Long moments passed while I held the phone to my ear. The sound of breathing on the other end, slow and deliberate, was the only sound to be heard.
I took a breath, “Dude, I. . . “
“I don’t . . . really want to talk about it.” The words were sharp, but wandering; a wild jab just to cut me off.
I tried again, “It’s just that . . .”
“I know. It’s cool.” His voice came back low and calm, as though he were trying to convince himself of his own words. The silence reigned once more, briefly, and sounds of shuffling came across the line. A whispered buzzing; a fan? Some clicking sounds. A faucet. I wondered what he was thinking about, where his mind had wandered off too.
“Hey,” his voice, once more quiet and unsure, startled me to attention. “Do you remember when we were kids . . ?” He paused again.
I wanted to answer with the obvious. Of course I remembered; but that wasn’t the question. I waited patiently, nodding to him across the miles as though he could see my affirmation.
He continued, “Do you remember when sandboxes were fun?”
The question took me by surprise, his grim sense of humor. I struggled for a response. “Yeah . . .” I chuckled awkwardly. It was all I could muster.
He sniffed. “I, uh . . . I miss you, man. Hangin’ out and stuff.”
“I know. I miss you too.” A lump caught in my throat, and I swallowed it back. I held it there, for a moment, struggling against the choking feeling while I formed the next sentence. “Happy Veteran’s Day, bro.”
I stood in silence once more. A car drove by outside and I heard him turn on the television. There was the sound of a bottle being opened.
“I’ll call you at Thanksgiving.” He said, tersely, and hung up the phone.
© A. Stephen Getty 2010
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