“But this is a jaycation,” Jay says, “which means we have to do important things, Charlie!”
I close my eyes, count to ten. Someday, I worry this might even help. I open my eyes and stare down at the earnest eleven year old kid who isn’t human at all. “It is not even eight in the morning. You have managed to have three adventures already, kiddo. And, believe me, travelling with you is not some automatic vacation.”
“But it is jaysome since I am,” he retorts with a huge grin.
I like to think I’m a good person. If the wandering magician wasn’t dealing with the fallout of Jay making friends with a virus, I maybe would be a better one this morning. I’ve already had two cups of coffee, so there is nothing I can justify to escape what I say next: “And?”
“And you think being jaysome is always good, Jay? That your desire for adventures isn’t dangerous?”
“Well, there are some oopses,” he says. “But an adventure that is boring isn’t one at all!”
“How would you know if you’ve never tried that?” He blinks, gapes in shock. “One day without anything jaysome. Is that too much to ask?”
“But that’s me!”
“It’s a word you made up. That’s not the same as it being you, Jay. You’re Jay even if you aren’t jaysome,” I snap, because some mornings it’s too much. Jaysome this, and jaysome that. I didn’t even know my annoyance had reached something past a pet peeve until now, but I can’t find it in my to stop myself.
Jay’s mouth snaps shut. “But ... it ...”
“Not that word. Not today.”
“But a Jay who isn’t jaysome isn’t a good Jay at all!”
“The wandering magician is trying to stop an outbreak of the plague because you decided to make friends with a virus, let it inside you, and then let it go again because it ‘asked nicely’. Plague, Jay. Thousands, maybe millions dead.”
“I’m not stupid, Charlie! I know it was a huge oops and I know it would have been way worse if I wasn’t jaysome,” he yells, and vanishes between moments. Going somewhere, hiding. I have no idea which.
There is no response at all.
I pour myself a third cup of coffee slowly. I don’t say I’m sorry. I’m not. Sometimes a little Jay goes very far indeed. But something crosses is face, when he said not being jaysome would be worse. There was fear, and maybe something eager as well. I have a very bad feeling that Jay intends to make sure I don’t consider the word jaysome to be a pet peeve ever again.
Which means whatever I just set into motion is liable to make a plague look like a prank. I text the wandering magician two words ‘Defcon jaysome’ And then, after: ‘My fault.’
I can do a lot of things. I can contain energy, police gods, perform exorcisms, and the god inside me can do more if I let it out. None of that is anything next to what Jay can do if he’s serious. I drink coffee, fingers barely trembling.
And I wait.
There is a knock on the door of the cabin. I’m on coffee number four, trying to pretend it doesn’t taste bitter on the tongue. The knock is once, soft and firm. Not Jay then. Jay bounces through doors or knocks on them a dozen times because ‘doors love knocks’.
The man standing on the other side is taller than I, and twenty one. I’ve never opened a door and just known someone’s age before. He is human, but – not ordinary. I step back without quite knowing why.
He smiles. The smile is small, sad, matching his eyes. But I know that smile. In any form, I would know that smile. It is a punch in my gut this time. “Jay.”
“Charlie.” He says my name in a careful way I’ve never heard from Jay before. There is no wild enthusiasm, no huge grin in the word. Just my name, with iron control over the emotions behind it.
“I intervened in this affair,” he murmurs. “Jay was going to bring himself back from when he is 13, perhaps 14. I am not certain you would have survived the experience.”
I walk back to the kitchen table of the cottage, sit back down. “Survived.”
“He was going to show you a Jay that is not jaysome.”
“Oh.” It takes effort to even manage that word.
He sits down across from me, movements sure and fluid. “There are limits to how far even I can move through time. Things I cannot do lest I break my own past. At eleven, I did not grasp this. He visits his future, makes friends. Helps us rediscover his kind of jaysome. Self-help by way of the Self.” He chuckles, low and amused.
“He has no idea how hard is it to see him. All we remember. All we have lost. What it was like to be so innocent that I could be arrogant. We don’t let him know how much it hurts. Hide the reasons behind certain changes.”
“I didn’t mean to,” I say. I mean too
Many things with those words to keep talking. I want to grab this Jay and hug him, but I know he will not let me. There is a distance here, and it was won at a terrible cost.
“The Jay you know is gargantuan,” he says, but does not speak my name at all. “I am more, yes, but he is larger in what he believes, how he lives, in everything he feels and knows. His emotions are gargantuan, which you know but do not understand. You need only say you forgive him and it will be fine.”
“You would need to believe it. And perhaps that would not even be enough.”
He does not move, but what crosses his face is cold and alien. “Care for him, and perhaps – just perhaps – I will be a little less myself some days.”
“That is a hugey burden,” I say.
He lets out a small, soft laugh. “All burdens are. But that is what makes them something more.”
And he is gone between moments. I finish my coffee slowly, trying as hard as I can not to cry. Because that would not be jaysome at all.