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Are You Still There?

By Jordan Crane

  • July 22, 2022

This comic is drawn mostly in greens, with lighter green backgrounds and darker green lines. There are two main characters, a man and a woman. In the first panel, the ban sits at a table looking worried. His shoulders are slumped and he has small clouds floating above his head, indicating concern. He wears a fuzzy v-neck sweater and long pants.   [Panel 2]  The man, still worried and with clouds above his head, scrubs a plate near the sink in his kitchen. He looks at the plate with a little too much attention, like he’s trying to focus on cleaning instead of his anxious feelings.   [Panel 3] The man, still worried, makes a call on a landline phone that hangs on the wall. He has a large phone book open in front of him and the phone makes “biip boop” sounds as he punches in the numbers.   [Panel 4]  The border of this frame is a sort of quasi-scalloped shape, indicating that the action occurs away from the man at home worrying by himself. These frames recur throughout the comic to contain moments from other times and spaces, including memories, fantasies, scenes from the future, and encounters that the man wasn’t present for. In this panel, a figure points a gun at a woman. She has chin-length hair and bangs and wears a long winter coat. She has a bag in on hand and the holds the other out in front of her, startled. The figure says “Your purse” to the woman, trying to mug her.   Panel 5 Back at home, the man is on the phone with someone. He is still holding the phone book in front of him. “Hello, I—” He says into the receiver. “Yeah, I’ll hold.”   [Panel 6] The man throws the phone book down in frustration. It stirs up a little dust and makes a “Fmf” sound as it hits the floor.

 

Panel 7  In a scalloped panel, the woman and the mugger continue to face each other. “NOW” the mugger says. “No,” the woman replies. She is standing solidly in her body with her mouth widely open as she speaks loudly.   Panel 8 The mugger shoots the woman. A big cloud appears between the mugger’s pistol and the woman. The gun makes a “BAK” sound. The woman looks shocked and goes pale.   Panel 9  The man is on the phone in his home. “I’m looking for my girlfriend, I—” “M-hm” he says. “She was just there to rent a video, in a green coat an’ black pants?”  Panel 10  The man is still on the phone. “No? Maybe you can check our account? 628 0418. First floor. Josephine.” He says, seemingly to someone at a video store. “Yeah, that’s it,” he says.   Panel 11 “She did!” The man exclaims into the phone. “Oh.” He says after listening some more. “An hour ago?” He is sweating from anxiety. “OK thanks,” he says.   Panel 12  In a scalloped panel, the cloud from the shot begins to dissipate and the mugger lowers the pistol. A large bloodstain spreads across the woman’s coat.

 

Panel 13 A scalloped panel from the future shows the man at home alone again, watching TV and eating dinner on the couch. There are beer bottles on the floor and pieces of paper on the couch cushions. This begins a long sequence of scalloped panels in which the man moves through his life alone.  Panel 14 The man washes one single dish and puts it on a drying rack.   Panel 15  The man walks on the sidewalk by himself, carrying a bag of groceries and looking despondent.  Panel 16 He sits meekly in his car. “Without her,” he says in a speech bubble.   Panel 17 “I go on,” he says as he checks out customers as a cashier. He punches keys into a cash register and scans an item. The scanner makes a “bip” sound.   Panel 18 “With everything” he says as he eats a burger and fries alone at a booth in a fast food restaurant.

 

Panel 19 The man rifles through his mail, dropping envelopes on the ground. “I do every day” he says.   Panel 20 He sits at a computer. “Everything I do” he says.   Panel 21 “Just as I always do” he says, reading a book on the couch. On the armrest is an ashtray full of cigarette butts.   Panel 22 He brushes his teeth and looks in the mirror over his bathroom sink. The water is running. He has large bags under his eyes. “Except now,” he says. Panel 23 He lies in bed alone, with one pillow and one side of the bed totally empty. “There is no reason,” he says.   Panel 24  “For any of it” he says as he sits up to get out of bed in the morning. He has bad posture and looks already defeated as he begins his day.

 

Panel 25  In a flashback, the man has slightly longer hair. He is on the phone in the car. “I’m driving down on Friday night,” he says. The voice on the phone tells him “We’ll have two days and two nights.”   Panel 26 The man embraces the woman as he steps outside the car. The driver’s seat door is still wide open. “And Sunday you’re gone again,” she says.   Panel 27  The man and the woman are in bed together. She is laying on tip of him with her hand holding his face. “It’s torture,” she says. “All week long, I am being devoured.”   Panel 28  They sit together at a picnic table with tacos, holding their hands intertwined on the tabletop. “Let’s live together” she says. He is smiling.   Panel 29  The man precariously holds a stack of three moving boxes. He’s surrounded by other moving boxes and sweating a little. “All we have is” the woman says, just out of frame.   Panel 30  “The rest of our lives and” she says, carrying a rolled-up carpet. The man walks behind her with a single box and looks around the room.

 

Panel 31 The woman sits on the floor, smoking a cigarette while talking to the man on the phone. “We shouldn’t be apart,” she says, “it’s just a waste of time.”   Panel 32  Back in a square-framed panel, the man sits alone on a stoop smoking a cigarette. He pours wine into a glass, making a “dook dook” glugging sound.   Panel 33 In a scalloped frame, the man is in a bed, on the phone with the woman. The room is messy and different from the bedroom of the square-framed panels. “Are you still there?” He asks her.   Panel 34 On the other end, alone in another bed, the woman holds the phone to her ear. Her eyes are closed.   Panel 35  The woman smiles with her eyes still closed as the man says “You’re asleep” over the phone.   Panel 36 The man is in bed, looking at the ceiling, still on the phone. “Soon,” the woman says over the phone.

 

Panel 37  “Now?” he asks, still in the same position after some time.   Panel 38 He rolls over to his side. “Soon” she says over the phone.   Panel 39  He lies the phone next to him on the bed with the speaker and microphone still facing up. “Soon,” the woman says over the line again.   Panel 40  The man is walking on a street, towards the door of a house. He has a pet carrier in his left hand. “We’ll find our own place,” a text bubble reads.   Panel 41 An image of the man closing the door on the inside of the apartment. Inside of the carrier is a fluffy white cat, which is meowing.   Panel 42 The woman kneels next to the now-unlocked carrier and pets the cat, which jumps up at her. “Meow,” the cat says, and the woman smiles. The man stands above them.

 

Panel 43 The woman swings a toy around, which the cat pursues excitedly. The woman laughs and smiles.   Panel 44 The woman sits down on the floor and pets the cat while it eats from a small plate. The car purrs. “Right now, the rest of our lives” she says.   Panel 45 The woman cradles the cat in her arms and peers down at it. She pets it and it purrs and purrs. “Seems like a long time” she says.   Panel 46 In a square-framed panel, the man sips his wine on the stoop while smoking, all alone.   Panel 47  In a scalloped frame, the woman sits in an armchair and holds a baby. The man stands above her, his head out of frame.   Panel 48 A higher-up angle of the same scene. The man looks down at the woman and baby in the armchair. “But it isn’t” she says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Keeping Two (Fantagraphics Books, July 12, 2022). Copyright © 2022 by Jordan Crane.
Beginning in 1996 with his self-published comic anthology NON, Jordan Crane has labored at the crossroads of book design, screen prints, and cartooning. His books include The Last Lonely Saturday, Col-Dee, The Clouds Above, Keeping Our Secrets, We Are All Me, and the multiple Ignatz Award-winning comic book series Uptight. He lives at home with his family in Los Angeles.