JJ’s Night Out, by Rich Paschall
Jason was pacing the floor of the living room. He was excited about his date night. They were going to a new nightclub. It had received nice reviews and he thought they could do a lot of dancing and singing. Jason’s mom watched the pacing with a feeling of indifference, while his dad watched in what could best be described as “disgust.”
Soon Jason’s date would arrive. Jeff was a handsome young man who Jason had met at college. Jeff fell immediately for the boy with the constant smile, and it did not take long for Jason to agree to a date. After a short period of dating, they became constant companions. Their friends began referring to them collectively as “JJ” since they always seemed to be together.
When Jeff arrived in his best preppy, all American look, he stopped in briefly to say hello to Jason’s parents and wish them a good evening. Then Jason exclaimed, “Good night, mom,” and gave his mother a hug. It was returned in a half-hearted fashion.
“See you later, dad,” Jason shouted at his father who was standing quite a distance away.
“Yeah,” his father returned with his most annoyed tone. The father’s look was his best effort at contempt. Jason just smiled and the boys set out for a night of fun. They both hoped that someday Jason’s father would accept them as a couple. Whether that happened or not, soon the boys would find an apartment, marry and be on their own. They had their whole lives ahead and could not be too worried about whether they would find complete acceptance. They had each other. That was the main thing.
The two men enjoyed the new nightclub. The music was loud, the drinks were cold and the atmosphere was electric. Around midnight, Jeff leaned over and gave Jason a big kiss. Since he was not prone to such public displays, Jason asked, “What was that for?”
At 4 am the phone rang at Jason’s home. By the time his mother was awakened and realized it was the phone, the ringing stopped. She started to drift off to sleep but 10 minutes later the phone was ringing again. When she got up and got to the phone, it had stopped again. The mother thought Jason forgot his key or was staying with Jeff.
“He really did not have to call about that,” she thought. She waited by the phone another 10 minutes but it did not ring, so she went back to bed.
Just as she was getting up around 7 am the front doorbell rang. She thought, “This must be Jason.” She put on her robe and walked to the door. She opened it to find a uniformed police officer standing there. Behind her was a man in plain clothes, but he was wearing a police badge on his belt.
“Are you Mrs. DeAngelo?” the officer asked.
“And is Jason DeAngelo your son?”
“Why? What’s wrong? What happened? Tell me, what is it?” she blurted out, trying not to sound hysterical.
“There has been a shooting at a nightclub. I am afraid your son was one of the victim’s. We are sorry for your loss, Mrs. DeAngelo.”
Jason’s mother stood there absolutely frozen to the spot. She had been kicked in the stomach and her breath had been taken away.
“Is it alright if we come in and ask a few questions?” the plainclothes police officer asked.
For a moment Mrs. DeAngelo could not speak. Her eyes began to water and her brain was numb. She was transported through time to a place of unspeakable sadness. It was a place where senses momentarily failed her.
“Would you like us to come back?” the man asked.
“No,” she replied. “Come in.”
Mr. DeAngelo joined them in the living room. He immediately knew what had happened. He stood there silently. His wife answered all the questions.
For the next half hour, the two police officers queried Jason’s mom. Did Jason go to the Club often? Why did he go that night? Was he with anyone? Was he gay? Did they know it was a gay nightclub and so on? Mrs. DeAngelo answered as best she could.
Then they mentioned the name of the shooter which led to a new round of questions. Did she ever hear the name before? Did her son know him? There were other questions too but they all became a blur to Mrs. DeAngelo. After a while, she was not even sure what she was saying.
The uniformed officer concluded by saying the coroner’s office would be processing the dozens of bodies over the next few days and they would be in contact with them. Both told the parents “We are sorry for your loss,” as they were leaving the house.
Mrs. DeAngelo softly closed the door behind them. She grabbed a framed picture of Jason off a table and sat down on the sofa. She stared at the picture as a tear formed in the corner of one eye. She tried to envision Jason’s happy face as a child and his boundless energy. She remembered the time she called him “my little terrier” because it seemed he could run for hours and then come and lay down right by her. She did not move from that spot for a long time.
Mr. DeAngelo recalled the look he gave the boys the night before as they left for the club.
It was the only thing he could remember.