LINCOLN PARK — Brion Payne can barely raise his voice above a whisper.
The 50-year-old wears a neck brace for the broken bones in his neck and jaw. He is still in a lot of pain.
But he's alive.
Payne, a father of 11, was shot in an Uptown parking lot April 1 and survived a bullet to his head.
On Wednesday, almost two weeks to the day that he was rushed in critical condition to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Payne returned to the same hospital for surgery to repair his broken jaw.
Just after 9 a.m. on April 1, Payne had gone to the currency exchange in the 1000 block of West Wilson Avenue to meet a co-worker. Payne, who works for a transportation company, said he was picking up some money from the man after covering some work shifts for him.
When Payne arrived the co-worker introduced him to his son, Joey Jones, before heading into the currency exchange.
"He had a real crazy look in his eye, and he wouldn't stop looking at me," Payne said of Jones. "So I stayed back."
Then the 50-year-old remembered he had left his van running in the parking lot.
"It all happened so fast. ... As I turned to walk away, he ran behind me, shot me in the back of the head," he said. "While I was laying on the ground, I could look down and see the bullet hanging out of my face."
Soon after the shooting, police said Payne and the gunman, whom they identified as the 31-year-old Jones, had gotten into an argument.
But Payne said he never talked to Jones.
"There was no words. There was no confrontation," Payne said. "He didn't say one word."
As he sat in a hospital waiting room Wednesday, Payne pointed to a small scar on his left cheek where the bullet exited after passing through his neck.
Payne said he is convinced he had a guardian angel with him that day. As he lay on the ground, he said he felt drowsy but fought off the urge to "drift off."
"Thoughts started going through my mind, and I feel like I had too much to live for, so I tried to stay conscious," he said. "I was thinking 'just stay conscious'."
After the ordeal, Payne woke up in the hospital surrounded by his longtime girlfriend and many of his children. He was also inundated with calls and visitors checking to see if he was all right. Payne said the support has been "overwhelming."
"So many friends, so many family that I haven't heard from in years," he said. "I didn't know that that many people cared about me until this happened.
"It was amazing man. It brought me to tears," he added.
Payne said he also received a call from Jones' father, who apologized and said he cooperated with police. He told Payne he still had no idea what led his son to "snap," Payne said.
After nearly two weeks, Payne was released from the hospital on Saturday. On Sunday, Payne went to church, something he had not done in years. He said surviving the shooting makes him want to "get closer to God."
"I hadn't been inside a church since 2008, and that was just for a girl," he said. "I feel compelled to let people know that God is real."
And the North Lawndale resident said he was happy to hear police caught the suspected gunman so quickly after the shooting.
"I know the streets are safer. I'm safer," he said.
Doctors told Payne it should take him 12 weeks to make a full recovery, he said. After Wednesday's surgery, he said his jaw will be wired shut for about eight weeks.
But Payne said he's just happy to return to his family.
"I'm so grateful just to be living," he said. "It's unbelievable man."