It was two in the morning or something when Jack
called. Phone calls that late make my tummy flip. You wake up like people in the movies do when they’ve had a nightmare. He sounded different
perhaps. I don’t remember how the conversation started. I hope I wasn’t rude. I haven’t heard from Jack for ages. Since he got the divorce, no one has heard from him much. I had this faith he was doing okay. Maybe I’m hopeful. Is it hopeful for a little sister to think her big brother is safe, and well, and looking after himself?
He called to say he’s leaving - Packing his shit and fucking off like a cunt - those were his words. He said he’s tired of the whole thing. This city is loaded with nothing but bad news, he said, It only gets worse.
I waited a moment for him to catch his breath. He sounded like he was on a payphone, but maybe I just thought that because of the way he was speaking. You know those desperate people you see on payphones?
I said, Listen, Jack, you can come stay up here with me whenever you want, I’ve got the room. But think of the kids. You really want them spending all that time with Linda?
Jack just made this grunting, scoffing sound.
The thing with Jack is he’s no good with goodbyes. It’s not that Jack avoids goodbyes though. Jack is always saying goodbye, that’s the thing. It happens so often in his life that it makes me wonder if it even affects him anymore. You know how you hear people talk about growing a thick skin? Sometimes I wonder just how thick Jack’s skin is, and if he’ll ever shed it. So when I said, Do you really want them spending all that time with Linda? I really meant to say, You will miss them. They need you. You need them.
Trust me, he said, I’ve thought of the kids.
I let the silence linger a bit to see what else he had to say. Jack has this habit of trivialising things that are important to other people. One time, when we were kids, I did this big drawing of us all on a piece of paper and lay it on the carpet to show Mum. She’d wanted me to draw a family portrait for ages and I’d finally done one I was happy with. Then just as Mum was finishing up in the kitchen to come see, Jack came in, twirling these drumsticks in his hands and dropped them on the paper by accident. They left two tears in the paper and he laughed when he apologised.
Okay, he said, Goddamn, goddamn, goddamn. I have thought of the kids. Maybe you’re right. Just everything has this weight round here. Everything I see, I just want to be away from it all.
He went on some more, saying; I can’t work it out though. I’ve felt this before, after break ups, and my first divorce, and the break ups after that, and somehow I always managed to get over it. But something’s different this time. Maybe I’ve used up all my lives. I don’t know? I don’t know how to shake this one off though without just… leaving. He sighed.
I said, We’ve all got to change some time.
What’s that? He said.
I said we’ve all got to change some time.
I can’t hear you so good, he said.
He apologised. The payphone was playing up, he said. I said it was okay. He thanked me for the conversation and I said that was okay as well. I said, Look at us. What are we doing?
After I hung up the phone I got up to get a glass of water. A large piece of paper stuck on the fridge read EGGS - a reminder I’d written a few days ago but had somehow ignored.
I drank the water and stared at the sign as EGGS repeated in my head until it became something else that I no longer recognised.
This sort of thing happens sometimes, I thought, if you wait long enough.