Friday, October 8
Evening of Fenton High homecoming football game
“Welcome home, Carson,” Dad says as I walk in the front door. I mumble a non-response, then quickly scale the family photo-free stairs as my head spins with the simple significance of that compound word—homecoming.
Homecoming is no ordinary word. I should know because as a future bestselling, award-winning novelist, I’m good with words. Tonight, homecoming means the football game that I watched to report on for my school paper. Tomorrow will be the homecoming dance, which I won’t attend. I’m glad not to be attending a school dance, thanks to my prom fiasco with Thien. As I walk up toward my room, I’m not thinking about last spring’s prom, but of that Christmas morning when Caitlin ran away.
Every morning I Google her name, ‘Caitlin Banks’, but she remains a mystery, like a haunting memory or elusive mirage. My parents gave up searching, mentioning her name and even having her photos in the house. I pray they still have hope. I do.
In seconds my dependable four-year-old MacBook Pro comes on and I start clicking away at the keyboard and mouse, the sound echoing in silence. I see on the screen that I’m not the only one in front of a computer instead of a keg. It looks like many of my friends—National Honor Society all-stars and newspaper nerds—are online as well. I chat to fight the loneliness that a weekend like this magnifies a million times. Finishing the football story for the paper comes easily, so I quickly transition into the online pursuit of seventeen-year-old boys everywhere. Every time I look at porn I feel guilty, but I’m not sure why. It’s free. It’s exciting, and nobody gets hurt. Besides, one-hand fantasies and wet dreams are the extent of my sex life. Given how things ended with Thien at the prom, that’s probably just as well for me and all Fenton High girls.
I sit alone in my room in my parents’ soon-to-be-foreclosed-on house in suburban Flint, Michigan, surfing worldwide porn when I see a thumbnail of a white guy and a black guy, between them a young blonde girl with nice, natural tits. I click the image. The picture gets larger while my world grows smaller. The naked blonde girl on the screen is my sister Caitlin.