“Hello” by Adele from DidzMix 2015 Vol 1- The Songs
“Hello,” the voice on the other end whispers. Rasps? Croaks? No, I suppose whisper is most accurate.
“Hey,” I reply. I think. Maybe I didn’t don’t say anything.
“It’s me. It’s—”
“I know,” I cut her off. I don’t need her to identify herself. I’d recognize my kid sister’s voice anywhere.
Silence. Stretching. Drawing tighter and tighter. Until the silence itself almost hums.
Finally, “So, it’s been awhile,” she manages in an exhale.
“You could say that,” I say and then laugh. I try not to. I laugh and she laughs in reply. We don’t dissolve into it, not like both of us so clearly want to, but we laugh.
After the light moment, the distance and time reasserts itself, heaviness settling into and around us.
“Do you think it’s safe to come home?”
“Don’t even joke,” I snap. “You know you can’t.”
A sigh. “I know, I know. It’s just…I imagine it sometimes. Seeing you and Dad and Bethany and Kailee again.”
“Bethany and I got divorced. I see Kailee every Wednesday and every other weekend.”
“Don’t tell me…”
“Yeah. I interfered with an active criminal investigation, lied, and made myself an accessory to a felony.”
“But I’m your sister.”
“And she’s who she is. There are rules and laws and they are to be observed.”
“God, but…I…I did it, not you.”
“You did the crime, I did the cover up.”
“It’s not,” she starts and the past 5 years catch in her throat, “it’s not that simple.”
“I know. You know. But…god, it’s been 2 years Theresa since I signed those papers. No point in kicking through those ashes again.”
I close my eyes and slide down the wall in the kitchen. I try to tap into it all, just for a moment. The smells, the sounds. The way the house felt when it was for a family, not for a divorcee and his occasionally visiting daughter. The old layout. The decorations. How even the light seemed to fill the rooms differently. As long as I can keep my eyes closed, I am almost able to reach back in time, to pluck that moment of then and pull it into the present. Almost.
“Are you still there?” she cracks in.
It’s my turn to sigh, “Yeah. Just…remembering.”
“Is Kailee big now?”
“Yeah,” I smile, despite, myself. “Tall. Awkward as all get out. Unless she’s got a ball in her hand. Then she’s like…I don’t know…an artist or something. Clearly she got Dad’s genes, not mine. He always predicted the athletic ability alleles would skip a generation.”
“Does she get you’re a good dad?”
I bite my a lip a second and swallow the sob that arrives without warning.
“I…I hope so,” is all I can offer. “I hope I am.”
“You are. And you’re a great big brother.”
I don’t say anything. What’s there to say.
“How’s Dad?” she ventures.
I nearly ask if she’s serious, but I don’t. Because of course she is. And I know that. And if the roles were reversed, I would ask that question and mean it too.
“He lost his wife and then he lost the apple of his eyes less than a year later,” I almost hiss, empathy only going so far. “So he’s not doing great.”
She breathes in and out for a few moments and doesn’t bother choking back the sobs, a tryptic tumbling out of her mouth and into her phone.
“I’m sorry,” she murmurs.
“I know.” I reply. Because I do. She’s sorry and I’m sorry and Dad’s sorry and everyone’s sorry. And it doesn’t change a damn thing.
We sit and I close my eyes again, pushing even farther back. Back to the house on Chestnut. The house with the finished basement and the big windows, and the bathroom that we used to sneak in and out of as teens, our parents graciously looking the other way and pretending we got away with missing curfew. The sound of a home fully humming with parents and kids and friends and visiting relatives.
“Christ. Mom deserved better than that,” I whisper, as much to myself as anyone.
“She did,” my sister replies, who knows how many miles and time zones away. “God did she ever.”
“How long before you ditch the burner?”
She checks her watch and sighs that familiar sigh, “5 minutes.”
“Enough time for the song?”
“Yeah, sure. I love you,” she whispers, her voice quivering.
“I love you too. Don’t wait another 2 years, ok?”
I turn on mom’s favorite on the stereo and let it fill the house. Loud. Clean. Reverberating off the walls of the place I once knew as home that is now only a house. Before the song ends, her line clicks and goes dead. I try her back, knowing it is silly. Sure enough, it just rings and rings until it connects with a voice mail box not set up to take messages. She’s gone again. And I’m here. Alone.