DEATH NOTIFICATION ATTEMPT #1
So Sunday I did indeed try to track Jack down to tell him that Al had died. I was nervous about it. Not only had I not communicated with Jack in three years, but I had never in my life broken the news that a friend had died. When my Dad died, I had to tell a friend of mine but I asked him to tell everyone else for me. I guess I kind of copped out but frankly I was a mess back then and copping out was standard operating procedure. But this was different. The three of us had been very close. Even though Jack's stoicism is unrivaled, he is extremely perceptive and would understand the gravity of Al's passing. At this point, I think I understand the gravity of it if not the full effect.
I had looked online for a current phone number for Jack but the information was confusing. His wife was listed at the old address but with a new number. I figured I would call the last number I had for him. I stood on the beach in Malibu on Sunday and watched the morning tide wash away Saturday's sand castles. I opened my cell phone and dialed the number. It rang three times and then someone picked up just as a wave crashed about 30 feet out. I couldn't make out what the voice on the line said but I could tell it wasn't Jack.
"Hello? Hi, is Jack there?"
A pause. A man's voice, sounding both irritated and amused said, "Nope. He hasn't had this number for three years."
"Oh," I said, pondering my next move. I waited for a little help from the man but he offered only silence.
"Well, do you happen to have a new number for him? I'm an old friend of his calling from California and I'm trying to locate him."
Another pause. It's amazing how quickly your brain can process such little information to assess a situation. After this ten second phone conversation with a total stranger, I was convinced that Jack had gotten divorced and moved out and the voice on the other end of the line belonged to the guy who was now banging Jack's wife and raising his kids.
Then the clincher.
"Sorry," the man said with the kind of sarcasm so thick is drips with contempt. A more honest person would have just come clean and said, "Sorry, asshole."
One last pause, my mind racing to try and figure out a way out.
"OK, thanks anyway."
I closed the phone and looked out at the water. More waves crashed and shrank and rolled over my feet and into the moat of a fairly large but crude sand castle, the kind that had been topped off with handful after handful of wet drips squeezed out of little hands to create a gooey, stalagmite effect. The rushing water toppled half the castle at once and then sucked the sand back out to sea. Well, I thought, I still have an email address for him.