No good every comes from a midnight phone call.
Jerked out of a sound sleep, I rolled over and clawed for the phone.
Bad news, no doubt. Even the wife knows it…in her sleep she mumbled, “That can’t be good.”
Work needing help? A wrong number? A friend in trouble? Somebody injured…or worse? All of those flashed through my mind. No good news every comes to me by phone. One day I’m going to violently rip the thing out.
I wonder if anybody would understand why?
Long years of experience…years of being the “go to” guy…have exposed me to a lot. Almost every kind of trouble or disaster has greeted me by phone at one time or another. Death. Destruction. Lost souls.
I like to think I’m prepared for anything. I like to think nothing phases me. I like to think, “I can take it.”
Occasionally I’m proved wrong.
I picked up the phone, grumbled, “Lo?”
A surge of joy, even as my heart sank. It’s the contrast…the opposing forces…that so skillfully induce the pain.
I’ve a long-lost sister, you see. We haven’t heard from her in at least a couple years. Nobody was even sure she was alive.
Here she was. Alive. Joy! And then the pain comes flooding back. The drugs and the lies…and the thefts…and then more lies…years and years of these painful and destructive cycles are what stole her away.
And then there’s me. The go to guy. The fighter. But this thing…that took her away…a hunter without form…a force without opposition.
There’s nothing to fight. There’s nothing to kill.
Years of trying. Years of believing. Years of dashed hopes. Years of anything of value being consumed and destroyed…over and over and over again.
But you just can’t write off family, you see.
When nothing’s left…for perhaps the tenth time…and she’s gone again, you finally begin to understand. There is no help we have for her. All we do is make it worse…feed her demons…push her closer to whatever edge that’s left she hasn’t already pitched over.
I was glad she was alive, but I wished she hadn’t called.
And I hate myself for it.
Surely there’s something I could do?
No. That is a long and vivid…and painful lesson. Learned in turn, by each of us. In that direction lies only disaster.
She’s nearly incoherent…repeating herself and asking the same questions…seemingly not really hearing the answers. I am guarded with my responses. She’s family…but now a stranger. There are things she doesn’t need to know. There are people she could hurt…take…consume.
There is a woman with her. A stranger. Says she’s doing better.
Better than what?
And I want so badly to believe.
But I cannot. The capacity is simply not there. Again, I hate myself for it.
I’m glad she’s alive…and I hope she stays that way…but I’ve nothing for her. She will have to make it on her own…and I hope she can. And I hope we meet when she does. It will be as strangers though. The trust will have to be earned.
Hope? Yeah, it’s still there. Love cuts deep. It’s not blind though.
The call over, I try to sleep. I know better, but I try anyway.
I have a brief yet very vivid dream.
She’s in quicksand, pulling herself out by a rope. The end comes loose and she throws it to me. “Help me! Just a little pull!”
I could reach the rope. I could pull it. She’s almost free. Just a little help and she might be out.
Instead I simply watch the rope slide back into the mire.
The scene changes. She’s a “Jane Doe” in the morgue of a city with no name. There’s nobody to claim her. Nobody that knows. Nobody that cares.
I jerk out of bed, nauseous, drenched in sweat and gasping. It takes me fully three minutes before I know I’m not going to vomit.
I drag my hands through my hair and reach for a shirt.
There will be no more sleep for me this night.
Perhaps a ride…
I could squeeze in maybe 300 miles…screaming though the night…before dawn and work looms.
Three-hundred miles…it might even be enough.
I doubt it though. When you’re running from yourself…there’s no measure that’s long enough.
I’ll see you on the road.