Angela and Jordan are sitting in the waiting room. Just, waiting. Jordan's arms are crossed at his chest, and he's slouching in a way that sends his outstretched legs, crossed at the ankles, jutting out into the walkway. Angela's beside him, methodically running her hands through her hair. She's listening to a compact disc player and keeping her eyes cast down.
She pulls one earphone away and offers it to Jordan, "This is a good one," she says quietly. Moving slowly he shifts a little and takes the earphone, leaning in towards her so that the cord will reach. They listen quietly to the song.
"Yeah," he nods.
"The volume okay?" she asks, raising her eyes to meet his.
"Yeah." As they listen, Angela draws her feet up and pulls her knees towards her. While listening Jordan absently tugs at a loose thread at the back of her jeans, tattered from being stepped on. She lays her cheek on her knee.
"Angela?" Before them in a pair of sturdy white athletic shoes stands a woman in her late forties dressed in colored scrubs and carrying a clipboard. Her brown hair is short, cut close to her head, and her countenance is warm if distant. Angela does not react. It is unclear whether she's heard or not. Jordan nudges her and pulls away his one earphone. She looks up, pulls at her earphone, and drops her feet to the ground. Angela looks at Jordan, he looks back. It's time. Then she rises, handing him the disc player. "You can bring that with you, if you like," the nurse says to her.
Looking down Angela defers to Jordan, 'Does he want it while he waits?' "Take it," he says. She does. Jordan lifts his eyes to her, and looking after her he asks, "Okay?"
"Yeah," she says with a conscious head nod.
"You want me to call your mom?"
Directing her question to Jordan the nurse asks, "Are you the ride home?"
He clears his throat, "Yeh."
"Okay," she smiles coolly. "It'll be a little while." To Angela she asks, "Ready?" Again Angela nods.
"I'll be here," he says.
In the waiting room Jordan sits, watching people pass by. Every now and then new patients enter, are called in, or pass through on their way out. But mostly it's waiting: people sitting there waiting next to other silent people who are also waiting.
More than two hours in a male nurse, about twenty-six, also carrying a clipboard passes through. He stops at Jordan who eventually looks up. The nurse is good looking and fit. Standing over Jordan he asks, "Who're you here with?"
It takes Jordan a bit to pull himself out of his thoughts to register the question and then to speak, "Huh?"
"Who are you waiting for?" he asks again.
"Oh. Uh," Jordan clears his throat, "Chase, Angela."
"Angela…" he double checks his charts, "Okay, she's in recovery. Shouldn't be more than, another hour, tops."
Clearing his throat again Jordan asks, "She okay?"
The nurse references his charts once more before answering. Jordan watches him as he does. The guy is young, handsome, and he doesn't have a ring on his finger. Jordan wonders what he's thinking, what he thinks of him and all the other guys like him. Why this is the job he chose. "She's fine," he says. For Jordan's benefit he takes another second to add, "There's a lot of waiting." Then he moves on.
Jordan leans forward in his seat, still waiting. The newspaper he'd tried to occupy himself with has been discarded by his feet. Without his noticing, Tino enters through the heavy glass doors, spots Jordan, and approaches his friend.
"Hey." Jordan looks up, there stands Tino holding out to him a large paper coffee cup. "Sugar. 'With coffee and cream.' Minus the cream."
Jordan takes it, partly thrown to see his friend there before him, and then again, not at all. It's Tino, to a T. He nods, straightens up from his hunched over position, then leans back in his seat.
"How's it goin'?" Jordan raises his brows to say 'Look around — this is how it's going'. Tino nods, surveying the room of waiting companions and a few yet-to-be-called patients; no one is talking. "Got time for a smoke?" He tilts his head in the direction of the exit.
"Nothing but." Jordan rises and Tino pats him on the back as they exit.
Out on the sidewalk Jordan lights his cigarette and inhales, "Been here four hours."
Tino exhales, "I know. _ You okay?"
"Thought they'd come in the end. Her folks." There had been some discussion over who would actually be there for it. Obviously Patty wanted to be there, but Jordan had felt that it needed to be him. And it would be strange for it to turn into to some family outing with Jordan, Patty and Graham all sitting side by side in some sterile waiting room. Angela didn't particularly care, but on his behalf she spoke to her parents and got them to agree that it should be Jordan. Patty'd taken her in for the initial appointment, but now it's him out there, waiting for time to pass.
Jordan'd found the money. Mostly. It hadn't been easy. He had some saved, but most of what he makes goes toward gas, insurance, and his smoking habit, and what's left goes to food, beer, and expenses like car repairs and his guitars. He works, but the money doesn't go much further than his basic monthly needs. It took all he had saved, plus an advance on his paycheck, plus what Tino'd lent him, and the last minute thirty dollars his dad had handed off, to cover what Angela's birthday and babysitting money could not. And still, it'd turned out, they'd fallen short. In the end, they'd still had to borrow from her parents. Which Jordan, the only one between them with a steady income, also said he'd cover — upfront at least; Angela insisted that she pay him back, that they'd split it fifty-fifty. Before the appointment Jordan'd figured his part was easy — all he had to do was pay — he could take this disproportionate cost. But that was before all these hours of waiting. He'd been told to expect a long day, that it would take a while, but he hadn't known what it would feel like as the hours passed.
"Wishin' they had?" Tino asks.
Jordan shrugs. "Called 'em; twice."
"It happen yet?"
Tino nods. He isn't going to ask how Jordan's doing. You don't ask Jordan Catalano those kinds of questions, unless you want him shutting down. Anyway, Tino knows how Jordan's doing. He also knows he doesn't have to ask it just to have something to say. He doesn't have to say anything. He's there. That's all he has to do. It isn't for him to provide commentary or insight on this moment. This isn't his life happening right now, he's merely a witness to it. Bearing witness to the loss, the relief, the ambivalence.
The boys smoke their cigarettes. And drink their coffee.
Before Jordan heads back, Tino, still holding what remains of his cigarette, takes hold Jordan's head and pulls it closer, and kisses him briskly upside the head. Jordan takes it in stride.
He reenters through the glass doors, flashes his ID to the reception desk and resumes his wait.
Like he's looked up every other time the inner office door has opened, Jordan looks up now and this time sees it's Angela passing through. He stands when he sees it's her, the refolded newspaper and two now-empty coffee cups set about his feet.
"Hey, pretty girl," is his quiet greeting as she approaches. Silently Jordan takes the disc player from her, shoulders the bag she'd left with him, and wraps an arm around her shoulder. "Let's get out of here."
Tired, and barely audible Angela says, "I have to go to the pharmacy." Jordan nods, kisses her atop her head, and with what vitality he can muster leads her out the glass doors.
In his car on the drive home, Angela leans her head against the cool window and stares quietly out. As he drives, Jordan takes occasional glimpses in her direction. They remain quiet.
Curled up, Angela lies asleep on the Chase's couch. Jordan sits silently near by. Waiting again.
Patty walks through and wordlessly looks in on them. She smiles vaguely at Jordan; he looks awful. Jordan looks away. Nothing in him lets him feel as though he should be being smiled at.
Though the sun is still up the sky outside has grown darker. Angela still lies sleeping when Jordan rises and slips out the front door. It takes three tries before the lighter sparks and he can light his cigarette; inhaling that first, long-awaited drag he looks around him blankly and sits on the Chase's porch steps.
Brian rides by on his bike. He stops, watches Jordan, then lifts a hand in a slight gesture of 'hello'. Jordan nods in return. Brian doesn't know the exact circumstances, but even from across the street, he has a sense of the mood. Brian tightens his lips. He wants, perhaps, to cross the street and sit on those porch steps too. But that is not his place and instead he sets his bike to rest against his own porch and enters his house.
Jordan takes another drag from his cigarette. The Chase's front door opens behind him, and Graham steps out onto the porch. He stands there silently with Jordan for a while. They may hedge looks at one another, but they do not speak.
"That's uh," Graham breaks the silence and Jordan looks back at him, "not good for you, you know. Smoking."
"Yeah," Jordan clears his throat; he hadn't seen that coming. "But," he shrugs his rationalization, "I enjoy it." Graham was not expecting this as a response. He is struck by the absolute youthfulness of a remark such as this. And for a reason he could not identify, it almost makes him like Jordan more for it. What kind of a kid goes through something like this and comes out the other side with the defiance of invulnerable youth still in tact? Graham wonders if it should have aggravated him, this complete and acknowledged disregard of personal well-being. But it didn't.
Graham shifts his weight to shift the conversation; "It went okay today?" Jordan shrugs. Not out of ambivalence. How do you say something like that went? It just — did. Graham continues, "This clearly wasn't— This wasn't an ideal situation. But you two handled it well." Jordan scoffs in response but he isn't being cavalier. 'Cuz, as much as Jordan'd tried to hold it together, he never felt like he was 'handling' anything.
Jordan stands. "Thanks, uh, for —" he exhales and tries for the words. "I appreciate," he gestures with his cigarette, "being the one to go." Graham nods. Jordan takes another drag. "I'll get you the money as soon as I can."
Graham nods again. "You're a good kid, Jordan." He looks at him, "We don't hate you." Jordan wasn't expecting this, and doesn't know exactly how to react. For the first time he looks more like a kid than an adult. "You don't have to stay out here," Graham tells him. Jordan indicates his cigarette for the reason he's outside. Graham nods, and goes back into the house. "The door's open."
Some time has passed. Jordan's cigarette is gone but he's still on the porch, or has since returned to it. Angela, still a bit groggy, shuffles outside to where he sits.
"Still here," she says.
Jordan looks up. "How ya' doin'?"
She sits beside him. "I'm okay."
"Good." He glances at her and she at him. She tucks her hair. Jordan nudges her with his knee. "You wanna talk about it?"
She sighs, and pulls her hair away from her face. "It was awful. And scary. And fine."
Jordan listens to her and watches. 'Awful. Scary. Fine.' It was hard to know what that was. All he'd done was sit there and watch a swinging door. "Wanna take off school tomorrow? Do something nice?" He tugs lightly at her pant leg, "Whatta'ya think?"
"I think I'm on thin ice as it is." He purses his lips; that makes sense.
They sit quietly. "So what now?"
Angela answers mutely, "Exactly. 'What now?'"
Warily, he looks at her, "Is everything... ruined?"
Her head is resting on her knee as she looks at him and thinks, but she lifts it as she answers. "Not everything."
"Is this something–" He bites at his thumb and lifts his eyes to meet hers, "Can we get past this?"
"I'm sixteen; I better get past this," she's aware the conviction with which she's said this unsettled him and she feels him looking at her and is compelled to reassure him, "I'm alright. …"
"We'll be okay." He's said it, but it might be just words – Jordan's mood is a little ambiguous.
But she nods decidedly, "I agree." And then makes a mild attempt at humor, "But it might take a lot of Robert Smith to get there." He cocks an eyebrow at her, that's where her head took her? He wasn't even quite sure he was placing the name correctly. God she was funny. Without warning he leans quickly into her and catches her lips in a brief kiss. She smiles faintly into him. Then he's back sitting where he'd been. "Think I'm gonna go back inside," she says finally. "I don't feel so excellent." She squeezes his wrist, "Thanks for sticking around." Angela slowly rises. After a beat he does as well.
"Angela..." His eyes narrow, and though she's looking at him, open and receptive, he doesn't say whatever he is thinking.
Lisa sinks down and slouches onto her sofa beside her brother. When he left Angela's place he'd ended up here. Resting her head on his shoulder, she lightly pats his back. "How is Angela?"
Jordan subtly shakes his head. "I don't know."
Lisa looks at him. It isn't sympathy on her face but it's too close to it for his comfort and so he jerks his shoulder a bit to nudge her off. He's still a little dazed and deadened, but he's enough of himself not to want to be coddled. Unfazed by her little brother's taciturn tendencies, Lisa smiles faintly and readjusts her position. Clouding it in a now slightly more upbeat demeanor she makes the effort to ask after him, "How are you?"
"I didn't think it would feel exactly like this." His defenses are up and he comes off as irritable, but it isn't irritation Jordan Catalano's actually feeling.
She tugs lovingly at his hair, "I know."
"It's…" he does not want to put it in words.
"It's big," she affirms in commiseration. "It is. But J, it isn't everything."
Jordan blinks slowly. And breathes.
A day or so after, Jordan and Angela are sitting side by side on her made bed, leaning against the headboard; Angela's stereo is playing in the background. Jordan's legs are outstretched, while Angela's knees are up and she's holding them close to her. Facing Jordan, her cheek rests atop her knees. Her bedroom door is at least partway open.
"I love you," he says after some time of just listening to the music. This isn't a revelation to him. He'd known it for some time. And while he had been putting off saying it out loud, he hadn't been withholding it, and so saying it now is not dependent on what they've just gone through. It is not a consolation. At this point it just seems past due, mute almost, 'Cuz how could she not know? And in that case, just say it. Mincing words was never his style. No matter the subject.
Her smile is distant but her response is sincere. Never lifting her head from where it rests she answers, "Me too." Head still on knee, she moves slightly to give him a small kiss on his arm. She takes a deep breath and then slowly exhales. Jordan absently picks up some kind of keepsake box on her bedside table and she watches as he browses through ticket stubs and other odds and ends. The CD changes tracks. He nudges her with his elbow. She bites her lower lip as she looks at him.
With outstretched fingers Jordan reaches and rubs the back of her head; she momentarily lays her head on his shoulder. "This isn't very punk," he says, commenting on the music.
"But it's good. It's nice."
Jordan can't help but chuckle a little, "'Nice.'"
"It's punk-light. Punk-esque."
He smiles then nods his head in the direction of his acoustic guitar leaned up against her wall. "How's that goin'?" He'd loaned it to her the other day to practice on.
"It hurts." He turns his head to her in momentary alarm before her actual meaning registers: the guitar strings on her fingertips.
Her eyes catch his, "Just so you know, this was the right decision. _ If you don't know it for sure, I do." He nods distantly; he does know this. He knows too that in a day or two more he won't feel it like he does now. Like Lis'd said, it isn't everything. Stretching her legs she lifts her head and asks, "It's time to move on, huh?"
"I guess it's time to start."
She gives herself a minute, then nods definitively. "Okay." In dry irony she remarks, "Good year."
Angela bites down on her lips. Absently he takes hold one of her hands and runs his fingers over her finger tips. She looks at him and asks, "We'll be okay?"
"Sure," he says in understated exaggeration, still working his fingers through hers. "Just, gotta get calluses."
She swallows a smile; it is uncanny sometimes the words that emerge from Jordan Catalano's lips. Though ephemeral, his eloquence is effortless. She looks at him, full well knowing the answer before asking the question, but asking it nonetheless. "Still my friend, right?"
"You bet. I've got your back." She 'hmphs' appreciatively. And to keep her amused he asks, "How long, ya think, 'till Krakow'll speak to me again?"
For what seems like the first time, Angela cracks a smile, though the tenor of her voice alters little, "I'd say at least another two, three months."
"I better get some homework done then," he says wryly as he lightly pounds his fist upon her shoulder. She again 'hmphs' appreciatively as rises to head out. Pausing at the door Jordan asks, "Up for hanging out with people tomorrow?"
She purses her lips: life has to start again sometime, "Sure," she nods slowly. He nods once too in confirmation and then turns away.
From the hallway, about to head off, Jordan ducks his head back in, "So, uh, hey." She looks at him,"That whole, 'love' thing?" His glance flickers and lingers in her direction. "Big."
"Real," he adds.
With an understated nod and a small smile, she agrees, "Yeah."
Then without being too committal he confesses, "Maybe should've said it before. Before before." She listens. Again he glances at her then confides, "'Cuz, it didn't just hit me. ..." Having spoken his piece Jordan pats the door frame, "Later." And with that, he's gone.
I really hope you enjoyed the story, thanks so so much for reading! (I'll probably keep revising for a bit, so any comments and suggestions are still very welcome).