“Who?” I ask. I don’t recognize the name, can hardly make sense of it. The caller is crying.
She explains that we went to college together, were in the same dorm, but I don’t really remember her well. A picture pieces together, a flat, freckled face, sad eyes behind telescope glasses, a certain smell, like stale cigarettes mingled with Vapo-Rub. Marcy Johansson. Clown orange hair. I only saw her through our second year; I’m not even sure she graduated.
She wants to come over. I avoid it and agree to meet her downtown. I stop on the bank on the way to the cafe, one hundred dollars cash is all I’m willing to give her. I’m sure this is why she’s called.
I spot her; same flag of hair. “Hi, Marcy,” I say and sit down across from her. She’s drinking coffee and I order the same.
The story is one I don’t want to listen to, don’t want to remember. It’s been twenty years, and I never knew all the details, the remnants of a mistake. I realize now why I hadn’t seen her around the final two years.
“He was your son, too,” she says. Her eyes drip sorrow. “I thought you might want to know what became of him, that he was brave and died a hero. He was a good son. A fine young man.”
I give her the one hundred dollars and leave. I don’t know what else she expected.