragging on you to be more careful, but this time it was my fault.”
“I don’t blame you. I would never have expected this to happen,” Will replied. “I guess we can try to stitch the tent back together when we get home.”
“Oh no, we’re definitely getting a new tent. This brand is no good.”
“That’s for sure.”
A flash of lightning appeared in the distance.
“Kinda funny how little we agree these days,” Dan said.
Will stared out the window. “That’s true.”
“I’m always criticizing you for one thing or another.”
“It wasn’t always like that. There weren’t always so many expectations I had to follow.”
“We gave you a lot of freedom while you were younger. We realized how bright you were, and so we started to push you.”
“Maybe you’ve been pushing me a little too hard.”
A roll of thunder sounded distantly through the rain.
“Your mom and I, we know that you have the potential to grow up and do great things, and we want to see that happen.”
“But I also want to live now.”
The pounding of the rain lessened.
“At some point I’m going to grow up, and I’ll never have the chance to relive these years again. You won’t either.”
The gentle sound of the rain outside reminded Will of a simpler time, when he would climb onto his dad’s lap and ask him to read, before the stream of life had come and carried Will away.
“I want you and Mom to live your own life, too,” Will said.
Dan paused for a moment. “Maybe you’re right. Over the past few years, we’ve forgotten how.”
“Well, it’s midnight, it’s raining outside, and you and I are sitting here talking in the car.” Will smiled. “We’re both here, living right now.”