And noon it is, almost. I tease her.
“It wasn’t like that,” she says. “His dad died last night. He shot himself.”
As though someone drops water on our scene, her face changes to my nephew’s for a moment, and I have to focus on her words. This is not about him. It’s about her friend. Focus on her, focusfocusfocus. The water clears away. “How horrible for him,” I say, minimizing drama, maximizing space. “What happened?” She sits and shares as he did.
“He wants to talk to you.” She unclips the headset from her lifeline, and hands me the real-time, anguished face of her friend.
“It’s all my fault,” he says, pouring out the many reasons that make him an imperfect son. “I didn’t even tell him I loved him.” His face twists as he realizes his dad will never hear those words now.
In the tripod of my elbows on my knees, I fight to hold the phone steady. “That moment when your dad’s brain lied to him? It had nothing to do with you,” I tell him. “I’m pretty sure he loved you back. This choice he made wasn’t about that.”
Did his dad know he would leave this trail of destruction behind? If he could have foreseen the transference of his pain to dozens of left-behinds, would it have been different? If he’d realized that each and every phony gunshot heard on movie and television, every backfiring engine, every loud noise would remind them of the moment that newly defined their before and after, would he have made a different choice?
Maybe. And maybe not. His dad was trying to find a way through his own pain, blinded to everything beyond that. It’s the thing we don’t talk about, because of how we’ve labeled this thing we don’t understand–in part, because sometimes it’s just too hard to try. And I wonder if it will ever change?
But then I realize what she’s done. She is being the safe place where her friend can talk. I am being hers. She is seeking help when it’s too hard for her. This is what has to happen, and they are going to make it that way. There’s is the generation that can make it better.
“Yeah, I get that. It’s what life is, but now you have to make a decision. What’s happened with your dad has already changed you, but you can decide how. You can let this make you a bitter man, or a better man.”
“But I made so many mistakes.”
We all do–but talking about it isn’t one of them.