“Call her,” Jacob demanded again. “Get your phone out, and tell her you need to talk to her about something.”
Mark did, opening his phone, dialing, putting it to his ear, and waiting with it there.
Jacob felt the anxiety of painful futures for everyone, all of the mess fleshing into reality with every second Mark held that phone against the side of his head.
Sometimes, I think, when we read books or watch movies about great men or the moments that decide eternity and inspire us toward that same standard – we take in these stories, and when they play out externally we watch as a third person audience, knowing the seriousness of such moments. Having been extricated from the internal malaise of being in the midst of such a situation, that seriousness is obvious to us. Yet we all, every day, stand at various and momentous crossroads, many in the boring stuff of mundane life decisions.
That was sort of Jacob’s situation. Of course, the gravity of his surrounding circumstances was obvious to him. But as he was living and deciding through those moments things of enormous weight, he had only faint insight of what would follow. He did know that he could not let Mark leave without talking to Amy.
“Voicemail,” said Mark, still holding the phone.
“Leave a message.”
“Hey babe, it’s me,” Mark started, “Um, I need to talk to you about something, um, something pretty important. Call me when you get a chance. Love you.”
Mark snapped shut his phone, and looked toward Jacob.
“Well, there we go,” Mark said, breathing in, because he had barely stepped toward fixing the mess he had made.
“Anna and I can watch the girls tonight,” Jacob said, “if you need us to.”
Mark and Amy had two little girls, three and one. Jacob was glad that they were too young to understand all of the stuff that was going to happen. Jacob could have listed half a dozen things that would have been worse for their marriage. He was certain that Amy would forgive Mark – though it would be a jacked up road they would be walking. The church, though, the church, Jacob knew, would be different. Who knew what would happen. That scared him, that shook that tower of certainty he had stacked in blocks, with so much depending on Mark. Jacob was occupying, he felt, a hinge position, and he knew that the situation had been put into his frail hands.
Two impulses competed within Jacob, one related to Mark and the situation, one to himself. He hated the situation that had developed into what was becoming and would become. Still, though, an overwhelming sense grew within him, a sense of relief and gladness – that it had happened to Mark and not to him.
And he did not like it. Any of it.
What to say to Mark now?
“Remember, bro,” Jacob said, “She loves you. It’s bad, this thing. Don’t think that it isn’t. But, thank God that it’s not worse.”
They both, then, knowing that things had to progress, that life would not continue at a table in a sandwich shop, got up to leave, silent.
Walking outside, toward Mark’s car, Jacob put his hand on Mark’s shoulder.
“Let me pray for you bro.”
They stood, next to Mark’s car, and Jacob prayed. I won’t write out what he prayed. You can probably figure out the gist of it.
Jacob then swung his arms around Mark’s body, clenching him close and nearly shaking. He had ever hugged only a few people and at a few times in such a way. It was the hug of desperate hope and overwhelming circumstance. A hug that said that things suck right now, but they will get better. Compassion, again, that ebbing-and-flowing emotional component of Jacob’s heart for Mark, flooded again like high tide. Broken things can be fixed, Jacob knew, especially when it took divine speech which incited a miracle to fix it.
“Gonna get through this bro,” Jacob said.
Mark got into his car, and Jacob walked to his own. Getting in he suddenly remembered his dream again, with Mark falling backward. Alive or dead, flat on his back in the grass, Jacob himself standing, moving forward. Or turning back to help his brother up.
Unconsciously, Jacob buckled his seat belt and drove, and the weight pressed further down upon him, all of it. And he started to cry.
He prayed through the heaving breaths of frail uncertainty that is dust pressed and made into humanity, pressed with a weight he knew not how to bear.
“Father,” said Jacob. “Help me.”