You Have One New Message

Hey. It’s Tommy. Hope the Poconos is okay. The neighborhood’s gone to shit but you knew that already. You got out in time. The fuckin hipsters are all the way up to Cypress now if you can believe that. If they take a wreckin ball to this place they’re gonna have to take me with it cuz I ain’t goin nowhere.

Listen. I seen your mother’s grave when I was at the cemetery and I had to call you. This is Tommy. Did I say that already? I hate these things. Cell phones. They don’t feel like real phones to me and I never know what to say on em. I was at St. John’s. My great aunt Rose just passed. 93. God bless her. So while we’re drivin into the cemetery I seen a fresh grave with the dirt piled up and I seen your last name on the headstone. It’s one a them names where I see it and it sticks out to me. You always got pissed first day a school every year when the teacher’s couldn’t say it right. And then I seen your mother’s name on the headstone and I felt so awful. I hadn’t thought a your mother for years and now I seen her grave and I almost felt like it was my fault. Like if I hadn’t a seen it she’d still be with us. In my head I guess.

First thing I thought of when I seen that. You remember this one time my old man got hurt on the job and my mother had to go meet him at the hospital so she dropped me off at your place? Course you don’t. We was both like 10 or 11 maybe. It was just another day to you maybe but my I was scared shitless. I didn’t even know what happened to the old man. I just knew he was at the hospital and hospital meant bad things. When I showed up at your place I had to pretend like nothin was wrong and I didn’t feel like cryin. You guys was still on Stockholm and I thought your place was fancy cuz you had a backyard to play in. I called it a backyard anyways. It was just the alley with all the garages. We was playin wiffle ball out there while your mother made dinner. Just you and me with ghost runners on invisible bases and all that and me pretendin like I cared about while I’m wonderin if my dad is in a body cast or the morgue or what I don’t even know.

Your mother made these chicken cutlets that night that knocked me out. You know me. I eat like a pig even when nothin’s wrong but I was worried about my old man and wonderin when my mom was gonna come get me so I kept shovelin food in my face to keep from sayin somethin stupid or burstin into tears. I asked for like three helpings. You mother said she was glad somebody ate her food for once and you kicked me under the table like I was makin you look bad.

We was up watchin TV at least until Carson started which was real late for me. I wanted to stay up because you were still up but I was noddin off on your couch and your mother said I could sleep on her bed til my mom came to get me.

And she showed me to the back a your place and when I laid down she sat on the edge of the bed and she started singin this song. It didn’t have no words. At least not the way she sang. It was more like humming. She brushed my hair back and sang to me. It was exactly what I needed. She didn’t know everything was gonna be okay but she told me it would all be okay anyways. Just by her singin.

The song was still in my head when I woke up the next day. I don’t remember my mom comin to get me and I don’t remember leavin your house. Next thing I knew I was in my own place and I wandered out to the kitchen and my folks are both there and my old man’s readin the paper with his eggs and he don’t got a scratch on him. It seemed like magic to me.

The next day on the way to school you grabbed me on the bus and told me not to tell nobody your mom sang to me. Didn’t even ask me how my old man was. Just grabbed me and told me not to say nothin. You told me she used to sing to you all the time and it drove you nuts and you had to beg her to stop doin it. And I told you I wouldn’t tell nobody because who the hell was I gonna tell. You said you wasn’t a baby no more and you looked so god damn mad about it. I thought you was gonna punch a hole in a bus window. I wanted to know why it made you so pissed off but I figured askin you question would just made you madder. So I didn’t say nothin about it and it just sorta left my head after that. I forgot all about it until the other day when I seen your mother’s name on the headstone and I hear that song she sang to me. Clear as day. I never heard that tune before she sang it to me and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard it since but I swear I could hum it right now if I had to. Don’t worry. I’m not gonna.

It kills me that I forgot all about what she done. I shoulda held onto that. I shoulda thanked your mother. I guess I should be mad at you but I’m really mad at myself. It was up to me to remember. But then I think even if I did remember what she did I wouldn’t say nothin to her. That’s how kids are. When you’re a kid you think grownups exist to make you feel better when you need it. Then you grow up yourself and no one’s around to make you feel better no more.

I’m sorry. I’m ramblin. I wish you told me you was in town. We coulda grabbed a beer. You let me know next time. I got nothin goin on over here. You be good.