It's Okay to Feel



It’s Okay to Feel

Cory was uncomfortable: the air conditioning in Camille’s car didn’t work, creating a kind of thick layer of atmospheric humidity that could only exist in the tiny space that was her two-door Toyota Camry, making it difficult to breathe. The air reeked with a terrible mixture of body odor, sweat, salt, and whatever air freshener Camille was using. Fresh linen maybe. None of this was really new to him, but what always bothered him was how Camille can drive so nonchalantly without even showing as much as a sign of displeasure.

            Cory rolled down his window to try to escape. A light breeze whistled in as the window slowly crawled down the door, but the wind was equally as hot and unbearable. They were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway, and the collective heat of the summer air and the exhaust being released by the surrounding cars blew in a draft of exasperated mugginess and dirty fumes.

            Cory’s last chance for relief dissipated instantly, only making him more irritated and irritable as ever. He couldn’t find any position to get comfortable - his shirt was bunched up and sticking to his back which had darkened in shade from his sweat, and the leather on the seats was just warm enough for Cory to feel a slight burning sensation when his exposed skin made contact. Again, the thought ran through his mind of how Camille can just sit there and not let it affect her. It angered him immensely. He thought why must I be the only one to suffer?

            Camille kept her head and her eyes still, waiting patiently as the car inched forward every few minutes. She hated sitting in traffic - she felt that the overall anxiety of the other drivers was heightened for no other reason than that they were in a hurry for the sake of being in a hurry. People were generally selfish on the road, she thought. It made no sense to get upset when you had nowhere to go. The honks and beepings of cars only added to everyone’s frustration, but Camille kept composed, her breathing steady and firm.

            Camille had grown accustomed to the environment of her car. It felt relaxing and cool to her, a nice escape from the summer air, then again, she never really minded the heat. However, she didn’t like the feeling of sweat dripping down the canyon of her back. The tickling of each bead of salty water gave her the awkward feeling of unattractiveness that constantly plagued her mind and the minds of so many other girls. She could feel a small diamond sweat spot forming along the curve of her back, fusing her back to her seat. Camille tried to ignore it as best she could, maintaining her hands at the 10 and 2 positions.

            Camille decided to look out her window to catch a glimpse of what little scenery there was beyond the concrete overpass. Streetlights, stoplights, and billboards hung over the buildings and cars below like branches and vines in a metal jungle. The cars on the streets looked like herds of cattle, following each other aimlessly to destinations that they couldn’t wait to get to, destinations as arbitrary and insignificant as those on the highway with her and Cory. Camille felt, despite all the chaos down below, amidst all the confusion of the highway, she could still find some semblance of peace within the isolation of her own little car.

            “All right,” Cory began with an exhausted and infuriated impatience, “I’m just going to come out and say it.” Camille slumped her head down to her chest and let out a deep sigh. There goes the peace, she thought.

            Cory repositioned himself carefully in his seat to face Camille.

“Do you just not care about what happens to dad?” he asked. His face was contorted with great confusion, anger, concern, and disbelief for both their dad and Camille.

            “Of course I care about dad,” she replied.

            “Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it,” Cory lashed back.

            “What were you expecting?”

            “I don’t know. Something. Anything,” he said, waving his hands in anger.

            There was a pause. Camille didn’t know how to respond.

            “Dude. We just found out that dad has cancer - Cancer!.”

            Camille drew in a deep breath. She could feel her body tense. She loosened her grip on the steering wheel, lowered her shoulders and exhaled. The air felt like it somehow got warmer. The tension in the tiny space made it feel thicker, heavier.

            “Yes. Dad has cancer,” Camille explained. “Yes, it’s unfortunate, but what do you want me to do about it?”

            “I want you to feel something about it!” Cory yelled. “Don’t you feel sad? Upset? Angry? Scared?! Anything at all about dad’s current condition?!”

            Camille took a few seconds for his words to resonate, shaking the air between them with violent force, thinking how she truly felt. Their dad had given them the news no more than an hour before. She didn’t react as dramatically as he did. He was very much distraught. She kept a level head throughout the entire meeting in the hospital room, thinking of all possible next steps after the big reveal.

            “If I were to choose one,” Camille paused, “I suppose I would be sad.”

            “So then why couldn’t you just show that to dad?” Cory retorted. “How do you think that makes dad feel when he sees you unphased by something so big, huh?”

            “It’s out of my control of what happens to him, Cory,” she asserted. “Getting upset won’t do him any good.”

            “It lets him know that you care about him. That you’re worried about him.”

            “Don’t assume that I don’t feel the same things you do, the only difference is I’m not letting my emotions get carried away.”

            “Why not, Cam? It’s okay to feel. What. All of a sudden you think you’re better than everyone else?”

            “Why is this always an issue with you?”

            “Because it’s never an issue with you!” Cory screamed. “You never react, never respond, never let yourself go there.”

            “Again, what good would that do?”

            “Ugh,” Cory grunted in disgust. “You just don’t get it. I don’t think you ever will.” He rested his elbow on the open window and propped his head on his hand as he looked out onto the sea of cars. Ahead he could see the collective fumes of the cars floating upward, waving fantastically, distorting the horizon into an upward cascading waterfall.

            Camille’s grip grew tighter, her knuckles turning a little white over the wheel. Her forehead stiffened, her brows met at the bridge of her nose, her lips pursed, doing her best to restrain sound from escaping her mouth.

            “You know what, Cory, you’re right,” Camille finally said. Her words had a calculated disdain to them. Cory could feel the air beginning to turn cold from her words. It was arid and still, a chill running down his spine as her words penetrated his soul. He rolled up his window and turned to face her again, his face unmoved.

“You’re right, I don’t get it,” she continued. “I don’t get why getting emotional will help me. I don’t get why getting emotional will help dad.” Camille’s voice rose higher with each sentence, growing in intensity and anger. “I don’t get why you think this is a problem. I don’t get how you think that it’s okay to be that emotional. You’re like a loose cannon: you let your emotions fly every which way without any regard to any damage you might actually be causing to everyone around you. To me, that’s reckless. Have you ever considered that your upset or whatever you felt today in that hospital room might be causing dad more stress? You have no control. I do! So don’t try lecturing me on what I should and shouldn’t be feeling, because I do feel. I do hurt. This isn’t easy for me either.”

Camille’s speech hung in the air, echoing like Zeus’ lightning cracking in the distance. They boomed with ferocious vigor. Cory could see a single tear slowly drip from the corner of her eye and down her cheek. Camille took a deep breath, eyes on the road, ignoring it completely.

“That’s called frustration,” Cory finally said rigidly.

She didn’t respond. A small smirk curled at the corner of her mouth at the smartass comment, but it was immediately turned back into a frown.

“I’m not asking you to be as big and dramatic as me,” Cory assured her, “I’m just asking that you feel something, like you are now.” He spoke with a calmness that was comforting. His movements were slight, his message clear. “The reason I let myself feel so much is because it lets me be vulnerable. It lets me know that I’m human because I feel these things. It’s natural to feel those things, Cam. Anger. Sadness. Happiness. Why do you want to suppress that? You can learn and grow from these experiences, but you need to be able to accept them as they come. It may look like I get out of control, but by submitting to them, by understanding and acknowledging why I feel these things in these moments, I become more in control. Don’t think of them as anything less than an extension of you. Don’t ignore them.”

There was another pause. Camille was beside herself, speechless. Tears started to flow down her cheeks. Her eyes were puffy and red, her bottom lip quivering in between breaths to try and calm down. She wiped her face with her hand. Something about what Cory said rang true to her. She never really considered that before. For all the thinking that she does, she never really thought about it like that.

Cory extended his arm and gave Camille a light pat on the shoulder. She looked over to him. His expression was stern, but relaxed. Something in his eyes displayed a mixture of worry and assurance. His eyes suggested that everything was going to be okay, that she would be okay.

“Do you feel better now?” he asked.

Camille took a second to compose herself. “Yeah, I’m good.”

“Good,” he said. He pulled back his hand. “Sometimes you think too much.”

She couldn’t help but let out a tiny laugh. She didn’t think something like that was possible. When did Cory become so smart, she thought.

Cory repositioned himself so that he was firmly planted in his seat. His posture was straight, his back completely against the seat, one hand on his lap, the other on the door’s armrest. He was looking forward, outward beyond the windshield. The flashing red lights of brakes looked like fireflies whisking across a cluttered landscape of bulky metal pylons. He was completely calm, a slight smile on his face. He felt cool, peaceful. Whatever atmosphere he imagined in the car seemed to have lifted away. He felt he could breathe again.

Camille’s tears had finally subsided. Her chest felt warm. The warmth spread across her body like fire. The air was stifling, and it reeked of sweat and salt. Camille decided to roll down her window, hoping to gain some relief. To her surprise, the warm incoming breeze felt refreshing against her face. Everything was going to be okay. She could feel it.

Matthew Comorre


Matthew Comorre is an emerging Los Angeles writer hoping to get his works published for the first time. He found writing while pursuing his business degree, developing it into a passion. He hopes that his writing will connect with readers on a personal level while exploring new and familiar territory.

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