I called my sister on the ride home tonight. Her daughter is seven years old, and we’re celebrating her birthday tomorrow. Only, I’m not calling about the birthday party or about Christmas plans. I’m not calling to bitch or complain. Not to joke or riff.
I’m calling my sister to talk about this morning. About what happened in a Newtown Connecticut elementary school. A part of me is almost thankful when I get her voice mail because the truth is I don’t know what the hell I’m going to say. I don’t want to come across as preachy. She’s a great mother. She doesn’t need my advice when it comes to her beautiful little storm, who is all curls and attitude.
Hey . . . sorry, I’m calling to talk to you. Give me a call, I . . .
I have no idea what I’m saying, no idea how to say it. So I just go with the thought that ran through my head when I first heard the news.
Keep the television off . . keep the radio off too . . call me . . .
I throw my phone onto the passenger seat and now I’m almost home and I realize I was driving blind all that way. It doesn’t matter. I lean back into the news being delivered to me from Pat O’Brien’s radio show while throwing the car into the driveway.
The news accounts keep streaming through my radio and I keep sitting there, in the driveway. I quiet the radio when my kids return my call and then again when my girlfriend does. I end each conversation the very same way.
I love you.
That’s the only thing that makes sense to say. In a world coming off its hinges, I realize how thankful I can feel simply to hear a response to those three words. Just to hear anything back.
I remove myself from the car after a time, not sure how much time. I’m blind, again as I tear through a run, then shower. Just as I’m ready to try my sister again, she calls.
“Get my message?”
“I had no fucking idea what I was saying,”
She laughs. It’s a tired laugh, weighed down by the heaviness of raising a child inside of the most unimaginable of days.
“I don’t know how to explain this. How did you explain 9/11 to the kids?”
“Shit, I didn’t. I just talked to them. You can’t explain something you don’t understand yourself. You just talk.”
“How the hell do I even start talking?”
Her voice cracks, and then I tell her I’ve got to call her back. I’m lying my ass off as I hang up the phone and throw it on the bed and lay back. And then I sob. Because I remember how I started talking about the unimaginable horrors perpetrated by human beings eleven years ago.
I started it by talking about monsters.