Friday, January 8, 2010

19.) Can't Again

I felt... defeated.

Not just in that Jo left without accepting my invitation to drive her home. I didn’t want her riding her bike if she was so worked up, which she obviously was, because I didn’t know how safe she would be. But I couldn’t stop her. Jo was headstrong, and pressing her into taking me up on my offer was only going to make things worse. So I let her leave. I didn’t like it, but I can’t force her into anything she doesn’t want to do.

But I also hated that she wouldn’t even talk to me about what was bothering her. Whatever had happened, whatever whoever had said, she decided to keep it bottled in and not disclose any information. After all the things we had talked about, she still was closed off from me. In the scheme of things, we really didn’t know each other that long, but I thought from the depth of our conversations that we were at least kind of close.

Then again, apparently I didn’t know her, just like she said: I had experienced everything she had, but we did not come through it the same. I thought of it like we had been cut open, and I had been stitched up properly. Jo just had a flimsy Band-Aid covering up the hole in heart. It wasn’t enough to stop the bleeding.

I stood up from the bench and wound my way back through the hallways toward the lounge, Jo’s tee shirt clenched in my hand. I was angry, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my wallet and grabbed some bills. When I met the group back in the lounge, I thrust the money at Jessica. “Here, take your money back.”

“What’s this for?” she asked, looking at the money she was handed like she was mystified.

Waving the shirt in the air in front of her face, I watched as the realization slowly dawned on her. “Jo’s shirt? Why do you have that?”

“She gave it to me. Apparently, she doesn’t want it anymore.” I shook my head. “She’s mad. She won’t even talk to me now.” My emotions got the best of me, and I balled up the material and threw it like a baseball. The shirt barely made a sound as it collided with the wall and then fell limply to the floor. I sat down on one of the faux leather couches, placed my elbows on my knees, and then rested my head in my hands. Jo didn’t even want to wear the shirt with my name on it; could she be mad at me, too?

“Why?” Staal asked. “What happened?”

I ran my hands through my hair and leaned against the back of the couch. “I don’t know! Apparently, someone said something about her. But she wouldn’t tell me what or who.” I glared at the girls, now addressing them and trying to figure out who might have said something. “So now she doesn’t want to come out with us this weekend. What happened during the game?”

They all looked around at each other, as if trying to come to a consensus. Heather finally spoke up first. “I don’t know, Kris. I really don’t. She didn’t talk to us during the game. So we didn’t say anything to her.”

Kelsey added, “Yeah, in fact, she talked to Troy all night.”

Something had to have happened. She wouldn’t just make this up,” I said, practically pleading with them for some kind of answer.

Bourque nudged Jessica, and she looked up at him and frowned. He nodded in my direction, and she then looked at me and spoke. “I said that we didn’t like her and that we didn’t want her to come out with us on Saturday. But I didn’t say it to her! I only told Chris.”

It made a little more sense now, because Jo said that she didn’t say it to her face. She must have overheard. I groaned. “Well, you got your wish. I doubt you’ll be seeing any more of her.”

I wasn’t the only one throwing nasty glances her way. Heather and Kelsey were, too. Jessica tried to defend herself. “Don’t treat me like that. I just said what we all were thinking.”

“That’s not true,” Heather interrupted, and Kelsey nodded in agreement. “We didn’t even get to know her.”

“Oh, come on,” Jessica added, trying to justify her previous words. “She sat there by herself instead of trying to talk to us. We even tried to talk to her, but she just ignored us. Jo totally blew us off.”

“Maybe she was just shy,” Kelsey said to her. Then she turned to me and tried to be reassuring. “I’m really sorry, Kris, if she got the wrong impression of us. We don’t all feel that way about her. She wasn’t exactly friendly, but I’m sure she’s nice.”

“She is nice. And she’s funny and smart, too, but it just takes a while to get to know her.”

“Maybe you just need to give her a little time to cool off,” Heather continued with the encouragement. She gave Jessica a sharp glance full of daggers before sitting beside me. “It couldn’t have been pleasant to hear those things. But she’ll come around. She likes you, don’t worry.”

I looked up at Heather as she said that. Did Jo like me? I was pretty sure of that. Did I like her? Yeah, I was pretty sure of that, too. But I was also sure that she wasn’t taking my feelings into consideration when she got on that bike and drove home. If she liked me, she had a funny way of showing it.

It killed me to know she was out there on that thing. I liked Jo: we had bonded, and I really did care for her. However, I also knew that I couldn’t go through that again. After dealing with Luc’s sudden death, I knew that having to go through something like that again probably wasn’t completely unavoidable, but the risk of it could be minimized. I could not get emotionally invested in someone who was going to take chances and make decisions that would put herself in immediate danger of such an outcome. Maybe it wasn’t fair, but who said self-preservation ever was?

And just as much as Jo said that I didn’t know where she was coming from, she should have been able to understand my stance, too. She should have known, from experience, that it’s absolutely devastating to lose someone close to you so suddenly, so she should never want to make anyone else ever have to go through that. In my opinion, she was being selfish.

I sighed. “Thanks, Heather. I hope you’re right.”

She smiled and squeezed my hand, and then she got up and stood next to Gronk. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “All right, so, where to, boys? What are we going to do to celebrate the win?”

They looked at me, and I shook my head. “No, I don’t want to go out.”

Borky frowned. “Aw, come on, man. Don’t let it get you down. Let’s go, and you can get your mind off it.”

I shook my head again. The suggestion was bad because it came from him; it was his girlfriend that had started this whole thing. Even worse, Jessica probably wouldn’t be around much longer anyway, because Bourque was already complaining about how much she was getting on his nerves.

What I needed to do was clear my head. I had been so wrapped up recently in trying to get accustomed to the feelings I had toward Jo and trying to sort through them and make sense of them, but now I wondered if any of that had been warranted. The guys stopped arguing, and they went their way and I went mine.

When I got back to my apartment, I noticed a message on my phone from Charlene with congratulations on my good game. I sent a quick message back, thanking her and asking how she was doing. Within a matter of a minute after sending the message, she called. “Hey, Kris.”

“Hey. How’s it going?”

“Pretty good. Kind of busy with the school, of course. How are you? You must be feeling great after that game.”

“Oh yeah. It’s great. I hope to be able to play like that all season.”

“What about outside of the rink, hmm? You sound a little melancholy.”

“I don’t know, Charlene. I’m just confused.”

“About what?”

I hesitated, not sure what to say. Finally, I decided to tell her about Jo with the hope that she would be able to understand a little better than I did. After all, she’s a girl. Guys and girls don’t think the same way. “Am I out of line?”

“You can’t tell her how to live, Kris. If you like her, then you have to like all of her. If you can’t handle it, then well, at least you know that now.”

“Even if I want to help?”

“You’re not a missionary,” she laughed. “You’re not trying to save her immortal soul.”

“I just want her to be safe. I don’t want anything to happen to her, because... I can’t go through that again. You understand that, don’t you, Charlene?”

She sighed, and I felt bad for bringing it up. I know how Luc’s death devastated her, not just having to watch it as she drove behind him, but in missing him, too. “It’s hard to lose someone close to you. You know that, and I know that. You were so strong, Kris. You helped me, and Luc’s mom, and his sister... You were a rock. But not everyone can be that. It strengthened your resolve, but it obviously shook her. She’s still learning to deal. And believe it or not, you’re still learning, too.”

“No I’m not—”

“Kris. You are. And I am, too. It’s an on-going process. She can help you as much as you want to help her, as long as you’re open to it.”

I shook my head, and then I realized she couldn’t see it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You play it safe. That’s why you’re talking to me, trying to figure out Jo instead of going to talk to her. You always were a shy guy, Kristopher Letang. Luc brought out the other side of you. Would you have agreed to go on a road trip with anyone else but him? Would you have bought a bike for that purpose for anyone else but Luc?”

“No,” I admitted.

“See? He lightened you up. You need someone in your life like that. Let Jo be that for you.”

I said goodbye and hung up the phone, feeling more confused now than ever. Charlene didn’t answer any of my questions; instead, she raised more, and all these inquiries were directed at myself. I thought I had everything figured out, but now I wasn’t so sure, either.

One thing she did say struck me, and that’s why I tried calling Jo. I wanted to apologize for Jessica, and reiterate that my friends weren’t so bad. That maybe with me as a buffer between her and them, they’d get along. However, there was no answer. So I left a message, asking her to call me, and then I tried to put each of those swirling, dizzying, confusing questions out of my head.


  1. I wish Jo didn't make Kris second guess himself so much. It's damaging.

  2. Good for Kris for sticking up for Jo...I am liking his and her points of view, too!