Message
by Brian Miller

Hello Jessie.

It’s me.

It’s Don. It’s 2:20 AM on, oh, I guess it’s the 16th now. I called to wish you good evening. You’ll be sleeping now. And I’m sitting here. Can’t sleep. Some things never change. That’s something you always used to say. I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea of it lately.

But there’s a reason I called. I’m not just calling you out of the blue. I’m sitting here—I’m in this crappy hotel off the interstate, a Comfort Inn—and I’ve got the drapes open because it gets too dark and stuffy in here with them closed. And a little bit ago, must be ten minutes now, the time was just right, and the moonlight and orange sodium shine of the parking lot lights crept inside in a certain way … It was perfect, Jessie. It covered the side of this floral comfortered bed and made the whole thing look like a painting.

I kept thinking about how you’d probably appreciate that. How I’m very lucky to have seen it. It’s a clear night here—I wonder how it is up by you?—and I tell you, Jessie, the light was … well, it was almost pink.

That really makes me think of this time.

You don’t remember it. We were lying next to each other. It was probably about this time of night too. You were asleep. The insomnia, of course, was kicking my ass again. We had the window open. I think it probably was summer. But there was this breeze, and it made the lace curtains billow out, and the light from the streetlamps came in and washed the room, and, I swear, Jessie, it all focused on you. On your shoulder there was this bright square of light. It was so perfect. Such a perfect, vivid square. Like a window facing east in the morning.

And do you know what I thought of? I thought that this was my secret, and that you’d never know, that you’d wake up in a little bit and get ready for work, eat breakfast, shower, all without knowing about that square of light on your shoulder. I wondered whether I’d seen your soul, Jessie. I know it sounds corny but I really thought so at the time. I never told you either. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t do it. And, you know, I kind of liked having it as a little secret. I thought if I told you, I’d lose that moment somehow.

It’s getting late. These hotel beds are uncomfortable. They make me think about hospitals. Or my father, who’d always come into my room and get me to make my bed so tight he could bounce a quarter off of it. I always thought that was half a joke. But one time, he came in with a silver dollar, a Susan B. Anthony, and it bounced right off. Isn’t that the kind of story that would always make you smile? Not the big kind, but a little one, closed-mouthed.

It’ll likely be a couple more hours before I go to sleep. You’ll probably be waking up. I wonder if you’ll notice that I called right away in the morning, or if it will take until you’ve gotten home from work. By then, I’ll be on the road, the highway lights streaking my windshield, the exits melting by. Sometimes, call me crazy, but I swear I can hear your voice, like a whisper, in the static of the radio or the tires on the asphalt.

It takes time but eventually you start to notice things.

The Gideon Bible and the Yellow Pages have the same thickness of paper.

Nobody uses hotel pools anymore.

The phone rests on the receiver longer than you have the courage to pick it up.