Sometimes we think he forces himself to think of a loved one dying, passing away, going to another place, however we want to call it, so that he cries. So that he knows he’s still capable of making tears. He tells us he would lose his mind otherwise.

But that won’t be all why we’re driving Nicholas to see what they–whoever “they is”–back in the day would call a head-shrinker. There are more polite terms these days.

Every now and then we look backwards to see the effects of bumps scouring the boulevard before us on Nicholas’s head. “Not too much longer,” we tell him. “Just a few blocks more.” We’ve been saying this for the past fifteen minutes. But we won’t say we’re lost.

Nicholas is crying.

Sometimes we think he forces himself to think of a loved one dying.

His tears are the opposite of watery. Dry? It’s as if they have blood hidden beneath their clear surface, the way his eyeballs are so shot with scarlet.

“You’re not going to let me explain things from my POV are you?” and “Just admit it, you hate me!” and “There should be a law against this crap!” we both expected to hear from our son. But he’s stayed quiet, which is worse than having him shoot us outbursts because now each tear is like a little silent protest against this journey that we’re bamboozling by letting a GPS guide us instead of our human intuition.

We’ve given him all the napkins there are in the car. Which numbered at least a dozen the last time either of us counted. They were brown, cheap, rough napkins, the type we get from eating at fast food joints. Nicholas said they–the napkins–made his eyes hurt even more.

But that just got us back to why we’re taking him in the first place. Because he says he’s willed his eyes to become bloodshot. He showed it to us once, too, so we know this isn’t just one of his usual boasts. We asked him why he’d developed this peculiar skill (while in the inside, we were starting to freak out and make personal memos to search for nearby shrinks).

“To make friends,” Nicholas replied.

Now he won’t have friends for a while. He’ll have to learn the art of being his own friend. Shouldn’t be too hard, seeing as how that’s been his life for the past decade or so.

We haven’t ruined him, we haven’t ruined him, that’s our mantra. Until we believe it, that’s what we’ll be saying to ourselves while the dark uncrowded boulevard takes us farther and farther from our house. Not a home. It’s something else that’s gotten to his head, and tonight we’ll find out.