Back east, Lila and Carl, JJ’s best friends in the world, were shacked up in JJ’s farm house, care taking, and failing to care for each other.
“I think we’re done here,” Lila said. “If you can’t even say how you feel.”
“Now I see why he ran away from you over and over and over,” Carl said. “All this processing!” He sat at the table with his head in his hands, massaging his temples, trying to knead something away.
“Who said he was the one? You think it’s easy being around that erratic drunk?” Lila stood in the kitchen doorway, blocking passage to the rest of the house. “I just want to know what the hell we’re doing here?”
“Care taking,” Carl said. “Place holding.”
“Taking care of what? Holding who’s place?”
“Purgatory,” Carl muttered.
“What was that?”
“I just want some clarity,” Lila said. “I mean, we’re in his house, he’s away, probably in trouble, and your wife wants you back.”
“There’s no going back. Not after this.”
“After this, what?”
“This…this…What the hell is this?”
“That’s what I want to know!”
They were silent, Carl looking at the table top, trying to divine some message from the wood grain and swirls. Lila stared right through the hunched form of Carl, trying to figure out what had happened these past couple months. It seemed so right in the summer. Right, but wrong, like one more drink on a Tuesday night. Or buying something big and unneeded on credit. The worst part? She couldn’t stop thinking (worrying!) about JJ. Of course, they were living in his house so there were reminders everywhere. But, he had that look the last time she saw him, that dead-eyed autopilot doomed look, like a suicide bomber tying up loose ends before the mission.
“It’s time for you to go home,” she said.
It was heavier now, the silence. The crackle had gone out of the air and the next thing that was said would change everything.
“I know,” Carl said. “I know.” He looked up and grinned at her. “I always knew this was just…”
“Temporary,” Lila said.
“And wrong,” Carl said. “He’s a complete piece of shit sometimes, and maybe we needed to do this, to punish him.”
“But we love him.”
“You love him. I’m just the friend who shacked up with his girlfriend.”
“Is that what this was? Our way of punishing him?”
“Well, after we scratched the itch. After all, we moved into his house!”
“To care take.”
Carl got up and put out his hand. Lila looked at it then laughed and embraced him. They parted and Carl looked at the floor. “Listen, I’ll look after this place so don’t worry.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, since you’re going to Colorado. Don’t worry about JJ’s house.”
Going to Colorado? Lila thought it and knew it was true. What else was there to do?
“Take care,” Carl said and headed out the door, back towards his wife and home. “Let me know when you’re gone and I’ll come get my things.”
“I will,” she said and went to find her laptop to book a flight to Denver. “It’ll be soon.”