"Honcho." His voice is soft on the other end of the phone. He doesn’t even ask how I knew he was calling, doesn’t hurl a hello at me like a javelin.
"Something wrong, kiddo?"
"Yeah. I mean, yes: I kind of ran into this old man preaching about eternity and how souls are eternal and he saw me and realized I couldn’t see and said the Lord would heal me after I was reborn in heaven and I said that would be kinda late and you’d be doing it soon anyway!"
"And he kept going ON, Honcho, and I said that heaven is part of the universe so it’s not external and nothing here is eternal and forevers and I maybe said it more like a Jaysaurus than a Jay so all he believed me cuz it was true and and and …" And half a country away, Jay bursts into sobs without tears.
"IT’S NOT FAIR! You and Charlie are going to all die when the universe does because it isn’t forever and I won’t!"
I could ask things right now, learn truths Jay knows not to speak. But no. I find I am not as big an ass as even I thought: it go yearly is something of a surprise.
I settle for: “Jay, if this universe were fair, do you think you’d have been allowed in it?”
That wins a moment of shocked silence and then a fit of giggles.
"I am pretty Jaysome," he says.
I decide not to ask what that even means. “You’ll be OK, Jay. You will have memories that outlast universes and feelings deeper than black holes.” I pause. “And I don’t think you’ll be able to forget Charlie even if you try.”
"I couldn’t forget you," he says proudly, "and and lots of thanks!"
"You’re welcome, Jay."
I pause. Jay almost never says my real name. “Yes?”
"I’m all kinds of glad we’re friends!"
I don’t ask about his pause before that, or what else he might have said. I say good bye. I hang up. Sometimes it is the simplest things that are the hardest to do.
"It’s starting." I thread no power into my voice, don’t speak in ways that canny be ignored. But even so, I know I am heard by those who listen for such things. "He’s starting to learn what he is."
And I know it isn’t my imagination that the shadows around me pull back as though afraid. And not only of Jay. I am what I am as well. I put my phone away — it was turned off when Jay called — and I go back to sleep.