The other day, it was snowing. I've always loved the snow, it has a way of blanketing everything, and making it beautiful.
I ended up pulling a chair up to the big window in the living room, and watching those flakes fall.
As I was sitting there, it was almost like I heard a voice. It was small, quiet, but compelling. It (or rather, he) said, "Sal! Hey, Sal. Do you want to hear a story?"
And I did.
The first thing I need you to do is to close your eyes. Sometimes it's easier to see to the heart of things that way, and I don't want you to be distracted. Just close your eyes, and open your heart. Because I want you to listen. There are things you need to hear, and feel.
I never thought I'd be sitting here, outside of Jenna's house. Just sitting here, trying to find it in me to get out of the truck, to walk up to the door and see her. To look her in the eyes. Trying to find the courage just to look at her.
I won't even try to offer a 'sorry', because that one word never makes things better. Saying it hurts, but having it said to you is much worse. It cuts, and it's never enough.
There are so many things I want to say, but I'll settle for just looking at her. If I look at her, then I'll know if she's happy. I can't say that it won't hurt, and maybe I'll spend the rest of my life looking back and wishing I'd done things differently, but if I know she's happy, I can live with it. I can live with anything if I know that.
I remember reading the paper, listenin to my buddy Jack rattling on about his weekend, drinking my coffee, and then paging past the anniversaries, the birth announcements, and seeing her face looking back at me. In the engagement section.
It was like someone had sucker punched me. I was that stunned. All I could hear was my heartbeat, drowning out Jack's words, pounding, as if the silence in my head had been turned up so loud that it was deafening.
Seeing her name, together with another man's name, that was never how this was supposed to work out. I couldn't put the paper down, I read it over three or four times, hoping that somehow I'd misread, misunderstood.
In all the ways I'd pictured it, that had never factored into things. That she might move on, that she might salvage the pieces of her life, that she might make something new, better, something without me, that was something I never even imagined. The fact that it was staring me in the face, coldly, spelled out in black and white made it worse. It made the horror of what can happen real.
I did the only thing I could think to do. I got up, ignoring Jack's questions. I got up, I walked out, and drove until I found myself here. In front of her house.
I turned the radio on, hoping for some courage, some song that would set me on my way, maybe something that would calm my madly beating heart.
I remember Jenna, who refused to own an iPod, telling me that she only listened to the radio. "Have you ever noticed," she said, "you can own a cd, but hearing it on the radio makes it sound so much better? It makes you appreciate it. It's a gift."
I smiled to myself, and this is what found me:
When I'm lonely, well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's lonely without you
When I'm dreaming, well I know I'm gonna dream
I'm gonna dream about the time when I'm with you
When I go out (when I go out), well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who goes along with you
And when I come home yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who comes back home with you
I'm gonna be the man who's coming home with you
With the Proclaimers still playing in my ears, I got out of the truck.
Her house hadn't changed at all. I saw some kind of big SUV, but there was no sign of the vintage thunderbird she'd driven when I knew her, about a year and a half ago.
It made me wonder, uneasily, what else had changed.
I walked up to the house, knocked, and waited.
Finally, I knocked again.
I walked down the steps, feeling heavy, feeling the weight of the decisions I'd made, and just couldn't bring myself to leave. I walked around to the back of the house, hoping. Hoping that maybe she was out here, reading, lounging, and that I might get a glimpse of her.
Walking around to the back of the house, I was sure that she didn't live there any longer. For one, there was a swing set. The Jenna I knew didn't want children. Second, there was a woman with long brown hair chasing around a beautiful little red-haired child. Jenna's hair had always been short.
I felt like I didn't belong in this happy backyard suburban scene. I turned to walk away, when I heard her laugh.
I turned back around, and all I had were questions. When did her hair get that long? Was that her child? Was she babysitting?
I was frozen to the spot I was standing. Frozen, watching Jenna, my Jenna.
She ran after the little girl, grabbed her, and the little girl's laughter joined Jenna's. I stood there and watched them, laughing, happy, whole.
She was happy. Someone was making her that happy, and it wasn't me. Sometime in the time that I had left, she had moved on, she'd healed, and seeing her, seeing what I had lost, it all came flooding back.
When someone like that comes into your life, someone that extraordinary, after awhile, you can't remember what your life was like before. I'd find myself wondering how I ever functioned without her.
Jenna coming into my life was like the scene in the Wizard of Oz, when the tornado whisks Dorothy out of the black and white of Kansas, to the glorious technicolor of Oz. That was what Jenna was to me. She was color, she was life, she was hope, happiness, and joy. I was a man of many colors, but Jenna was the motherfucking rainbow.
I didn't so much feel my heart break, as I felt it rip open. I hadn't really been living since I'd left her. Everything in my life had reverted back to Kansas. Black and white.
I was just a stranger, trespassing on her happy moment, feeling the technicolor of Jenna spilling over onto me.
I felt tears, hot, and scalding on my cheeks. They hurt. I felt every single one, felt them burn, and I didn't care. I lost her. I lost my heart, but more importantly, I lost Jenna.
Nothing had been the same since her. Every good thing stemmed from the love she had created in me. I had myself convinced that I'd moved on, but I'd only been lying to myself. I hadn't moved on, I had only taught myself to forget her, I'd closed off that part of myself.
At that exact moment, Jenna looked up and saw me.
She froze. Tension shaded the lines of her body. She didn't smile.
I don't know how long we stood there, our eyes locked, frozen in that backyard. I only know that one minute I was standing there, and the next I was walking away. Then, jogging, and finally, sprinting for my truck.
I managed to make it inside and slam the door, telling myself "She'll run after you. She'll follow you. Any minute, you'll see her."
After twenty minutes had passed, and no Jenna, I somehow made my trembling hands start the truck.
I drove away, constantly looking in the rearview mirror. Still, no Jenna.
[A year and a half before]
Baby you're the only one that's ever known how
To make me wanna laugh like I wanna laugh now
***Special thanks to my good friend, Jerrod, who encouraged me, read my drafts, and gave me the courage to write this