“I’m sorry I got so mad at you the other day at the mall,” Madison said as they worked their way east toward Indianapolis. “I’m not really sure what set me off.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. I get it,” Lucas replied. “You got fourteen years of mad built up. That anger needs a chance to breathe.”

Madison glanced at him and then back at the road. “That’s a weird way of putting it.”

“My therapist when I was inside said that. He said my addictions were self-soothing behavior that I was using because I had anger left over from when I was a kid. Said I internalized it and that gave me anxiety, and it’d be better if I learned to let anger out when it happened. Let it breathe. As long as I made sure I understood anger was really about me.”

“About you?” she asked.

“Yeah. When someone else does something that makes you angry, maybe they shouldn’t have done that, but it’s still not their fault you’re angry. You can imagine some other fella might not be angry if they did the same thing to them. So that means being angry is like a choice you’re making. That it’s from you, and it’s about you. It’s kind of a subtle difference, but it’s important. Other people cannot control how you feel. How you feel is up to you. Some people are just really chill and can let things go. If you can’t be one of those people, you need to acknowledge the anger, but that don’t mean it’s someone else’s fault. It’s still you.”

“So you’re saying that me being angry that you abandoned us is a choice I’m making?” Madison asked. “I don’t know. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

“No, not exactly. It’s not a choice to be angry, but it’s like a choice that your own brain is making for you. For the most part, people can’t control the emotions they feel. Sometimes you get super mad, or real happy, or you just have to cry. That shit comes from deep inside and you have no control over it.”

“That seems to be happening to me more and more these days,” Madison said. “I think it’s stress.”

“Could be,” he said. “Or just growing up stuff, like puberty. I know that I went from being a real happy kid to being a real angry teenager, and I don’t really know why that happened. It just happened.”

“For me it’s not anger. It’s… I don’t know the right word for it. But I get panicked or I just start crying. It’s embarrassing.”

Lucas nodded. “Yeah. I know what you’re talking about. I’ve felt that, too. I think it’s all part of the same thing. Your emotions finding a way to breathe because you keep trying to shut them down. You gotta learn to say, ‘damn, I sure am mad,’ without blaming other people for making you that way, and without breaking your hand punching a wall.”

“How do you learn to do that?” she asked.

“I’ll let you know when I figure it out,” he said with a little laugh. “I told you I do the meditation. I’m not even very good at it. I get distracted and start thinking about stuff. But it still helps. I have a lot less of that bubbling-up stuff now that I do my meditation every night.”

“I should try that,” Madison said. “I feel so silly doing it.”

“When I started, I used guided meditations. It’s like a thing you listen to where some guy with a super soothing Barry White kind of voice is telling you what to think about. That shit puts me right to sleep. But it’s a decent way to get started.”

“It’s weird to me that you’re saying that I shouldn’t be mad at you for leaving us. That seems kind of self-serving.”

“Well it’s complicated, isn’t it?” Lucas replied. “I mean, when I left, I knew I was doing what’s best for you and your mom. I was dragging her down, and she needed to be free of me. And then I ended up in jail, so there weren’t nothing I could do about it at that point. And then when I got out, you two had moved on. I didn’t see a place for me there anymore.”

“I get all that,” Madison said. “But instead of leaving, couldn’t you have just stopped doing all the shit that was a problem?”

“I didn’t know how to stop. Them addictions have power over you like I hope you never find out. It’s like the little man in your head is calling the shots and you just gotta do what he says. I’m not saying that as an excuse. It’s just facts.”

Madison pulled into the driveway of the nursing home. “I guess I’ve never experienced anything like that, so it’s hard for me to understand.”

“I hope you never do, kiddo. You gotta be careful, for sure. This stuff gets passed down. And I can see other pieces of me in you. It might be there, too.”

“I’ll be careful. I can’t stand the taste of alcohol, that’s for sure,” Madison said. “Anyway, we’re here. Let’s go meet Dr. NASA.”

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