Tuesday, March 9, 2010

54.) Cold and Numb

[Not so] quick author's note: I really liked modeling this story after the events of the season that have already happened (i.e. the infamous hair cut, among game scores, etc.). However, due to the developing plot, things may start differing from the season. Don't be alarmed, because I can't possibly encourage the wrath of the hockey gods at this point. Also, I'm really kind of iffy on these chapters, and how the story's developing. So any [constructive] criticism is invited. I like to hear what you like, but feel free to critique, too. I can't get better as a writer without it. Lastly, thanks to my readers/commenters. You ladies seriously are, undoubtedly, the best. I can't emphasize that point enough. I love your feedback!
~Jay

Soundtrack Song - Pearl Jam, Just Breathe

I woke up in the morning, not really wanting to get up but knowing that I had to. Today’s date was the worst day of all days, ever. I couldn’t really believe that it had only been two years. Was that all? Sometimes, it felt like longer; then again, sometimes, it felt like it happened yesterday.

Not really caring what I looked like, I tossed on yesterday’s sweat pants, a black cami, and then a gray Dartmouth hoodie that James had gotten upon his early admission. Without his jacket, this was the closest thing I had of his to wear. He wore it once, and it didn’t have his smell, but I liked it just because it was something that reminded me of him and his big dreams. Then I grabbed a hold of my hair, twisted it on top of my head, and pulled my hat on to cover it up. There were several loose, short strands that fell out around my face, but I carefully tucked them up to hide them.

The first thing I had to do today was stop over at CMU and meet one of the counselors to determine and schedule my spring course load. It definitely was not something that I wanted to do on today of all days, but I didn’t have much of a say in the matter. Since everything was happening on such short notice, today’s appointment was the best they could do before the new year.

I really didn’t think I could do it, but Kris had said to me yesterday to take it as a sign that James wanted me to do this. My response was that it didn’t make sense to me—why would he intentionally make it so I’d have to do something which should make me happy and lead me toward my ultimate goal, on the worst day of the year? But Kris said that it was because James wouldn’t want me to be so sad. I’m not sure I believed it, but I wanted to for Kris’s sake.

Kris also said he wanted to spend time with me today, but I flat-out refused. He had his hockey routine to adhere to, and I didn’t was to disrupt that, just because I couldn't keep myself together on the saddest of occasions. There was the morning skate, then meetings, and eating, and sleeping, and then heading back to the arena... I wasn’t sure I could fit into that, especially since I didn’t want to attend the game. It was just easier to let him do his own thing without me affecting him, because I was likely to be a wreck—I knew that, and I didn’t want to put him through that.

To get down the stairs, I slid on my ass and dragged my crutches with me. It was less than graceful, but it was the best I could manage without risking breaking my neck. When I reached the bottom, I heard the TV. I knew that Tubby had taken the day off from his job because he was going to take me to the university and then to the cemetery, so I was certain that he had let himself in.

“Hey, Tubs,” I called as I pushed off the stairs and shifted my weight to the crutches. God, I could not wait to get this damn cast off and get rid of these fucking crutches.

“Joanna?” The voice was not Tubby’s. It was a voice I had not heard for months, but I shouldn’t have been surprised.

“Dad?”

He walked out of the living room and met me at the landing at the bottom of the stairs. He looked so much like James... or at least, what James would have looked like as a middle-aged man. It wasn’t an easy thing to see, on the anniversary of his death. Not to mention that the man standing before me was the father that had disappeared when his family needed him.

“Joanna, what did you do to yourself?” he asked, completely oblivious to anything that was going on in my life. I guess that’s what happens you spend your evenings and weekends at the bar instead of at home.

“Broke my leg. What are you doing here?” It might have been a stupid question, asking him what he was doing in his own house.

“I took a personal day from the office. I thought we could go together to, well, you know.... And then grab a bite? Catch up?”

I shook my head, feeling the sting of tears but doing my best to keep them back. I didn’t want to go anywhere with him, let alone to the cemetery. It’s like he thought he could leave and just walk right back in here, like nothing happened. He didn’t deserve to get to go to see James today. It was just so wrong. “I can’t. I have things to do, and Tubby’s going to come get me.”

As if on cue, my friend let himself into the front door. “Hey, Jo-Jo,” he greeted me, and then noticed my dad. “Hey, Mr. Anderson.”

“Preston,” he replied, with a nod of his head, before turning back to me. “We should go as a family and visit him.”

Even though he was wearing nice clothes and he looked presentable, I could still smell the whiskey on him. It made me really, really want a drink. Maybe he looked the part of father, but he wasn’t ready for that role. We weren’t a family, just because he wanted us to be; we couldn’t be a family if he couldn’t even say his name out loud. “James,” I spat. “Him is James. Him is your son. Him is my twin brother. Go see him if you think it’s going to make you feel like a fucking parent, but you don’t you dare assume that I’m going with you so you can feed your twisted, messed up notion that we’re still a family.”

“Joanna—”

“Don’t talk to me. Just go back to pretending like I don’t exist, and that your son was the only kid who mattered.” I brushed past him as quickly as I could on my crutches, making a bee-line for the door.

Tubby held the door open for me but addressed my father before he followed me outside “Sorry, Mr. Anderson.”

Once the door was closed behind us, I yelled at Tubby. “Don’t fucking apologize to him. What in the world are you apologizing to him for?”

“You’re just upset.”

“Ugh, no! I’m not ‘just upset.’ I’m fucking pissed as hell. You know what? If you want to be a condescending asshole, you can leave. Go.”

“I’m not leaving you...” he sighed. “How else would you get to your damn appointment anyway?”

I knew that he was trying to lighten the mood and smooth everything over, and more so that I should have been appreciating that gesture, but it really just kind of pissed me off. I wanted to be angry and I wanted him to think that it was acceptable for me to be angry, too. Because it was acceptable, goddamnit—how dare he think that I would be willing to traipse around town with him, just because he finally felt like he wanted a family?

Hobbling over to Tubby’s SUV, I allowed him to take me to the university. My appointment took an hour, but only because of the incompetence of the counselor in trying to figure out what I should take. That, and that everyone always wanted to ask what happened to my leg. It’s like no one had ever seen a cast before. I tried to take it in stride, but it was difficult for me because I had such low tolerance for that line of questioning today.

In the end, I got a bunch of basics: comp, calc, sociology, public speaking, and physics I. These were all classes that I needed to take for whatever reasons, whether to fulfill requirements or as prerequisite courses before I could begin the fun stuff. I asked the counselor for two copies, and I threw one into my purse and one into my pocket.

Tubby then escorted me to the cemetery. I checked the parking lot for my dad’s car, and it wasn’t there; I wouldn’t have gone in if I had thought so. “You don’t have to wait for me,” I replied, the first thing I had said to him since CMU. I was fully aware that I was cranky and uptight, but there wasn’t a lot that I could do about it. I was hurting, and my feelings were disjointed. I definitely wasn’t myself, to say the least.

“You just want me to leave you here?”

“No.... But I mean, I might be a while. I don’t think it’s fair to ask you to wait. I can just call you, or something....” I sighed, thinking that this would have been so much easier if I could have driven. I probably could have, since it was my left leg in a cast, but I wasn’t sure how well that would have worked out. This was the first time that I had really cursed my accident for the inconvenience it caused me; before, I felt bad for the hassle it had caused for everyone else around me.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

“No. If you want to come, then you’re welcome to join me. But not if you’re just gonna come up to keep an eye on me.”

He nodded understandingly. “I’ll wait. However long. Go ahead.”

I opened the door and swung my body out, landing on my good leg. Then I grabbed my crutches from the back and headed up the familiar path to the only headstone that mattered to me. I saw a bunch of flowers already there, and I knew from the blue carnations that it was my mother. It made me sick, so I swung my crutch and made the flowers fly. James wouldn’t have wanted it, and she did it because it made her feel better. Not for James.

Resting my crutches against the side, I traced my fingers over the engraved marble, tracing the words Beloved Son, Brother, Friend, Captain. It made my heart hurt so much. There wasn’t anything for me to say. I sat on the grass and rested my back against the headstone in my usual fashion, garnering a look of disapproval from the widower that walked by, so I flipped him off. The ground was cold, but I hardly noticed.

Since I was unable to speak, I just cried for a while. Today was so hard for me because I never got the chance to say goodbye. I didn’t go to his game, like I told him I would; I never missed a home game. I should have been there.

All I could hope was that he didn’t hate me for not showing up. I hope that he never looked up into the stands to see me, only to find that I wasn’t there. Because that meant he would have died knowing I didn’t come to his game like I had promised him that morning over breakfast. Knowing I had let him down. And because I wasn’t there, I wasn’t sure if he had looked for me, to no avail. If he missed me that particular afternoon.

Because holy moly, did I miss him right now.

I brushed my tears aside and pulled out the schedule from my pocket. “I brought something for you,” I told him, my voice shaky and raw. “I don’t know if you wanted me to do this today, or not. Kris said so, but then again, he doesn’t really know you. I know that I keep asking you for signs, and I keep thinking that maybe, once, you’ll give me one, but I know that’s crazy....” I paused, hoping for something to happen.

I sighed when nothing did. “So, I wanted to leave this here, but now that I’m thinking about it, this schedule has my name and social security number on it. It might not be a good idea, because anyone could get that information. But, I just wanted you to know that I did it. Classes start in a month. I hope that this is what you wanted.

“I know that I should probably say I’m doing this for me, but right now, today, I can’t say that this is what I want. I want nothing more than to just pull a blanket over my head and sleep forever.”

My chest felt tight, so I pulled my knees toward my chest, wrapped my arms around my legs, and hunched over. “You probably want to know, just like everyone else, what I did to my leg. I wrecked my bike. Actually, my bike’s fine. Scraped up, but it’s in a lot better condition than I was. Broke my arm, too. Bad road burn, but that’s pretty much all healed. Do you have anything to say about that?”

I didn’t expect an answer, and I didn’t get one. Talking out loud to James was just something I did, even though I was fully cognizant that it was useless. The wind picked up around me, cutting though my hoodie. “I know you’d be pissed about your jacket. I mean, I didn’t mean to do it, but I ruined it. In fact, I wish I had it now, because it’s freezing.”

When I said that, the wind blew even harder, making my teeth chatter for a second. “Is this a sign that I should get it stitched together, so I can wear it again?” I laughed, first to myself and then aloud. I was really, honest-to-goodness losing it.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I hope you’ll forgive me, for not being there. One game. One fucking game.... Did it happen because I wasn’t there? Kris says that you didn’t want me there, but I can’t believe it. Like, how could you? If you would have known, you wouldn’t have let it happen in the first place. He said you were protecting me, but wouldn’t protecting me mean being here for me?”

I pressed my forehead against my knees, and I wasn’t sure how long I was in that position. I know it was a long time, because my fingers and toes started to go numb. Hell, my whole body was numb, my mind was numb, and my heart was numb.

Only one thing brought me out of that state. I heard my name. “Jo?”

My head shot up and stared up at the dark figure in front of me. I was surprised to see him, and I didn’t expect him here of all places. But I was really glad to see him. “Kris? What are you doing here?”

“Tubby called.” He held his hands out, and I reached out and grabbed them. As he pulled me to my feet—or foot, I should say—he added, “Said he was worried about you, because you’ve been out here for a while. Damn, your hands are so cold.”

“But, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be doing something else? It’s a game day.”

Kris rubbed his warm hands over my fingers, and the feeling started to return in them. “Call it a slight detour. Why don’t you come home with me? I need to take my nap.”

“I don’t want to disrupt—”

“It’s not disrupting anything. I wouldn’t invite you over if I didn’t want you there. Come on,” he encouraged. He opened his pea coat and, with me hugging him and absorbing his heat, he wrapped me against him in his jacket. He was so warm. “What do you say?”

I closed my eyes for a moment, soaking in the moment. I didn’t ask Kris to come, and I didn’t want him to fulfill this obligation, but here he was nonetheless. And I was so, so grateful that words could not possibly express it. “I want you to meet someone, first,” I told him, turning to face the marble monument again. I squeezed Kris’s hand. “This is James.”

10 comments:

  1. I love that Kris came!!! I was hoping for that the whole chapter!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pretty emotional chapter and lots of insights into Jo.

    I am also writing a story right now with real events built in, which is challenging but fun. Sometimes you wonder if anyone will even notice.

    I think you do a great job and your writing is excellent, but if I think of a constructive comment, I will add it.

    Meantime, keep up the wonderful work!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I KNEW..I JUST KNEW..at some point soon her dad would pop up. What a jack-ass. I laughed though "what happened to your leg" "broke it" haha.

    Poor Jo feel soo bad for her, because really now, she has zero family.
    BUT then Kris shows up <3
    What a sweetheart that guy is!

    Great update!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really just have to say:

    KRIS!!!

    Could he be any more wondeful? I don't think so. I am soooo glad he showed up for her. I am also glad she is strong enough to tell her dad to take a hike.

    This update was such a rollercoaster, I was mad at her dad, sad for her loss and then totally swooning over Kris showing up to take care of her.

    Not to menton - Tubby called him. Gah, I love it.

    Seriously, seriously amazing, can't wait for what you have planned for chapter 58? :D

    ReplyDelete
  5. Alrighty, as I go...

    "He wore it once, and it didn’t have his smell, but I liked it just because it was something that reminded me of him and his big dreams."
    ^^ I'm not sure why that made me really sad. Something about 'his big dreams'. It's remembering that in this story, James isn't just *Jo's brother* that died... he was a good guy, with dreams and goals and aspirations... all things that he was never able to achieve.

    "I’m not sure I believed it, but I wanted to for Kris’s sake."
    ^^ Ughhh this is soooo heart-wrenchingly wonderful. Even on the worse day of the year, when she should be thinking about nothing but her own pain and how much she hurt, she's still thinking about Kris... not only thinking about him, but wanting what's best for him.
    She's in the worst day she could possibly be in... but he's still on her mind... if that's not love, I don't know what is.

    "I was likely to be a wreck—I knew that, and I didn’t want to put him through that."
    ^^ Again, thinking about Kris. I'm not sure that I could ever be as strong as Jo though... if I lost someone that close to me, I think I would want my man there... even if I was going to be a wrecking-ball the whole day.

    Her dad!??!?!?!?! Need I say more?? What a douche! UGHHHH!
    I was so mad when he came in... just standing there, thinking that by talking to his daughter one time, all of a sudden it doesn't matter that he's had nothing to do with her.
    Like, just go away. Seriously...

    "That, and that everyone always wanted to ask what happened to my leg. It’s like no one had ever seen a cast before."
    ^^ And it's things like this... that make you a better writer than most ppl! Just the little remarks and tiny pieces of information that you manage to squeeze into a story. This is it... and it makes it so real!
    As someone who's broken a lot of things... complete strangers ALWAYS ask what happened! Like it's their business, and like they actually care! But I love that you added it in there... most people wouldn't even have thought about it.

    "Since I was unable to speak, I just cried for a while. Today was so hard for me because I never got the chance to say goodbye."
    ^^ Ugh! It's just so powerful. We've all been there... you don't know what else to do, so you just cry.

    "Did it happen because I wasn’t there?"
    ^^ ANNNNND now I'm crying. This is just too sad, seriously, my little heart's breaking. I HATE HATE HATE HATE that she thinks that (even though I probably would too, if the same thing had happened to me). Jo just... ugh... she just deserves to be able to move on and be happy... to stop blaming herself for things that are out of her control.
    She couldn't change what happened to James, no more than she could change the weather... she needs to understand that the bad things in life, don't happen because she's not good enough... they just happen.

    "I closed my eyes for a moment, soaking in the moment. I didn’t ask Kris to come, and I didn’t want him to fulfill this obligation, but here he was nonetheless. And I was so, so grateful that words could not possibly express it. “I want you to meet someone, first,” I told him, turning to face the marble monument again. I squeezed Kris’s hand. “This is James.”"
    ^^ Ok... you know how normally I try NOT to copy and paste a whole paragraph... but this... /sigh
    I can't even figure out where to pick something. It flows so well together that I can't divide it into parts.
    It was so sad, but beautiful and perfect too.
    I'm so glad that Kris showed up... like you have no idea...

    I want to say so much more but I don't know what... everything was wonderful... everything.

    I really can't wait for the next one, every update always has fantastic things in them, and the deeper into the characters we get... the more amazing they become =)

    ReplyDelete
  6. LeSigh I just love this chapter. So happy that Kris showed up. I am always so excited for your updates and it's so hard to believe that each chapter is just getting better!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ugh crying so hard right now. This chapter was amazing, Jay. You write so well and this was so emotional.

    I love when Jo talks to James out loud. It's so impossibly sweet and sad. And when Kris showed up, *Le Sigh*, he really is the perfect man. It just made me cry even more, he's so so so amazing and so are you and so is this story<3

    ReplyDelete
  8. You really succeed to create an atmosphere of loss,of sadness. It is so real, so vibrant with emotions.

    Pure greatness...

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am so sad after reading this chapter, but so glad that Jo got her time at the cemetary alone. I think people think that's weird, and it is so not. This has to be one of my favorite chapters you have written by far...beautiful, girl!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jay as always so beautiful. The way you describe her emotions of grief, perfect, I cried for her, 2 years and she still feels guilty, some wounds are as painful now as they ever were.

    I like how Kris is in her head. "Kris thinks", "Kris said",she understands the reasoning but has not yet owned it.

    I love the fact that even though Tubby is waiting for her, he calls Kris when he thinks Jo needs help. That's a big step for him, considering what he thinks of Kris. He put Jo's feelings over his qualms, that's a good friend.

    Love it all!

    ReplyDelete