It was 2:30 when I finished cleaning Gypsy for the day. She’d been in desperate need for months, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. I could be forgiven, I should hope, under the circumstances. So there was a lot of scrubbing and wiping and vacuuming to do, and I’d been taking my time, a little bit each day, just chugging along.
Google had reminded me a week ahead of time, and three days before too, and once more in the morning. I’d successfully managed to sigh and swipe each time, and move on without much incident. I dreaded tomorrow’s reminder though, knowing it wouldn’t be that easy. But as I cracked my second beer of the afternoon and closed the driver’s door, it was Facebook that caught me off guard, “On This Day” two years ago.
That’s all it took. I knew what it was, I knew what it meant.
The day after I posted that status update, The Love Of My Life So Far slammed her car in park, barely managed to circumnavigate her driver’s door, and bolted up the sidewalk, literally jumping into my arms to plant on me a kiss that I will never forget as long as I live. It was our first kiss, and we’d been waiting for weeks for that moment. It lasted forever, and it was gone in an instant.
I felt punched in the gut and dropped my phone in my best friend’s garage. It hit something on the way down, and the screen got scratched badly. I’m a little over a year away from a replacement. My right shoe was untied. The air was cool around me. Gypsy’s roof was hot to the touch from being sat in the sun while I cleaned her interior. The fucking birds wouldn’t shut up.
I picked up my phone. I swore.
I’m not a young man. I’ve been in love before, and I’ve felt the heartache and loss at the end of a cherished relationship before. I’ve even called several women “the love of my life”. I’ve been down this road a time or two, and been around the block more than once. If nothing else, I’ve learned to add “…so far” to that epithet. But it’s been nearly seven months now since she walked out, and I shouldn’t still get rocked this hard by the little things. Yet there I stood. It’s the little things. It’s always the goddamned little things.
I’ve been house-sitting for my best friend, and though she left the place well stocked, I felt like I needed some backup. I popped the garage door back open and drove over to the BiLo across the way. Four double-barrel bottles of Pinot Grigio (they were BOGO) and a twelve of Yuengling B&T should be enough to get me through tomorrow. That’s enough alcohol to drop a full grown steer, maybe two. Should be enough. I needed smokes. BiLo doesn’t sell Pall Mall. They’re not my favorite, but they’re my usual because they’re cheap. I treated myself to a couple packs of cowboy killers instead. Tonight, I wanted the good ones. I needed them. I deserved them. Fuck you, don’t nag me today.
It was four or five beers later that I cracked the Pinot. I sat on the back deck to watch the sunset. I thought about that kiss, as I have so often before. It made me happy. It made me sad. It is as beautiful a memory as it is heart-wrenching, and every bit as much the latter as the former. I watched the Marlboro smoke drift and dance in the increasingly orange sunset as it drifted out of the heart-shaped ashtray that I carry with me everywhere. I smoked about four. Maybe five. Half a pack perhaps, for all I know. It’s not like it matters. I drifted like the smoke through some of the happiest memories of all my near-fifty years. I smiled a lot. I caught a tear or two. I laughed once or twice. My heart was filled and broke all over again.
I sat quietly for a long time, considering the past and the future. I wondered how long I’d survive. I watched the orange sunset tint the blue smoke of the Marlboro, and I contemplated the beautiful play of opposite colors in it as I squeezed the trigger.
Now, before anyone freaks the fuck out, I’m fine. The above is a bit of fiction, at least the last clause of the final sentence, and I’m ok. I’m a bit sad, but I’m not suicidal. Sad, yes, most definitely sad. I’ll own that all the way down to my socks. But I’m also happy. I’m happy Jez came into my life that day, happy she’s still a part of my life, and happy for the time we had together.
But not all great literary endings are Disney endings, and I thought this story needed something less prosaic than “…and then I went to bed”. My friend Elizabeth claims I’m a good writer, and that was maybe once true. She says I should start writing again. I think my best writing has always been about stuff that’s true or mostly true, and about stuff that’s happened to me. Juror Number Nine is a case in point, I think.
I should probably do more editing on this piece. It’s a bit redundant in a few spots, and I think I overused the staccato rhythm I like for its effect. But I’ll let it be, at least for now.
Anyway, I’m trying the quill on for size, and I hope you found something worthwhile in the effort.
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