Wednesday, January 20, 2010

26.) One-Way Conversation

Soundtrack Song - Coldplay, Let's Talk

I closed the door and shook my head. What had I done? I love Kris's hair. Or, I loved Kris's hair, because Kris's hair was no more. Ruined. I had ruined it. I hadn't meant to change him. I didn't want to leave that kind of lasting impression, but it was too late—he had to get his hair cut now to fix what I had done.

“You didn't have to kick your boy toy out on account of me,” Tubby called from the other room. “If y’all wanted to do the nasty, I could have come back in a few hours. I’ll never begrudge a friend birthday sex.”

“Don't call him that,” I mumbled, taking my place back on the couch and ignoring the rest of his comment.

“What, does that bother you?” He turned to look at me, noting the scowl on my face. “Holy shit. You’re kidding, right?”

“Shut up, Tubby,” I growled, crossing my arms over my chest.

“No. No way. I don’t believe it. You guys haven’t had sex yet?”

“I said, shut up, Tubby.”

“How have you not fucked him by now? Unless his dick doesn’t work. If that’s the case, then I feel sorry for you.”

“Seriously. Stop it,” I barked at him.

“Ouch. I see I’ve hit a nerve.”

I sighed and rolled my eyes. I really didn’t want to have this discussion with him, because it was still a sore subject with me. “We agreed to wait.”

“We? Do you mean ‘we’ as in you and Kris, or ‘we’ as in just Kris?”

Now I was really annoyed—mostly at the fact that Tubby didn’t just know me so well, but it was like he could read my mind. I ground my teeth together. “Does it matter? Does it make a difference who decided what?”

“It does if you’re not happy about it,” he replied softly, slowly completing his one-eighty degree turn. He had stopped teasing me and now was trying to help.

I shrugged. “Well, I mean, I’d rather wait and make him happy, I guess, rather than pressure him into something he’s not comfortable with. I want him to want to, not just want to appease me. Make sense?”

He nodded, a Cheshire grin across his face. “Aw, Jo.... You really do like him! It’s like my little girl’s all grown up.” He pretended to wipe a tear from his cheek.

“Bite me,” I laughed, standing up and stretching. I definitely hadn’t slept well last night; Kris’s magic hands had helped lulled me into a superficial slumber, but I had woken up and then sidled up to him. It wasn’t the same as sex, but it was as good as I was gonna get until Kris decided we were “ready,” or whatever it was we were waiting for. Long story short, I was achy from sharing a couch with him.

“I mean it. Willing to put yourself second, just ‘cause you want him to be happy. That’s mature, Jo.”

I didn’t bother to respond; he did have a point, though. Under no circumstances would I ever make excuses for myself—I knew that I was selfish. I had relied heavily on Tubby as my best friend, especially over the past year while he took a couple semesters off, and I had taken advantage of him and his benevolence. If anyone deserved my selflessness, it should have been Tubby, not Kris. “I’m sorry for everything I put you through, Tubs. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to make it up to you.”

He shrugged, stretching his arms across the back of the couch. “What are friends for?”

His quick dismissal tugged on my heartstrings as he just chalked it up to the typical duties of friends. People like Tubs don’t come around often in someone’s lifetime, and friends like that are one in a million.

I changed into fresh, clean clothes and told him where I was going and what I was doing. “Do you want me to go with you?” he asked.

“No. I really want to do this alone.”

“What do you want me to do? Wait for you? Come back?”

“Whatever. I don’t know how long I’ll be,” I told him with a yawn. “How about I just call you later?”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded, and we left the house together and departed in opposite directions. The sky was gray, matching my mood and also promising a rainy afternoon. I backed my car out of the garage. A sweet sixteen present for both James and me, this car was my winter and rainy-day mode of transportation. I knew these roads well.

I've found that there are several types of cemetery-goers. First, there are those that stop by only on the major holidays and anniversaries, i.e. Christmas, birthdays, and deathdays. And then there are those that show up religiously, every week, rain or shine. Of course, then there are the people that never show up.

I don't fit into any of those categories. I never come to visit out of a sense of obligation, nor out of habit. No, I come to visit whenever I want to. Whenever I need to. Our birthdays just happen to be one of those times that I need to come see him.

And I don't bring flowers with me, because I think that's useless and dumb. I mean, what good are flowers? After a while, they'll just wilt and die and decompose. Why bring a dead person something pretty and alive? It's like rubbing it in his face, metaphorically of course. And then, just to have those flowers die, well, wouldn't that just be a bitter reminder for him?

I don't bring trinkets or presents with me, either. They'd be of no use to him anyway. It's like an offering to an altar, and I know that it's symbolic more than anything, but it just feels... pointless to me. That's why I always just bring myself, sit, and spend time with him. Besides, that's all he'd want from me—just my time.

A lot of the weekly visitors show up on Sundays, so the place was pretty jumping, for a cemetery. A few of them gave me funny looks as I walked up to James's headstone and sat in front of it, resting my back against the inscription. I stretched my legs out and crossed them at the ankles as I dug my hands into the pocket of my leather jacket and pulled it closed around my body.

“Hey,” I said aloud, fully cognizant that I was talking to someone who would never answer me. As a science-minded individual, I knew that talking to James was a little crazy, but it made me feel better. “Happy birthday, Big Bro.”

My hand skimmed the manicured grass on my right before grabbing the blades and ripping them from the earth. I raised my hand and released, watching the grass float away in the wind. “I hope you don't mind that I skip the pleasantries and get right down to business. I really miss you. I mean, I always miss you, but especially right now. I don't know what I'm doing, and I could really use your guidance.

“I'm going back to school. I'm calling tomorrow, to see if I can go back in the spring or if I have to wait til next fall. I'm gonna try, at least. I don't know if I can do it. These were supposed to be things we were going to do together. Go to college, work toward our dreams. I know we weren't even going to the same school, but we were supposed to go through it together.”

Identical twins share a connection with each other, somehow. Fraternal twins, not so much—but James and I were inseparable. I sometimes hear people describe their heartache after losing a loved one as being like a piece of them is missing; for me, James wasn't a missing piece. When he died, it was like half of me died. Like the entire left side of my body had gone numb and stopped working. In comparison, a mere hole in my heart would be welcome.

We had both had trepidations and wary fears about how he was going up to New Hampshire for four years. After all, we'd never really been apart from each other. We were twins, brother and sister, and we'd had practically the same class schedule up until our senior year. We'd roomed together until our mother deemed that it was no longer socially acceptable for a boy and a girl to share a bedroom anymore. But we knew that we had reached a fork in the road, and we had to go our separate ways on two parallel tracks in order to realize our potential. He had to go play college hockey, and I had to go to a university with a good science department.

It wasn't going to be easy, but it's not like I wasn't going to be able to talk to him or see him on holidays and breaks. I never not wanted him to go. I'd rather he be halfway across the globe and reachable by phone or E-mail than to be so close and silent.

“I don't know how I'm supposed to do it without you. Without you telling me that I can do it. I know that I can but it's not the same if you're not there to share it with. Because we were supposed to share our successes, and now you don't have anything to share with me. I guess that whatever I accomplish is gonna have to be good enough for the both of us.”

I smiled to myself. “Does that mean that I have to achieve twice as much, to compensate for you? That sounds like a lot of pressure. And you know that I don't do so well under pressure. You always were the one who had their head screwed on straight. For the most part, anyway.

“Maybe it'll be easier, though, to be back in class in a school where no one will know me. Because then they won't know about you, either. And it's not that I don't love you, James, because I do. But it's hard to live when you're defined by someone's death. Everyone here, it's like all they know me as is Joanna, Jimmy's sister. Poor Joanna, the girl who lost her brother and hasn't been the same ever since.”

A few more people walked by, and I kept quiet as they passed. I didn't want them to think I was nuts. “Twenty. Can you believe it? I can’t. I still remember when we were ten, and we wondered about where we would be in another ten years.” I sighed. “Never in a gajillion years would I have expected this. Me, sitting here. You, six feet underneath me.

“I really do wish you were here. And not just because I need you or miss you or wish things hadn’t changed. I would like to know what you’d be doing now. So much potential. I wish I could see the man you’d become. Would you have a girlfriend, or would you still be breaking hearts? Would you have picked a major by now, or would you be flitting through classes without really caring? I know you just wanted to play hockey, but you would have succeeded in anything you chose.”

For a few moments, I didn’t say anything else; just like I didn’t want to tell Tubby, I didn’t want to tell James either. The ridiculousness of the situation wasn’t lost on me. After all, he was dead—I didn’t have to come here to talk to him and I didn’t have to talk about anything I didn’t want to. He wasn’t a live person that required a back-and-forth conversation.... But despite my hesitance, I strangely felt like I had to tell him.

“And James? I met a boy.” I pulled my knees up to my chest and chuckled softly. “I think you’d like him. I mean, I know you’d like him, because he’s a Penguin. And he’s not like a typical jock. I know how much you hated the idea of when I’d come out to party with the team because of how the guys would act. But he’s different. He’s not unlike you, but in a non-creepy, non-incestuous kind of way. Maybe I’ll introduce you at some point. Bring him here, I mean.

“Ugh, I know it sounds like I’m crazy. I can't really introduce you guys, just like I can't really talk to you. I'm fucking insane. See, I'm just confused and so unsure, and I just want someone to honestly listen. Like, Tubby's trying to move on to bigger and better things. I can't keep him here any longer, and it was unfair of me to even let him come back from Philly. I should have been able to hold myself together and not demand that he return. I mean, I never asked him to, verbally, but he felt that I needed him to, and that was all my fault. So he's going back, and I need to make sure that I'm okay with that so he can be the person he's going to be. I can't hold him back any longer.

“And there's Kris, and he says that he wants to help and that he cares. It's not that I don't believe him, because I do, for some odd reason that I can't quite explain.... I mean, in the scheme of things, we've barely had time to get to know each other, but I just feel like I know him, ya know? Kindred spirits, or something of the like. It's like I've known him forever.

“He gets it in a way that Tubby can't, because he's been there. He's been here, he knows what it's like. But then again, he doesn't quite get it either, because he didn't know you. He wasn't there to see what it was like, after you died. How hard it is to try and do what you've always encouraged me to do, without you here to share it with. I mean, I guess I know, deep down, that you wouldn't want me to give up just because you aren't here, but it's not the same. It holds a different appeal.”

I sighed again. “I just wish that I knew I was doing the right thing. I wish you could give me some sort of sign, anything, to let me know that I'm at least pointed in the right direction.” Looking up, I waited, hoping for some miraculous indication that James approved. It was stupid; it was crazy to think that he could just make something happen, but I wanted—no, needed—a sign so badly to know that I was on track. Like he was finally going to hold up his end of the conversation, but there was nothing. No change. I stood up and dusted off my ass. “This is what they mean by 'faith,' right? Having to know in your heart, without any external proof?

“But you know me, James. You know me. I don't believe in things I can't see or touch or feel. If this is some kind of test, I'm going to fail.” For the first time, I felt the stinging sensation of tears pooling in my eyes, so I pinched them shut and hoped with all my heart. “Please please please, give me something to go off of?”

When I opened my eyes, everything looked the same. I kicked myself for thinking something would actually happen or that James could even manifest a sign for me. “Okay. I'm losing it. Bye, James. I'll come back soon, I promise.” I ran my fingers along the cool marble and headed for home, racing the storm clouds before they let out a flood of rain.


  1. I get so depressed about Luc and James, so my suggestion would be to lay on the Kris and Jo parts thick that way I'm not sad.

    That's pretty selfish; I know. :)

    Kris played a great game last night. I'm in a good mood, and I did like this chapter even if Kris wasn't in it directly.

  2. First of all, ColdplayColdplayColdplayColdplay<3 I knew it was going to be a good chapter just from that alone.

    Jay, you're killing me over here. I'm sitting in the library, crying like a baby and the receptionist keeps giving me weird looks lmao. But I don't care if she thinks I'm crazy, this chapter was so brilliant and emotional, that I couldn't help but cry.

    Jo going to the cemetary and talking to James was the sweetest thing ever. I love how she's able to just let go of all that she's holding back and speak freely about how she's feeling.

    Ugh, my heart breaks for Jo<3

  3. Jay....I can't stop saying it.....This is brillant!!!! These are the two most complete characters you have written and each chapter is a gem!!!! I see good things ahead, keep up the great work....everyone needs to cry once in a while!

  4. Ok, now I come out of my anonymous reading and tell you, that you're simply awesome! I LOVE your stories. I started reading A sharp contrast, than I started this one and in the last week I read the whole nothing worth winning story. I can't stay away from my computer in any free minute I have, because every part of me just wants to know how you're stories go on. I am really impressed by the way you're writing your stories. It is so addicting and I love all of them!

    This chapter was really emotional and I love how Jo talks to James. Aw. I love this story.
    I can't wait for more.

  5. “This is what they mean by 'faith,' right? Having to know in your heart, without any external proof?"

    One of your best lines ever written, and I can sum up my feelings for this chapter in one word...BEAUTIFUL!


  6. Coming into this way late, but I just discovered this earlier today and better late than never :)

    This is so heartbreakingly beautiful..."Never in a gagillion years would I have expected this. Me, sitting here. You, six feet underneath me." That line just killed me...

  7. Thanks for leaving a comment, Anon! I love knowing that people are still reading and enjoying this story even after it's finished. I hope you enjoy the rest!