Sunday, February 21, 2010

45.) Shades of Gray

Soundtrack Song - O.A.R., Shattered

“Heather, just leave him alone.” I heard Staal’s voice as the mild wind swirled around me as I sat on the curb outside the deli.

“I will not ‘just leave him alone,’” she replied firmly as she sat beside me. “Kris. I know you’re worried—”

“You have no idea how I’m feeling right now.” A little voice in the back of my head told me that I was being rude and inconsiderate, but I didn’t care. She wanted to help, but she was being patronizing about it. Heather didn’t know how I felt after losing Luc. And she didn’t know what it was like to feel those very emotions all over again. That sense of helplessness, over not being able to do a damn thing to help someone I cared so much about. Feebly impotent, in knowing that Jo was somewhere else, beaten up and worn, and that I was powerless to do anything to change what had happened or ease her discomfort. Incompetent.

It was worse this time, trying to deal with the news of the accident, because I had already been through it. I was reliving Luc’s death as well as dealing with the scare of losing someone else I cared about. Jo was putting me through that all again, whether she meant to or not, and it was exponentially worse this time. Maybe I should have been feeling differently about it, because she was alive. While I was relieved to know that she was okay, or going to be okay, my heart was still frozen in my chest as I tried to digest the information, like it would never ever beat again.

When Luc died, it was a sudden shock. We knew bikes were dangerous, but that didn’t stop him from buying one and riding it. I was going to, too. And when Luc had gotten into his accident, I decided that motorcycles were dangerous, and I was going to do what I could to make sure any future accidents could be prevented. It became my life’s mission. Luc’s death was a horrible, egregious mistake, and I almost let it happen again. I had failed in my task. And worst of all, I had failed to protect my girlfriend from that fate. I should have known better. I should have tried harder.

But, in the end, it was her decision. I had said what I had wanted to say and told her how I felt about her riding, but ultimately, it wasn’t up to me. Everything had always been her choice. When we talked the afternoon after she’d been drugged and I told her how scared I was feeling that it had happened, Jo had been the one to agree and lay off party behavior. I never told her to or made her. And then, when I suggested a color for her hair and she got mad, I made it clear that it was only a suggestion. It was her decision to accept my offer. So if she wanted to ride her motorcycle, that was up to her; if she didn’t want to heed my advice, there was nothing I could do about it.

Let’s get one thing straight: I didn’t want her to be in this position. I never wanted that, for her to “learn a lesson” or to have to go through this to understand where I was coming from; this wasn’t about I-told-you-so’s. This wasn’t about whether or not I thought she should have listened to me. This wasn’t just about Jo.

It would make me an asshole if I turned this situation into something about how I felt. Jo was hurt and in the hospital. Physically hurt—and to what extent, I didn’t know. Of course I felt bad for her and my heart went out to her, and I hoped that it wasn’t serious and she’d make a full recovery. Jo maybe was the one in the hospital, but I was hurt, too. I wasn’t bleeding, but I was broken. I was gutted. And scared, worried, concerned, angry, guilty, in shock, frustrated, confused, out to sea, and devastated. My feelings were legitimate and warranted, but Heather didn’t want to afford me that. She had me backed up, up against a wall.

“Okay. You’re right. I don’t know. But I know that you care about her. Maybe love her, I don’t know. And that this is your worst nightmare coming back to haunt you. But you have got to put that aside for now, for her sake. I bet she’s scared and in pain, and you being there would really help her. This is just like what happened after the club. You have to be there for her if you want to work through it together.”

“You don’t understand. I can’t.” I wanted to tell Heather how the fear was paralyzing. I was scared to death of Jo dying, especially this way. She was so lucky that it wasn’t worse than what it was, and I was so lucky, too. Just the prospect of what could have been was emotionally crippling.

It was like a phobia, a deep-seeded fear that was as much a part of me as my name or my eye color. But this was more rational than a fear of spiders or of snakes. What is more terrifying than losing someone close to you? What is more terrifying than having to go through those emotions twice? Maybe it didn’t happen the second time, but it almost did, and that scared the living shit out of me.

“You don’t even want to see her? Not at all?”

“Not like this, Heather. I don’t think I can see her hurt.” It was an opportunity I never had with Luc. He died instantly; there was no chance to say goodbye. It had been so sudden, so final with him. I didn’t know how to deal under the present circumstances, now that everything was up in the air. Now, I had to think about things that I didn’t have to confront when Luc died, because things had been so black and white up until now. Everything I thought I knew was now tinted in shades of gray, my world entirely upended.

Heather sighed and tucked a curl of her long, blonde hair behind her ear. “You’re not going because you want to see her in her hurt condition. Of course you don’t want that. Whatever her injuries, that’s not why you’re going. You’re going to see her because she’s okay. To be happy and relieved that things weren’t worse, and to celebrate that fact.”

I shook my head. “It’s enough just to know that she’s okay. I’m glad that she’s okay. But if I went to see her, all I’d be able to see are the injuries. She wouldn’t want me to be there, with that kind of attitude, and I simply... can’t see it. It’s a reminder of something that happened... something that I can’t go through again.... If I don’t see it, I can pretend it didn’t happen, and that would be best for me and her.”

“You can’t just pretend it didn’t happen, Kris. It did. It sucks, but it did. Listen, I’m not saying that the past isn’t important. Because it is. It makes us who we are. But for right now, for Jo, you have to put your past behind you. You have got to live in the present, Kris, and focus on what’s important at this present moment. If you don’t go see her in the hospital now, you best believe that she’s not gonna wanna see you in the future.”

“Jo would understand,” I told Heather. “She knows what I went through with Luc. She’d understand. She’d forgive me.”

“Do you think so? Do you really believe that? Or are you just saying that because it’s what you want to believe?”

I balled my hands into fists and pressed them against my eyes until I was seeing spots. “If this were just about Jo, I would go. She knows I care about her. But....” It was about dealing with all the emotions I didn’t have to go through when Luc died. Heather wouldn’t get it. However, Jo would understand, because she lost James. She knows how hard it is, how that hurt never goes away and how some situations just dig up those devastating emotions all over again. Like how she was worried when I hurt my shoulder....

Fuck. She had been concerned when I had been injured in the game against the Sharks. Jo had shown up at my doorstep, visibly shaken and upset with the fresh memories of James’s hit on her mind. She had already had to confront her worst fears of me reliving James’s fate—and now it was my turn. I groaned and muttered, “Let’s go.”

“What?” Heather asked, not sure what I meant.

“You said you wanted to visit her?” She nodded. “Well, okay then. Let’s go.”

She smiled, happy that I had apparently come to my senses, but then she wiped that expression off her face. It was still a sad, unfortunate situation, and no one should have been smiling. Heather took my keys from me, insisting that she would drive since I was upset and probably not able to focus. It made sense, even though I wished that I could have busied myself with doing something, like driving.

I stared out the window as Heather maneuvered my car around the city streets, Staal following behind us in his SUV. The only thing on my mind was what it was going to be like to see her. Tubby had said she was pretty banged up, but what did that mean? Bumps? Bruises? Fractures? Stitches? Scrapes?

I didn’t have experience with this aspect of an accident. I had dealt with death, not injury and concern. It was so complex, and I didn’t know what I was feeling. I wondered what Jo was feeling. Was she upset? Furious? Penitent and regretful, wishing she’d have driven instead, or would she be resigned, knowing that she took this risk when she straddled her motorcycle?

Would she even want to see me? Would she think that I would just want to lecture her? This wasn’t a time for that. It didn’t matter anyway; I’d already said everything I could have said to her about it, and she still chose what she chose and did what she did. Like Jo had once said to me: You can be upset that it happened, but you can’t change it so don’t let it change you. Getting upset about it wouldn’t change what happened, so I just had to find a way to deal with it.

There wouldn’t be anything to deal with if I had let her walk by me without noticing her the night of the season opener. If maybe I had lingered in the dressing room with the guys for just a half a minute longer so I wouldn’t have seen her in the parking lot while waiting for the bus. Or if I hadn’t have tossed my towel toward the bin when she was standing there in the locker room, weeks later. Or even if I had just decided to keep my nose in my own business and not done what I thought was right by interfering.

But I couldn’t have not done that. It wasn’t in line with my life’s mission of atoning for Luc’s death. I didn’t, however, have to get involved emotionally with her. I knew the type of person she was when I started having feelings for her, and she knew who I was when she confessed she felt it, too. I knew that she liked to ride and party, but she knew that I didn’t approve of those things. We thought we could get past that. I didn’t know if we could get past this now.

I guess I just had to see her and talk to her, and then we’d go from there.

“Are you coming?” Heather’s words pulled me out of my thoughts, and all of a sudden I realized that the car was stopped, in park, and the engine was off. We were at the hospital already. “We’re here.”

Letting out a deep breath, I didn’t move. Now that I was here, this seemed like a bad idea. Once I walked into that building, into her room, and saw her, whatever shape she was in, I couldn’t undo it. The implications would have to be dealt with, and no matter what happened, it wasn’t going to be easy. I wasn’t sure if I were up for that task. I didn’t want things to change between us, but I didn’t think that it would be possible for anything to not change in our relationship after this.

I looked over at Heather. Her eyebrow was raised and imploring for an answer in a soft, gentle way. I wanted nothing more than to slide over into the driver’s seat and put the car in reverse and back out of here. Call me a coward, but I just did not want to confront these demons; I wasn’t strong enough. It was easier when Luc died, because then I was just left solely with my devastation. But now, there were so many other consequences to stress over and address. The uncertainty was killing me, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to take that step and find out what was to come next.

10 comments:

  1. Ok I was so excited that I read through it before commenting... so I'm just gonna go back and pick out my favourite parts =)

    "She wanted to help, but she was being patronizing about it."
    ^^ Ok... emotional update and all that, but I couldn't help and smile a little at this line. I totally remember Jo thinking the same thing about Kris... all that time ago =)

    "Luc’s death was a horrible, egregious mistake, and I almost let it happen again. I had failed in my task. And worst of all, I had failed to protect my girlfriend from that fate. I should have known better. I should have tried harder."
    ^^ So, so, sad. This is just devastating. Poor Kris. Poor Kris that he has to carry all this pain and blame with him, when it's just not his to hold.
    I wish that he could realize that these things are out of his control, and that sometimes, shitty things just happen... no matter how hard you try to make things work, it just never happens like how you want it to.

    "I wasn’t bleeding, but I was broken."
    ^^ Greatest. Line. Ever. Ugh... this was just incredible. Oh Jay, this was so... UGHHHH I don't even have words. I re-read this 6-7 times before I could move on, just pure poetry.

    "I wanted to tell Heather how the fear was paralyzing."
    ^^ I can totally relate to what he's feeling here... because fear is more paralyzing than anything else. And no matter how well you know that, it's impossible to explain it to someone who hasn't gone through it... trying to explain it to someone who hasn't had that moment of devastation.

    "It was like a phobia, a deep-seeded fear that was as much a part of me as my name or my eye color."
    ^^ I love this line. How you relate it, as clear as if it was a physical part of him. It's so true, but I just love the way you described it.

    "She had already had to confront her worst fears of me reliving James’s fate—and now it was my turn."
    ^^ It was funny, that until you said this... it never even clicked in for me like that. I mean, I remember that day but I never even put it on the same page.
    I feel bad that Kris is about to go through this... but, I'm glad that he is.

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  2. go in kris! you'll be ok!!

    keep going, i wants to know what happpennnss

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  3. Oh Kris. LeSigh. I knew he'd come around. He's like the fictional Mr. Dependable to me.

    Great update because I love reading through how the characters are thinking and feeling.

    Thanks for the Sunday evening update!

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  4. So glad that Kris changed his mind, and is going to go see Jo. She would have been uber upset if he didn't.

    -elle

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  5. Ok, ok, ok. Brilliant.

    Reading Kris' thoughts is really heartbreaking. Thank God Heather was there to help pull him out of his line of thinking. I know it is going to suck seeing Jo, but she will definitley need him after everything that happened with the jacket.

    I know it has already been quoted but...

    "I wasn’t bleeding, but I was broken."
    Seriously genious. Like Zigh mentionned I had to read and reread this line and just let it sink into my brain and explode with awesomeness.

    anddd...

    "It was like a phobia, a deep-seeded fear that was as much a part of me as my name or my eye color."
    Seriously, your words are so common place, like you are just writing normal things, but you aren't. You are like a poet wrapped in a writer wrapped in a hockey fan.

    Well, basically all this to say that the update was incredible like usual. Can't wait to see what happens in the hospital. We'll get to see if they have really learned from each other or if Jo has just been learning from Kris.

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  6. Rawr!! Just go in Kris!!
    Christ you're there already!
    So, just, GO IN!

    She's not dead. She's "fine" compared to what she could be.

    So just goooo in!

    Can't wait for the next update.
    It's gonna be hectic!!

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  7. Eeek I'm so worried about what he's going to say to go... Or more what she's going to say to him.... AHHH!!! :-|

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  8. Heather = smartest woman in the world right now. I'm so glad she was able to talk Kris into doing the right thing aka going to see Jo.

    I totally understand where Kris is coming from. The pain will obviously be a lot to deal with when he sees Jo hurt, but he has to put that aside. She's okay and alive and that's what he should be focusing on. As long as he keeps his cool and doesn't flip out at her, I think things should be fine.(:

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  9. Last two chapters were just terrific!
    Glad Heather finally got Kris to go to the Hospital.

    Awful what they did to James jacket,but she has to let go of the past.

    Can't wait to see what happens next!

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  10. Glad that Heather gave Kris the business, and he decided to go see Jo, now what will be interesting is to see the reactions between Jo and Kris in the hospital room.

    Fabulous, as always, doll!

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