My initial reaction was to say no, but Jacob was quick to point out that I didn’t have any real reason to forbid it. The house was empty, had been, save for my occasional trips out to collect the mail and water the plants and tend to all the little things that needed tending to. “I want to get back into the house,” he said. “It’s essential, man. I’ve got to have days like he used to. Get up, roll out of his bed, use his bathroom, cook in his kitchen.”
“I don’t know, man…”
“Come on, what does it matter? It’s not like either of your folks are in any kind of a position to care.”
I frowned. “Fine. Fuck it. Whatever. Do what you have to do.”
I went by his place to drop off the keys and that was that. We didn’t speak for days afterwards.
With no word from Jacob, I spent more time visiting my mom. I read to her, asked her about her childhood, tried to engage with her without bringing up who I was or why she was in a hospital bed. She asked about her husband, and I had no answers for her. I asked about my father, and she told me stories from when he was my age, from before they’d had me, from when they were both young. I listened for as long as she was willing to talk, and when she grew tired or disinterested, I asked her if there was anything I could get her before I left.
She never said yes.
Time passed. Finally, I called Jacob one evening after I’d gotten home from work. His phone rang, and just when I was ready to give up, I heard his voice say, “Yes?” I frowned. That was how my dad used to answer his phone. Was that a coincidence, or did Jacob see my father do that in a video or something. “Well? What is it?” he went on.
I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be civil or not. My sense of civility won out, even if my patience was quickly fraying.
“How’s it going, man? What’s the word?”
Jacob snorted. “Weren’t you raised to speak more clearly than that?”
I sighed, rolled my eyes. “I take that mean to you’re in character. Do you feel like you’re ready?”
There was silence on the other end of the line. I could hear Jacob breathing, was just about to repeat the question when he answered softly, “Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready. Let’s go see your mother.”
“Okay. What day works for you?”
“Let’s go now.”
I blinked in surprise at Jacob’s eagerness, as well as the simple directness of the order he’d just given me. There was no mistaking it; it had definitely been an order. “Are you sure? It’s getting late, man. We don’t have to do this tonight.”
“No, it has to be now. It has to be tonight.” He paused, took a deep breath, exhaled. “I don’t want to wait any longer.”
“Alright. Do you want to meet there or–”
“Come get me. I’ll be waiting for you.” With that he hung up.
“Presumptuous bastard,” I hissed at the phone, and they I left to get him.
I arrived at my parents’ house to find it a mess. There were takeout bags and cartons and boxes all over the living room and the dining room. In the kitchen, dirty plates covered in half-eaten meals lined the sink. I could only imagine what the bedroom must have looked like.
“Jesus, man. I know there’s no one else here, but try not to turn the place into a sty, huh?”
Jacob just shrugged. “You know I’ve never been good at keeping the place up without your mother around.”
I stared at Jacob blankly. It was true that my father had been decidedly lax about housecleaning when my mom had gone to visit my aunt or my grandparents. “Are you going to be doing this the entire night? Talking to me in character or whatever?”
Jacob arched an eyebrow and snorted. I sighed.
“Well, you’ve nailed the surliness. Alright, well, whatever. Let’s get going.”