(Note: this is part of my on-going journals. I write so I know where I've been. This journal entry is about Jake. You'll learn lots about him. He'll get to read what's in the journal. He can help me edit it, but what's in here is for both of us. He'll feel uncomfortable for that, but he'll forgive me. At some future time, he'll be glad I wrote it all down. I keep a notebook handy, so even a word or a simple phrase lets me recall enough to write a day's worth of journal.)

Wednesday - Day 2

Day 2 means dread and incredible pain and incredible sickness; debilitating sickness. Day 2 is mind numbing and obscene. Day 2 is the second day of chemo for the week. Day 1 is merely annoying, and leaves me feeling as if I have the flu.

Doc hooks me up to my IV and goes to the lab to work on blood samples. There's a young man, about college age, sitting in a chair against the other wall, with his oncologist attending to him. I know all the doctors here, so I know she's an oncologist. He looks as she starts to insert the needle, then looks away like it's too much to see, and then looks back again to see what she did. He stares at it as if it's a cobra twitching in front of him, afraid to look away because it'll strike him. I stare at him staring at his IV. He closes his eyes for a moment and shakes his head, disbelieving he has to sit through this bizarre ritual. We're in the 21st Century aren't we? I've said it before; medicine feels like it's still deeply rooted in the 18th Century. He eventually relents and puts his head back. There's a glimmer in his eyes but he wipes the potential tears away quickly. He knows I'm looking, at least in his direction.

He watches me for a while but I doze off. I don't know how long it is before I wake up again. My IV has made considerable progress. The young man is staring blankly at the ceiling. He sees that I'm awake and stares at me again.

"Hi, I'm Aaron."

"I know. Doc's better half told me I should talk to you. She says you're like a god or something with this cancer stuff."

"Doc's wife is biased as hell, but I'm no god. She's seen my human side all too often."

"I'm hating this, you know?. She says I got an attitude, but not a good one."

"How long have you had to have chemo?"

"This is my fifth. About a month I guess."

"Tell me about your attitude."

"Are you a shrink?"

"No." I smile to myself, not finding that thought even remotely appealing. "Sometimes I don't even understand myself. I can be my own worst enemy. But I like to listen. I like helping someone else even better."

He sat silently for a moment. I could make guesses what he was thinking, but I didn't know for sure. My guess was that if he opened up to me, he'd not be able to withdraw again.

"My name is Jake. James, really, but nobody calls me that much. I'm 20 and I got ALL. You know what that means?"

"Yeah. It means you got a lot to think about."

"And maybe not a lot to time to think about it," he told me.


I'm easy to talk to, but this is not the ideal way to make a friend. The basic rules of cancer say that odds are very high friendships like this won't last. I've seen so many peers in this battle die. Every person I've known who had cancer, ever, is gone. In long-term survival, I stand alone. I have to think "why me?" Someone else would say "why not you?" That pisses me off. That's not a good response. I hate it. I want an answer to MY damn question, not a question in return.

All that went through my mind in mere seconds before I let Jake in. I had to believe, somehow, that not everyone I meet who has cancer will die. There are survivors out there, even though I didn't know any. I could not and would not turn someone away just because I thought they would leave me. Even if they do, they deserve someone to talk to at the very least. I know me; I'll let Jake in and I'll give my all to keep him safe. It's not all about me; it's about trying. Everything deserves a chance. Everyone deserves full effort, someone to listen, someone to care about him or her, and a chance to return it. And if he died . . . or if I died I hate `what if'. It just reinforces my `live in the moment'. Tomorrow is 2 or 6 or 12 or 24 hours away. Tomorrow isn't where my life is; it's in the moment I'm in.

He is half my age so the big brother/little brother or father/son feeling washes over me. I'd known the kid a couple hours and I already wanted to take the pain away from him. Me at 45 knows very little, still, about handling cancer day to day. How in THE BLOODY HELL is a 20 year old going to do it? How little buddy Ben handles his doesn't count a lot because he's too young to know what he's got. He just knows he doesn't feel good sometimes. It's not fair of God, or whatever, to ask him to accept this and hope, with his very life, that it turns out okay. It makes me angry. Give it to me. As confused as I am sometimes, at least I know what I'm doing. Giving leukemia of this type to a young 20 year old is entirely unfair and unjustified. I don't believe in adversity making one stronger. I believe in adversity sucking your soul out of you. Is there anything so wrong with going from birth to death unscarred, unhurt, and absolutely unafraid of anything? Such people can do great things, and have done so for centuries. They don't need to be shown such terrible lessons to make them better people.

I haven't said a word while all this is running around like a whirling dervish in my mind. I don't feel sorry for Jake, at least primarily. I feel angry at the higher power. It's going to weaken my support for him because anger is such a useless waste of energy.

I'm trying to think of something profound to say. I'm trying so hard not to say "Jake I'm sorry." Sorry is right up there with useless waste. There is no phrase in the English language so empty as `I'm sorry'. Sorrow doesn't make you feel better for saying it. Sorrow doesn't help the friend to feel better. It's just something to say when you have nothing to say. It sucks and I won't say it.

Anyhow, the word sticks in my throat, wanting to be verbalized. I swallow as if I can choke it down, as if I can put out the little flame. He sees me looking at him. I feel like I got Attention Deficit Disorder. I can't focus on one thought, and it gets worse the harder I try.

"How are your friends with this?"

"I don't have any friends. I used to, but . . ."

He stops. His face looks like he's going to choke to death on the next words, so he stops and won't let them go.

". . . but they think I'm going to give it to them, that I could make them sick too" I finished in my mind. How many supposed friends have backed out of my life because they didn't, or couldn't, stand by me and help out? They stopped calling, or writing, or sending birthday cards or E-mail because they didn't think I'd live forever to be their friend. What did I ever do! It's not fair. To make someone walk away from my life, when all I would have asked of them is to treat me like I'm somebody. Cancer is a large part of what I am but it's not the only thing I have to care about.

"Don't worry about it, Jake. I won't turn away. I want to help."

He doesn't say anything. He looks at me as if I'm going to bolt the first chance I get because I wouldn't be the first. I wouldn't be the last. I'd already told him I wasn't a god at handling this crap. I've basically said I'm not as confident about it as Doc's wife Claire brags on me.

Why should it be my responsibility to take on the world's problems? Why do I have to take on Jake's pain and help him out? It's enough to take care of me, dammit! It's more than damn enough to take care of me.

The anger again, the dark demon in my mind that tells me I'm not good enough to help someone, even though I know perfectly well that I can. I spend so much time wrestling with my own thoughts that I'm convinced most of the time there are two distinct souls in my body.

I know I can be a good friend to him. I know I can help him think about life outside of the cancer. I can, and I will.

Doc comes to my rescue and detaches me from the tubes. I take a chair and pull it up beside Jake. I sit down and reach into my back pocket for my wallet. I have a business card from work. It has my company name, address, phone, 800 number, my pager number, my name, title, E-mail address everything but rank and serial number. I get up to get a pen from my jacket pocket. On the back I write my home phone number, address, and E-mail address, plus my AOL screen name.

I hand it to him. He looks at it, front and back. He puts in down on the side table. I pick it up and put it in his jacket pocket.

"Don't lose that, okay? And don't just throw it away when you leave here. I'm here again next week or in two weeks, whatever your chemo cycle is. I got voicemail at home and at work. I check my E-mail every day. You can IM me if I'm online. I don't use my AOL every day, so you might have to just watch for me, or send me mail to tell me you want to chat. Very few people have the info you do, almost nobody. You can call me 24 hours a day and I don't care if it's midnight or noon, or any hour in between. Okay?"

He looked at me. He resisted me, didn't believe me. I wrote up another business card just like what I had given him. I walked over to his doctor and gave it to her. I told her to put it in Jake's file. She stapled it to the inside of one of his file folders. He saw me and heard me. I walked back to him and sat down.


He didn't say anything. He didn't trust me. I was just one more person who would let him down, some way, some how.

If he truly believed that, he would find himself very alone. I reached my hand out to him. He closed his eyes and turned his head. I sat back in my chair, put my feet up on a table near by, and watched him. The longer I looked at him, the more I saw things that began to disturb me. I thought it was just my imagination at first, so I wanted to be sure. I kept looking.

"Who hurt you Jake?"

I touched his neck, then along his collarbone. I lifted the collar of his shirt to see.

"What?" he asked in surprise as he opened his eyes and looked over at me.

"I've seen wounds like those before. I know they're not from leukemia either. I've had wounds just like it, from two very brutal muggings. Someone beat you. Who? -- your supposed friends? Your schoolmates? Parents? Sibling? Strangers?

"Get away from me! You don't know anything."

"I know what it's like to be beaten."

"You don't know anything about me. I fell, that's all."

"No you didn't."

"Yes I did!!"

"Did you like it so much that you'll let them do it again? How many times has this happened? It'll happen again, you know. You're not protecting anyone, and you're going to get hurt again. You're putting this huge damn wall between you and me. If I can't help you, you're going to be the one to suffer. I can walk away and not give a damn. Is that what you want?"

He closed his eyes, covered his wounds with his hand, and turned his head. In a moment he lay on his side in the fetal position in the large chair. A tear ran down his cheek.

"Please talk to me."


"I'm not going anywhere."

He turns to me, furious.

"Yes you will. You'll leave to go home. I'll be a vague memory two minutes later. You'll puke when you get home, and eventually get into bed to sleep it off because it hurts too much. I'll be the last thing you think about tonight. Or tomorrow."

"I'm not going anywhere, Jake."

He rolls back into the fetal position. If he's like me, he's cold already. Chemo seems to suck the heat out of my body, especially before my temperature jumps.

"Can I have a blanket?" I ask a nurse as she passes by.

When she brings me one from the closet, I unfold it once and tuck it into his neck carefully. I lift him carefully off the chair just enough to tuck it around his back. I pull my chair closer to him, put my feet on the table again, and put my arm on top of the blanket. He starts to shiver a moment later.

"Sleep for a little while, man. You still got some meds left in your IV. I got nowhere to go."

"You don't even know me," he says softly, trying to fight his sleepiness. "Why are you here?"

"Just because. Go to sleep, Jake."

He was out a couple minutes later. The IV dripped slowly. My watch said 6:30. We'd both been here around two hours. He slept. I held on to his arm gently. If I touched him, he would know I was here, even when he slept. He had to trust someone. I was stubborn enough to believe he would trust me. Jeff and Mattie have told me I was a dreamer. So be it; there are worse things I could be.

At 7:30, I woke him gently. I was afraid he would wake up afraid, not knowing where he was, so I talked to him. He ran his hand through his hair. His doctor had taken the IV needle out a half hour ago. I told her to leave him be. Jeff sat beside me, having come to take me home. I explained what was going on and he had agreed to hang in with me.

"Is someone coming to pick you up?"

He looked at his watch.

"I missed the bus."

"We'll take you home," I offered. Jeff nodded. No way would we make him wait for the next bus, if there even was one.

"That's okay. I can call my mom. It's too far."

"It doesn't matter, Jake. Even if it's out of our way, don't make your mom come out. Why don't you call her though, so she knows you're coming home?"

Jeff handed over his cell phone. Jake took it reluctantly. We told him we'd wait in the lobby. He needed to go to the bathroom too, if that was okay. I asked if he had to throw up.

"Nah, just wizz," he said shyly.

He was still a little groggy when he met us outside. The night air was cold. Temperatures were typical for October, dropping like a rock after sunset. Jeff put him in the front seat so he could play co-pilot while I stuffed myself into the back of his truck's cab. It worked as long as I stretched out. We were pulling into his driveway a half hour later. Jeff knew the neighborhoods well because he surveyed for the state. I didn't know where we were; once we left the main highway, but it is obvious Jake's folks had money. These weren't estates, but this is an upper middle-class neighborhood.

"Thanks for the ride. Sure beats the bus."

I asked if he had my card still. He showed it to me. I reminded him it was 24 hours, no matter what. He nodded. His face was sad. I wanted to help him, but getting him home safely was the most he was going to ask tonight.

"You got chemo next week?"

"Yeah. You too?"

"Monday and Wednesday."

He made a face. "How do you stand it?"

I patted Jeff on the back. "This is my lifeline. It's easy when someone loves you."

He looked at the ground for a moment and then turned to go up the path to the front door.

We got back in the truck and headed home. I didn't say anything to Jeff about what I'd seen earlier. I had to think again about it. Still, I was sure of what I'd seen. The most I could do was hope that Jake would talk to me.

The week wore on, then the weekend. Soon it was Day 1 for me. Just as quickly, it was Day 2. Jake was a half hour into his chemo by the time I arrived. He was lying with his eyes closed. I didn't want to bother him, so I sat across the room while Doc started my chemo. I closed my eyes too. I was pretty beat. I'd worked since 6:00 that morning and had skipped lunch. A little while later I felt someone crawling into my chair. I opened my eyes to see little Ben.

"Aaron Aaron Aaron," he said as he settled in on top of me.

I put my arms around him and gave him a hug, and a kiss on his cheek. His pop sat down beside me, wrestling the little guy for his jacket.

Ben put his hands on my two cheeks and giggled as I made faces at him. I hugged him again.

"Shots?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Awww. You okay?"

"Otay. No hurt."

"Good boy, Buddy Ben. Big boy."

I looked over at his pop. He nodded and smiled. Ben was doing just fine.

"I got something for you."


"Yes. You can get it."

He climbed down off my lap and walked over to where my jacket was. It was on a low hook on purpose. Ben always knew I had a Snickers candy bar for him, but he also always waited until I told him where it was. His parents taught him to ask first.

Jake watched all this, not knowing what to make of it. He had woken up when Ben came running in and squealed, even before I heard him.

Ben came back to me, crawled up into my lap, and handed me the Nicka. I opened it for him. He knew he could have half of it. The rest would be for tomorrow. When he was half done, he gave the rest to poppa. Poppa put it in his pocket. He curled up in my arms for a little while. Pop was in no rush to get home, so Ben could stay put. He played with my chin, and then the button on my collar, and then dozed off for a few minutes. Jake continued to watch, but didn't say anything.

His doctor came and told Pop that it was okay now to take him home. He wanted to see him again in three weeks. Ben let Pop put his jacket on him. He reached back to give me a hug. I kissed him on his forehead. He waved bye bye and blew me a kiss. I would see him next week at home.

"Wow. What a cutie! His name is Ben?"

"Yeah. Little doll face, huh? He has cancer in his blood too, but different from yours. He's doing pretty well too. I wish I had his innocence sometimes. He knows he's sick, but that's the extent of it."

"How old?"

"Two plus."

"God. I guess I had better stop whining then. I got no right."

"It's easy to say `why me', Jake. I've said it. But it's a waste of a question because no one on Earth has an answer. There are questions we can ask that someone can answer. I'd rather find those."

"But don't you just want to scream sometimes?"

"Sometimes. I'm human too. I've cried myself to sleep some nights. Or some nights I was too sick and only wished that I'd be taken away. Other times, I'm okay and I seem to handle it okay. I got two friends who take care of me. I can't be alone overnight because if something happens, I may not get help in time. Long story; you don't want to hear it."

"Yeah I do."

"Okay, in a small nutshell, I'm waiting for another kidney transplant. But I haven't decided that I'd accept another one. The first one was 4 years ago. It was sooo hard, physically and emotionally. A young man died in a construction fall. I accepted his kidney so he could live longer, if only through me. The cancer has really terrorized it. Long story short, I don't know if I could ever do that again."

"What happens if you decide not to?"

I shrugged. I actually looked away, something I rarely do. Shrugging and looking away was not what you do when someone asks you a question. It took a little effort to look back at him and to answer the question. If I was going to teach him, trust was part of it, and not just him trusting me.

I looked back up at him, glanced away, and then back at him.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intrude. You don't have to answer."

"It's okay. No one has asked me that yet, not so straightforward anyway. Tough question, easy answer."

"You'd die. I knew the answer, but I guess I needed to hear what you'd say. You're impressive you know. I mean, last week you made sure I got home safe. I gave you grief, but you helped me anyway. And just now this little boy, who obviously loves you very much, just made my day. He wanted to be with you, climbed all over you like you were a giant toy. You ask him if he had his shots and he tells you he's okay. Is he okay though?"

"Yeah, amazingly enough, he is. Little buddy Ben breaks my heart, but remember that he doesn't know what's wrong with him, so he's got no fear of it."

"Can we ever be that innocent again?"

"You got a better chance than me because you're so young. I don't think so."

I made him sad with my answer. I kept talking.

"I wish, believe me, but I've seen too much. Ben is the reason I'm doing what I am, so he'll never have to feel this. His odds of beating his cancer are very high. Yours too, by the way."

"But this is sooo damned scary. I'm fighting so much, you'll never know."

"I want you to be okay, Jake. That's why I gave you my phone numbers and stuff last week. You can't do this on your own. I've had friends turn against me. My family has been too scared at times to support me, so they didn't talk about it."

I wiped tears away, a little choked up on what I was thinking about.

"I spent a lot of time finding my own way, but it was so hard. I promised that if I could help even one person fight, I'd do anything I could. I made promises that I don't know if I can live up to, but man I have to try."

He didn't say anything. His eyes glistened in the light again. He wiped the tears quickly and almost willed himself not to cry. I couldn't sit with him because I still had over an hour of my treatment. His was almost done.

"Talk to me, Jake. You have to trust someone. Please let that be me."

He pulled back into his shell, just as he had done last week. He was making up his mind that this was his problem, not mine or anyone else's. Jake was a mystery to me. Something had hurt him or someone.

"Hey, uh, can Jeff and I take you home again? Then you can rest without worrying about the bus."

He thought for a moment, and then he nodded.

"Get some rest, then, okay? This crap is easier to take if you can sleep through some of it. I'll wake you up when we're ready, like last week."


I got the attention of one of the nurses. I asked for a blanket for Jake. He hadn't learned it was okay to speak up yet.

He smiled a crooked smile and shook his head a little.

"Thanks. How do you know these things? That I needed a blanket, stuff like that?"

"Been there / done that. I like TLC. You could use some too."

He nodded, closed his eyes, and slept for the next hour. When he woke up, I was again sitting beside him, holding on a little, making sure he didn't wake up disoriented. I spoke to him softly and said "I'm here, Jake", so that he would know.

He was okay.

The rest of the week flew by. I think I measure my days by Monday and Wednesday; sometimes Saturday because it's when I finally feel better. `Better' is relative. By Saturday I feel like I have only the flu.

I went for a long walk alone on Saturday. Mattie and Jeff were both working. I hate being by myself at home. I mean, I got a nice apartment, but sometimes I'd rather be outdoors. I had a bag of apples and some day-old bread in my backpack. I took my time walking to my `secret place'. It really wasn't a secret anymore because I'd brought Jeff and Matt here with me. They said they would never invade the area without me to go with them. They knew that this was my place to be by myself, my sacred ground where I made all the decisions I needed to about my life.

I had spent a lot of time recently thinking that I did not want a new kidney. That meant I had come to the realization that I was going to die. Without a replacement kidney, I was not going to survive. Then Jake appeared. I needed to have a serious discussion with God about that little miracle of timing some day.

Even little buddy Ben, up until now, was not reason enough for me to want to continue chemo. He was too young, and he didn't need me for anything. He loves me, as much as he knows what that means, and he likes that I bring him Snickers. Mom and Poppa could do that just as well.

I knew Mattie and Jeff would do okay without me. At least they would have their own lives back. They have given up so much for me. There is no way to pay them back. I can't give what they gave me, because they gave me their lives.

Then there was Jake. He wouldn't reach out to me, but I wouldn't let him push me away either. As stubborn as he was, I was the freakin' expert at stubborn. Jake needed someone to guide him. His friends had abandoned him. Jake's best friend, years in the making, was the first to dump him. It wasn't hard for the others to leave him alone. How torturous to go to school every day and be with others that you liked very much. He either skipped lunch or ate by himself. He wouldn't participate in class. To his credit, he at least did his homework. He passed his exams and maintained a B average.

I sat down at the edge of the pond and took bread out of my backpack. I soon had ducks sitting at my feet. Once they ate, they settled down and stayed with me. Jeff had found this the most fascinating thing in the world. I didn't see that I was doing anything special. They just accepted that I was there, and they knew I was not a threat. I lie down and put my backpack behind my head. I watched the ever-changing clouds. I wasn't imaginative enough to see shapes today, just clouds. I missed my buddies. I had left a note, for whoever arrived at my apartment first. It took 45 minutes each way to get to my spot. I needed to leave by 5:00 to be home before 6:00. It was only 10:30, so I had the day.

Back to Jake; God I felt bad for Jake. I didn't want to pity him. Nobody deserved that. I remember what it was like to be younger, diagnosed with cancer, and fighting off attitudes. My classmates were antsy around me when I was going through treatments. Teachers took forever to believe that I was doing more than taking up real estate in their classes. People I worked with stayed away from even casual "How are you" because they were afraid I'd tell them. I wouldn't because they asked that only in polite conversation. No one ever wanted to know, but everyone asked just to be polite to one another. I can imagine Jake putting up with the same prejudices.

I interrupted my thoughts long enough to go to a clearing and put out half the bag of apples. I then left quietly, going to the edge of the clearing. I sat with my back up against a tree. Within ten minutes, a momma doe appeared. She looked at me and then ate from the small pile of apples. Matt had seen me do this. Jeff had seen it, too. Neither one believed it though. A deer should have been so skittish with anyone within five miles, never mind 10 yards. It's all about trust, and acceptance.

I wanted Jake to be that way with me. I don't care about being admired or even respected. I didn't even care, much, if he liked me. But I wanted him to trust that I know what this is like and how to get through 24 hours a day with such an enemy.

"You don't know what I feel!"

And so began our first heated confrontation toward the end of October. He was mad at the world and took it out on me. He had mouthed off to his doctor and I admonished him for it. It just made him angrier.

"I do know! I know every detail of how you feel!"

"Prove it!" He shouted back at me, defiant and angry as hell.

I didn't think, for even a mere second, about what I did next. I reached into my pocket, took out my Swiss army knife and cut my left arm deeply on top. I squeezed the blood out on to his shirt. I kept squeezing until there was little more than a trickle. He opened his eyes wide in shock. I went over to the sink, got a few sheets of paper towel, wet them, and put pressure where I had cut my arm. I knocked his legs off the chair and I sat down. I glared at him.

"There's your proof, damn you. Tell your lady doc to take my blood and run cell counts on it. Gimme your shirt! I'll send it to the lab!"

I pulled it off over his head in an instant. Obviously, I was not done shocking him. He reached for it but I threw it across the floor.

"You can have it back later. I hope it wasn't your favorite because I ruined it. There! There's your proof! My blood is enough proof that I feel the same fire you do, the same pain, the same coldness that won't go away. I know what it feels like to wake up at night terrified that I'm going to die." My voice cracked, my throat raw from yelling. "I know what it feels like to have a headache so bad that you puke from the pain. I know fear so dreaded and so deep that it wraps itself around me and suffocates me."

He was speechless. He held himself because now he was even colder than before, bare-chested and exposed.

"Don't EVER tell me I'm not telling you the truth. And don't you EVER dare tell me I don't feel. I know every intimate detail of what you feel 24 hours a day! Don't you hand me this `poor me' shit. You're not the only one with cancer. I got it too, you know. It's evil and it wants you. Don't whine. Stand up to it, beat the crap out of it, and make it back down. Live with it or you'll surely die with it!!"

He was terrified of me. I was like a madman, screaming in his face. He tried to push himself further into the chair to escape me. Tears welled up in his eyes quickly, bringing me out of my tirade. I turned around, knelt down on the floor, and wretched.

Jeff walked in a moment later, stunned by what was left in my wake. He left me alone and went to Jake. Jake was crying and shivering. Jeff took off his sweatshirt and put it on Jake. He sat down next to him and held him close.

"Aa. Aww buddy, what the hell happened?"

I looked up at him and Jake, anger still in my eyes.

Acid burned in my throat. "Don't EVER tell me I don't feel."

Blood flowed from my self-inflicted wound. Jeff yelled for Doc. Doc came into the treatment room to find Jeff holding on to a very upset young man, and me lying on the floor bleeding and near a pool of my own puke. Vomit. Whatever. Call it what it is. I too shivered, but not because I was cold. I think I react to anger far worse than any other emotion.

Doc helped to clean me up. He bandaged my arm. He didn't ask what I did. He knew. He just didn't know why. He didn't yell at me, question me, or put me down. Doc knew there was a reason for everything I did, right or wrong.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"No. I was stupid. Jake provoked me, but I went way too far."

"Then be more careful next time, huh?"

He hugged me, kissed me on my forehead, and checked the bandage.

"You'll need to change it tomorrow before you go to work."

I nodded. Tomorrow I would remember that I was a very scary man tonight, angry and out of control, mistrusted and stupid. I couldn't apologize to Jake. I believed what I said, just not what I did.

I went back into the treatment room. Jeff was sitting with Jake. I could only look at him. Anything I would have said would have been disregarded anyway.

"Come on, guys. It's been a long day. Let's write this one off to a loss. Tomorrow will be better. Let's get Jake home, Aa."

Jake started to take off the sweatshirt. Jeff was wearing a button-down shirt with a t-shirt beneath it, so he was fine. He told Jake to hold on to it until next time. I picked up Jake's ruined shirt and rolled it up. I would buy him another one like it. I think he knew that.


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