I don’t know where to start.
I should start at the beginning, but I have no idea where that is.
What I know, is that in the paper, there is this:
Jay M. Harkless, 23, was arrested after Rent-a-Center, 1214 S. Gilbert St., was robbed at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
During a search of Harkless’ residence at 840 Maggard St. Apt. 10, officers found items they believed linked him to 10 bank and credit union robberies in Iowa City, North Liberty, Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Muscatine, according to a news release.
Harkless confessed to all 11 of the robberies, police said.”
You may recognize the person in that picture from this one:
Although, the one picture I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the last two days is this one:
I don’t know why, but that one is what sticks with me. It’s the image that keeps me from sleeping at night, and stops me from being able to make sense of any of this.
Jay M. Harkless is my little brother. It’s Jay Michael, actually.
They say he robbed 11 banks. They say, too, things like “25 to 50″ and “best case scenario” and lots of other things that end with the word “years”. Years. She’s going to be five years old in March, the same month that he will be 24. Years. I wonder now how many years will separate them.
I got the first call Thursday night. But we didn’t know anything then. I got the next call Friday morning, and still we had no idea. I went to the hair salon and got my haircut. I spent $175 on a haircut and hair products and a facial mask and some other trivial shit that’s sitting in a plastic bag on the floor of my car right now. I walked out of the hair salon and got the next call. While I was spending $175 in a hair salon, my little brother was being charged with robbing banks.
I’d have given him every last dime I had, if only he had asked.
At 11:45, we booked a ticket for me to fly home on a 2:15 flight. By 4:20 in the afternoon, I was freezing my ass off outside an airport in Iowa. I’m freezing in Iowa, and it’s snowing in Florida right now. How strange is that?
I don’t know why I flew home. There’s nothing for me to do here. There’s nothing for me to fix. There’s no mess that I can clean up or anything for me to organize before getting on a return flight home. There’s no point, really. But the only coherent thought I could recognize in the fog after those phone calls was, “I want to go home.”
You see, we are one body, the four of us. My mom, me, Jay, and Creed. We are One. And I felt as if part of our body was hemorrhaging somewhere, and all I knew to do was gather up the remaining three pieces. Besides, yesterday was Creed’s 21st birthday.
My mom and her husband picked me up at the airport. I told her she looked ten years old. “Fuck, I knew you were going to say that. And all I could think was, you’re going to put this on the blog as ‘my mom looked ten years older’.” To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it until she said that.
We laughed most of the way home. Laughed. Hard. As if the world wasn’t falling apart, as if there would be answers waiting for us at the end of the two hour drive. As if me being there made a difference. We laughed so hard she peed her pants half way home. And then we laughed harder because, well, she peed her pants.
Erin met us at Mom’s house. She brought Tequila, just in case. She couldn’t fix anything any more than I could, but she sat with us. Laughed with us. Cried with us. Held us when there was nothing to do but hold us.
I talk to Jared when I can. I wish he was here with me, for his sake, for my sake, for all of our sakes. His heart is just as broken as the rest of ours. It’s killing him to be miles away and not be able to lend more than a voice. I ached for the comfort of his arms last night when I went to bed.
In the dark, with my eyes closed, I tried to reach out to God. Dear God… I started. But I didn’t know how to go on. I don’t even know what to ask for. Peace? Love? A miraculous loophole that makes this all go away and gives me back my brother? I thought about the emails and texts from people who promised they were praying for us.
Are you really? I wondered. Is that just something people say, or do they really stop and send up some small offering to God? And if they do, what are they praying for? Can someone please tell me what to ask God for? I woke up and everything was still the same, still 180 degrees different than how it was the morning before, and I knew the only prayer I could muster had been unanswered.
At least he’s alive, people keep telling me. He’s alive, they say. He’s alive.
But it feels like death here. The loss is so big and stretches out before us for as far as my feeble mind can imagine.
And then I remember about change. I remember the one thing I said I learned in 2009. That nothing is permanent. That change is inevitable, for better or for worse. And that’s the only thing I know to cling to right now. Change.
The headlines in the paper will change. People who have time to read and comment on the faces of a man they won’t know will have something new to read and comment on in due time. That change I can predict, at least.
The rest… I don’t know. I cannot even begin to foresee what the next change will be. I can’t tell you if it will be for the better, I assume it will be for the worst. But this, right here, will not be forever.
The only permanent change is death. And he is, at the very least, alive.