“Holy shit!” I hear behind me.
“Don’t you knock?” I ask, plopping back down.
“Nah, why should I, you don’t lock the door, I mean anyone could just walk right in here…” JJ says.
“I think I’m going to have to change that…” I respond flipping him the bird.
“How long have you been doing that?” he asks me.
“What? How long were you standing there staring at my ass?” I play dumb.
“You know what…” he says not willing to play along.
“A few weeks…” I answer with a shrug of my shoulders.
“So this is really gonna happen then, isn’t it?” he asks, with a grin on his face.
“I guess so. I don’t know, I haven’t made up my mind yet, I don’t want to steal your thunder, man,” I say honestly.
“It isn’t me you’d have to worry about, Lacey on the other hand, she might feel a little different…” he says the grin falling.
I know that if I do this it’s going to take away from their day, it’s going to take the spotlight off of his future Mrs., but deep down I just want this one night with her. I want to hold her in my arms and look her in the eye one more time. I know it’s selfish. Fuck, I’m a selfish ass. She’s not mine anymore but I want it anyway. I’ve worked damn hard to get it and even if it is in a back corner somewhere with no prying eyes it will be worth it.
“It won’t ever be the same again, Luce. Don’t you get that?” I seethed.
“You don’t get it do you? I could have lost you…we might never have had the chance to be talking about this at all. So yes I get that things are going to be different, but this, I’d take this with you any day over the alternative, don’t you get that?” she spit back at me.
I knew what the alternative was, and anything would be better than this.
“Get out!” I screamed at her, for probably the tenth time that week.
“No…” she said but I could tell her conviction was lacking.
I kept quiet for the rest of the day, sneaking glances at my beautiful wife, her face stone still the entire time. I was at my lowest point, I didn’t know how to be strong for her when I couldn’t even be strong for myself.
“Jack?” JJ asked his voice full of worry.
“Huh…” I answered finally.
“You okay? Is it your blood pressure?” he started with the concern.
“No, no. I’m good… something just popped into my head is all,” I answered half honestly.
“Wanna talk about it?” he asked.
“Not really, no. So why did you stop over?” I try to change the subject.
“I haven’t heard from you in a week and a half… you don’t write, you don’t call, nothin’ man,” he says laughing, “You dating someone?”
“Nope,” I say without hesitation.
“Then what have you been doing? Holeing yourself up in this house, drowning in your tears?” he jokes.
“So what if I am?” I say with the look.
“I thought we were over that shit Jack?” he says a hint of anger in his voice now.
“I don’t think it’s really any of your business JJ. Besides I do have a life, it’s a shit life, but it’s mine… I’m not going to off myself, I think time has proven that, don’t you?” I spit at him.
“Jack? Jack, open the damn door…” I can hear him calling my name, screaming it actually, the worry making it wobbly.
I don’t move to answer it, I don’t move at all. He’s been out there for almost twenty minutes now and I know soon he’s going to find a way in, but I just can’t. It’s been 2,160 hours give or take since she left without a word. I knew she was leaving but I don’t think I knew what it would feel like. Three months without her, without my beautiful fucking wife and I’m barely holding it together.
“I’m gonna break the damn door. You have two minutes…” JJ says somewhere between pissed off and terrified.
I know that laying here, for as long as I’ve been isn’t good, I know something is wrong, but I don’t really care at this point. Why should I? Everything I have or had is gone, what’s the damn point. I close my eyes when I hear the crash, squeeze them tighter as I hear him yelling out for me as he makes his way through the house. Two weeks later he’s picking me up from the hospital and I can barely remember that day.
“Please don’t ever put me through that again…” he says flatly, his only words to me the entire ride to my house.
“I won’t…” I answer in a whisper as I climb out of the truck.
“I’d like to think so, Jack…” he says.
“Well, I’m not,” I answer honestly.
I may not be on the verge of rolling myself off a cliff but occasionally I just need a break. A few days without the barrage of questions, looks or pity. Sometimes after a few days without the nagging phone calls or inquisitive texts I begin to feel some semblance of normalcy. Like just a regular damn guy.
“Okay then,” JJ says a little less intensely, “so why the exile?”
“You want the real reason or what I normally tell everyone when I reemerge?” I ask, my shrink said I should tell the people I love that they need to take a step back.
“The truth Jack,” he says.
“I can’t always handle all the mothering, the way everyone is constantly asking me if I’m okay, did I do this or that, do I need anything. I know it comes with the best intentions, but honestly, it sucks. It’s a constant reminder that things are different for me. And before you say it, I know things are different. I, more than anyone, know just how much they are… I just want you guys to realize that I don’t need the constant reminders, I have to live this so I know. I know that I’m going to have good days and bad days and I need to swallow those three pills every morning or that I can’t get into Fioris,” I finish almost breathless, but I manage to get it out without interruption.
He sits there a while before he opens his mouth to speak and shuts it before anything comes out.
“I know that you mean well, JJ, but even half an hour ago when my mind wandered you asked if it was my blood pressure… those aren’t normal things to ask your buddy,” I continue.
I pause for a little while, trying to gauge what he’s thinking, his face is a little red and it seems like he’s trying to understand. I know that this hasn’t been easy for him, none of it and I’ve been dragging him into this shit show that is my life since the accident. I know he harbors some serious guilt, to begin with but I need this to stop. I need him to realize that I’m going to be okay.
“You still with me?” I finally ask after at least ten minutes of us just staring at each other.
“Yeah… I didn’t realize…” he spits out.
“I know. I don’t think anyone really realized honestly. I try not to make a big deal about it but sometimes it gets overwhelming and I need a break…” I answer.
“Why haven’t you said anything? I mean I would have tried to tone it down,” he mutters.
“It wasn’t just you. It’s almost everyone. I guess I just didn’t want to be a little bitch about it,” I say really feeling like an ass now.
“It’s too late for that…” he says with a chuckle.
“Nice asshat…” I shoot at him before continuing, “listen I know that it’s hard. I know it’s hard to be around me sometimes or hard to plan things to do. I get it. I just don’t want to be coddled anymore, okay?”
“Alright, but I can’t make any promises that it’s going to change overnight. It is hard… especially because it only happened…” JJ says pausing long enough for me to throw my hands up to stop him.
“Don’t. This wasn’t your fault. I won’t sit here and listen to you beat yourself up for me falling asleep at the wheel. I should have never driven. I know what happened. This. Was. Not. Your. Fault…” I say forcefully.
“C’mon jack, I just want one more…” JJ slurs after he slams his glass down.
I shake my head as he attempts to call the bartender over, I’m beat, I haven’t seen Luce in almost two days, I really wish he’d be ready to go. I know though that he’s upset, something about Lacey but he hasn’t or rather couldn’t tell me what it was. At least not in coherent sentences. I know he needs this, me, right now so I let it go, and order him one last drink.
When I finally drag him from the bar and head towards the car, I’m pretty much carrying him. He’s babbling about whatever it is that happened and while I can’t make out what he’s talking about I know he will be in more trouble when he gets up in the morning. Before I pull out of the lot I scrub at my eyes willing them to stay open for just a bit longer. I’m dead on my feet I think as he’s carrying on in the seat next to me as I drive…
I knew I shouldn’t have driven. I knew that. But in true male fashion, I thought I was invincible. Walking JJ to the car that night was the last time I’d ever do it, I promised myself. And it was. It was the last time I’d carry a friend out of a bar, the last time I’d feel the power of my manual transmission under my feet, the last of many things. It didn’t take me long to forget about much of that night or the few days that followed but when it did come back it haunted me something fierce. It followed me through my day like a shadow on a bright day. I couldn’t shake it, no matter how much promise my beautiful wife gave for the future, or how good things could be. I wanted what was and nothing else was going to be enough. No other version of my future would be enough. Not even with her, especially not with her.
Now, I see the other side of that coin. I can’t imagine a future without her and it may just be too late.