Sunday Morning

December 21, 2008
By
“Honey, you should be proud of yourself. You were so quick on your feet. I don’t think just anyone could have done that.”

“Dear, you do know you saved a man’s life today.”

“Isn’t she amazing?”

“Oh, we’re very proud of her.”

“Are you sure you’re okay to drive, dear? You seem a bit shook up.”

“Yeah, I’m okay. I’m fine.”

I smiled and nodded as their words swirled around in my head, an endless tornado of hurt and confusion and pain twisting and turning my gut into contortions Houdini himself couldn’t possibly fathom. I thought I had done a good thing, I mean, the old ladies said I had saved a man’s life. But I’d always thought that lives were saved by doctors, lifeguards, firemen, and superheroes, and in my pale blue, androgynous Holy Family polo shirt and khakis, I didn’t look the part nor feel it. Turning the ignition and hearing the rumbling of the engine in the cold December frost and finally hearing something familiar, something consistent, I felt safe. As I pulled out of the church parking lot, however, the morning’s events flooded back into my mind and I fought back tears because I knew that once they started pouring, no windshield wiper would make things clear again--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The morning of December 7, 2008 (in the year of our Lord) had started out with a beep beep followed by whoosh whoosh and completed with a vroom vroom. Like most Sundays, I would wake up at about 7 am, an unfortunate rising hour for a tired teenager, take a shower, and scramble for about 10 minutes packing all of the food, homework, and reading material required to keep me occupied for the 8-1 shift at Holy Family Parish. I am a receptionist, and usually there aren’t enough calls or memorial masses to be scheduled to fill even a fraction of that time, so I had to be prepared. I pulled out of the driveway around 7:55, so I would be late again, but I only wish that had been the debacle of the day.

By about 11:30 a.m., I had finished all of my tiresome statistics problems and escaped to kitchen to snatch the sushi I had been salivating over all morning. There was a plan. First, I would get the sushi and a cup whatever sort of toxic-waste colored juice the old ladies on the hospitality ministry had watered down this morning. Then, I would grab some napkins and peruse the trays of cookies to see if there were any treats handsome enough to tempt me, and finally, I would sit back down at the desk, unfurl my People magazine, and read about whatever melodrama had recently occurred in the Brangelina love triangle. I soon discovered that before I could be engulfed in Jennifer Aniston’s woes I would have to sort out my own.

Setting the sushi on the desk, the phone began to ring. Each of the three lines lit up and I coolly switched from one to the other, confirming that we did indeed have an afternoon mass at four o’clock as well as transferring a snippy mom to the Religious Ed absence line. As I pressed the button to receive the last call, I recognized the number, and soon I began to hear the husky drawl of a voice I had come to recognize as well.

“Good morning, Holy Family!” I chirped, preparing myself to recite mass times or transfer the strangely familiar caller.

“Hello. Could you please tell Father Pat [our pastor] that I’m going to commit suicide?”

My limbs felt as if they were bolted to the floor, the desk, and my eyebrows seemed to harden in their perplexed state. I froze, I simply froze, and tried to understand what the man had just said. Terrified, not knowing what to do, and wondering why, after twenty seconds of silence that felt like hours, the caller hadn’t hung up, I hung up myself. I still couldn’t make sense of it. I couldn’t understand. What was I to do? His voice was eerily familiar. I remembered that he called often and asked to be transferred to Father Pat, or Dawn, another employee at the church, but he never seemed angry. Not like this.

The phone rang again and it was the same number. My teeth penetrated the inside of my lower lip and my heartbeat was like a gong, shaking me as I reached for the phone for a second time.

“Good Morning, Holy Family?”

My tone had changed.

“Um, yes, I called before. I’m sorry if I shocked you at all.”

Well, no shit, I thought. But before I could feel guilty about swearing, even inside my own head, he said,

“I’m just really angry. I’m sorry.”

“Would you like to speak to someone?” I asked, but as I pored over my list of employees I realized that on a Sunday, no one would be here except the people involved with the mass, which was currently going on, and I couldn’t figure out what to do.

“Yes, I think I would,” he responded.

“Well, there’s not really anyone here right now, but I can try to find someone.”

“I’ll call back in an hour.”

“Okay.”

I said it weakly, still confused, still wondering. Would he hang on another hour? Would I find someone? I was still a bit frozen, thawing, but frozen, and nothing made sense. I called my friend Becca. Becca was always calm. She didn’t cry or get self-conscious or burst out in random fits of hysteria. Sometimes I wished she were slightly more emotional, so I wouldn’t feel so ridiculous, but today I needed robot Becca.

“Call the police, Sarah. You need to call the police.”

Hanging up on Becca and dialing 911, I was still trembling and constantly wondering if he was still alive. I did my best to be composed for the police officer, but maintaining my outer cool did nothing to quench the fire burning inside my brain, my heart, my stomach.

“Barrington/Inverness Police. Where’s the emergency?”

I described what happened to the officer on the phone and before I hung up there was another outside the door to the office. I buzzed him in and while he seemed to be a nice man, I hated him. I hated that I had to call him, I hated his uniform because it was scary and intimidating, and I hated that I had to retell him the whole story. Hadn’t I just told his friend? When I was done, my eyes still dry, he asked me if I had gotten his phone number.

I knew it, I recognized it, but the out-of-date phone in the office had caller ID for incoming calls, but no record or way of tracing it, so finding this man would be impossible unless he called back. It was killing me, every second I had to sit there, the policeman hovering over me as I waited for his call. The officer told me that they had no access to phone records, that there was some sort of legal process involved and I soon began to drone him out, until the numbers that had appeared on the phone’s screen began to resurface in my brain. I closed my eyes and I started to see them, one by one, come together into that magical 10 digit combination. The numbers flew out of my head and onto the paper, in a whirl of 1s and 2s and 3s. Found it.

Just as I was about to call the number, though, the congregation began to pour out of 11:00 mass and I had to attend to all of them. I had become so involved in my own not-so-little problem that I had forgotten I was working. When the crowd thinned and the choir director noticed that there was a policeman standing in the front office, I knew I would have to go through the story one more time. Every time I got more and more tired of it, and soon I became desensitized. After explaining it to the first policeman, the second, Colin the choir director, and our pastor, I just wanted it to end, but the phone began to ring again; it was him.

The number I had formulated had been right, but he called back before we did. This third time, though, he seemed much calmer and cooperative, and I was able to calm him down a bit, but somehow I let the conversation end and I can’t quite remember how. Once I was off the line, the police officer bombarded me with, “What was his name?” “Where is he?” “What did he sound like?” and I just couldn’t handle it. I was still so bothered by this whole situation that I had forgotten the important things. I could answer the last question, but I just felt like nothing I did would ever be the right thing. This was all so much at once.

“Well, at least we have the number now,” he huffed as he slumped into the back to use the other phone. The police officer pretty much took things over from that point. He found out from the number that the man was living at a group home in Arlington Heights, and called for some police to go there to take care of the whole situation. I sat there, listening to him put together all the pieces and getting the police over there, and my sushi just didn’t taste right. The weird green juice never tasted normal, but even so, it wasn’t the same and I thought that maybe it never would be. And maybe it would. Nothing was for sure, not anymore.

I tried to open my magazine, to get myself out of that place and be at a fashion show in Tokyo, a film screening in London, or playing in Central Park with Suri Cruise, but I just couldn’t take it. The last hour of my life had been so surreal that the only thing that would have made sense would have been for the clock to melt off the wall. The policeman had just left and I was closing up the office when a few granny-esque bookstore volunteers came to return the key. Normally, I offer a cordial, “Enjoy the rest of your Sunday,” but today the women beat me to it.

“Honey, you should be proud of yourself. You were so quick on your feet. I don’t think just anyone could have done that.”

“Dear, you do know you saved a man’s life today.”-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


If the route home wasn’t embossed in my memory, I couldn’t have done it. I had always joked about how ridiculous my job was. I got paid to sit around, do homework, steal church cookies. That day was different. I felt so strange, out of place in my own body and I knew that I might not feel normal for awhile. But that was okay. Everything was going to be okay.





Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

SunnyGirl202 said...
Dec. 23, 2010 at 9:44 am
Wait---Holy Family???? I used to live 5 min away from there! My dad still lives there! Wow. Nice writing. You are really good at expressing yourself. I'm glad you made the right decisions to call the police.
 
LiveLaughLife said...
Jan. 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm
You made a really good choice of calling the police. Becca sounds like a wonderful friend tha helps you when you really need it. You really haev saved a man's life. Good Job!
 
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