She asked if I was missing you.
Maybe asked isn't the right word. Knowing this friend, it was probably more of a statement of understanding. Hand on my back, deep breath in and out.
"You're missing Jubal right now, aren't you?"
I cried, then. Clunky tears that fell to the ground and left a puddle on the wood. I do not hide the missing, but I've lived with the weight of you in my bones for so long that sometimes I forget there's actually a hole. You are my phantom limb and this time of year is when I feel that ache the most.
The other day I walked outside and saw that Papa placed a BABY ON BOARD sticker on the back window of our car. I froze.
"When you told me you got this sticker I didn't realize you were going to place it on Rex Manning now."
He peeked his head up over the roof and shrugged.
"What? I'm future-casting."
I laughed then, swallowing the lump in my throat, and opened the car door, pushing away the thoughts of how I would respond to the questions from those who do not call you by name.
Those are the questions where it's easiest to shrug and look away. It's best not to hit them with the full weight. Those are the moments I bite my tongue and look at the sky and raise my Hustetler eyebrow because 've waited long enough, don't you think?
But then there are those who do call you by name. They remember when the weight of it all begins to chafe. This is what's hard to explain — the need of me letting go of this particular burden. The ones who call you by name? They are the keepers of the flame. They see the hope flicker within and they refuse to let it die.
They've wiped the tears. They've shaken their fists. They've giggled with anticipation.
They're in this until the end.
"I prayed for Jubal the other day."
I stare at the text message and read it over and over and over again, letting your name fall on my lips, the softest tickle of a whisper.
Jubal Vox. The voice of a trumpet.
I close my eyes and voice the prayer that's been stuck in my gut for weeks.
Jubal. We're ready. Come home.