December 14, 2012

“It’s like the worst kick in the gut,” JJ said into the phone.  “Everything’s gone out of me.  I don’t know what to do.”
“You can pray.”
“I can’t pray.”  JJ sat in the car in the parking lot of an abandoned warehouse.  He had been looking at the property when the news came on the radio.  “I’ve been sitting here listening for two hours.  I don’t know what to do.”
“Stop listening,” Lila said.  “I won’t listen.  I can’t watch.  My imagination’s enough to get the horror.  I don’t need the details.”
JJ switched off the radio.  Cars swished by on the damp street along the parking lot.  The view out the windshield was distorted with rain.  The warehouse loomed, all brick and dark windows, many broken.
“I know what you can do,” said Lila.
“What,” said JJ and thought of the ride to the town, of joining with other people at the site, of vigils and tears.
“Call someone with kids and see how they’re doing.”
JJ felt the mix of release and fear of suddenly knowing the right answer but being daunted by what’s next. 
“Call your brother, JJ,” Lila said.  “Let them know you’re there.”
“Yeah,” said JJ.  “Yeah, ok.”
“Call them now.  Then call me back later.”
JJ heard his breathing in the quiet sealed car and cracked a window.  “Thanks.  You’ve always known what to do.”
“I know you.  Now hang up and call them now,” Lila said and she hung up.
JJ sat for a moment.  He reached to turn the radio back on but pulled his hand back.  He scrolled through his phone contacts and felt the familiar mix of resistance, guilt, and love that rose when he contacted his brother.
“Hello.”  A woman’s voice.  Jane, his brother’s wife
“Hi, it’s JJ.”
“Oh my God.  JJ, I was just praying for a sign.  For something to help explain this.  I was just praying,” she said and began to sob.
            “I’m here,” JJ said.  “I’m here.”
“Brian’s coming home soon,” she managed.  “We’re going to get the kids from school.”
“I’m just thinking of you guys, the girls.”
“Wait,” she said.  “He’s here.”  There was the shuffling, the muffled words, then JJ’s brother came on the line.
“Hey, little brother,” Brian said.  His voice was remote and raw.
“Hey.”
“Thanks for calling.”  Brian cleared his throat.  “We’re going to get the girls at school.”
“Ok,” JJ said.  “I just wanted…”
“Let’s get together at Christmas, ok?”
“Yes,” JJ said.  “I really want to see you guys.”

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