Wednesday, March 10, 2010

55.) Nap Time

Soundtrack Song - Bon Jovi, Superman Tonight

I was torn between a sense of satisfaction and concern; I was happy to be in a position where Jo wanted to invite me in to this sacred place of hers, but I was also worried that hypothermia would set in. Tubby had called me to tell me that she was just sitting out here and crying, and he thought that maybe I’d be able to talk to her and coax her away from the grave site. He didn’t sound happy to make the phone call, but he did it for Jo—the sign of a truly great friend.

“I feel honored that you want to do this, Jo, but I think maybe we should get you somewhere warmer,” I told her, feeling more than a little concerned by the icy feel of her exposed skin. She was wrapped up with me in my jacket, and I pulled away just enough to see her face while still protecting her from the cold.

“I don’t wanna go. Not yet. I don’t wanna leave him without letting him know just how much I miss him.”

“He knows. And you’re not leaving him, Jo. You’ve got pieces of him with you at all times,” I informed her as I pressed my hand against the spot on her chest where that little gold locket, her birthday present from me, was lying on her chest. Even though it was underneath her Dartmouth sweatshirt, I knew the length of the chain and where it fell because I had memorized everything about her. Then I traced the lines of her hockey stick tattoo, from knob to blade, over her clothes. I knew every detail of her body like I had X-ray vision. “He’s a part of you, physically and emotionally and spiritually... you don’t need to be here to talk to him or feel like you’re with him. He’s with you always.”

“This is where I come to talk to him,” she replied quietly, leaning back against me. “This is where he is. And I come here, and I talk to him like he’s listening, even though it’s crazy because I know he can’t really hear me.”

“If it makes you feel better, then what’s wrong with talking to him?”

“Because it’s crazy,” she moaned, burying her face in my chest as I continued to hold her in my coat and share my warmth with her. “He can’t hear me, he can’t talk back—as much as I wish he could. I know that. It’s a fact of death. But still, I do it anyway, like a fucking nut, because when I’m talking to him, I think about the late nights we’d spend talking about everything when we should have been sleeping since we had school the next day and our mom would walk in at two a.m. and yell at us to get to bed and that we were keeping her up when she had to work in the morning.... I’m fully aware of how stupid and pointless it is. It eases my heart, but it confuses my brain.”

“This coming from the girl who does what she wants, when she wants, all for no better reason other than she wants to?” I chuckled, feeling her body move with mine as my chest heaved with laughter. Jo never struck me as the type of person who cared about cognitive dissonance, because she went with what felt right. I turned serious again. “But what I’m saying is, if it makes you feel closer to him, to think that he is listening, then why not let yourself believe it? So what if it’s crazy! Do it, because it’s about how you feel. I bet that thinking he can’t hear you is a lot more distressing than thinking you’re crazy because you want to talk to him.”

Jo sighed and didn’t speak for a while as she contemplated that. Finally she said, “What do you do?”

I rubbed her back as I replied, “I just, like, take time to think about him every day, no matter where I am. I remember and reflect and yeah, sometimes talk out loud. There have been plenty of times that I wish I could have a real conversation with him again,” I added, thinking about that time when I stopped at that old rink after Jo’s accident. I had so many questions for him, none of which he could answer. “But he was my best friend, and I know what he would tell me or encourage me to do because he would want good things for me. So it’s like, even if he can’t answer me, I still know what he’d say to me.”

“Makes sense,” she mumbled. “I still can’t believe you’re here. You’re going to make me feel guilty for screwing with your routine. You’re supposed to be napping.”

“Then let’s go. You can come nap with me,” I invited her. I felt her face, which was pressed against my chest, tighten as she smiled. “How does that sound?”

“Okay.”

“Just okay? Don’t you mean, that sounds fantastic?”

“I meant, ‘okay, let’s go.’ It does sound fantastic,” she laughed, and that was like music to my ears. I loved her laugh anyway, but at this moment it was all I could hope to hear. She pulled back out of my embrace and turned toward the marble again. I watched as she dragged her fingers over the word brother on the inscription. “I’ll come visit you again soon, James.”

My heart tightened as I heard her speak to him. It was one thing to hear her say that she spoke to him, but it was another to hear it. It was devastatingly sad yet hopeful, at the same time. I wasn’t sure how that was possible, but it was.

She grabbed her crutches and began to head back toward the parking lot, and I sauntered next to her slow enough to keep pace with her until we got to my car. Jo let me open the door for her and take her crutches to slide them in the backseat. I turned the heater on full blast after I started the car. I was okay, but Jo was visibly still cold as she shivered beside me.

We drove in silence for a while, but I eventually decided to try to get her mind off the day’s sad implications. “So, you scheduled your classes today?” Jo shrugged in response. “What are you taking?”

Jo pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket and recited her schedule to me. I asked her when her classes started, and if she was looking forward to it, but I got minimal reactions. That’s when I let go of the steering wheel with my right hand and reached over to clasp hers. With a quick smile, she placed her other hand over mine, sandwiching my fingers with hers.

“I’m sorry, Kris. I really didn’t want you to have to put up with this today. You’ve got enough to worry about with the game and all.”

“I’m not ‘putting up’ with anything, Jo. I want to be here for you today. You’d want to do the same for me, right?”

“Of course!”

“Okay then, don’t send me away. Let me be here for you.” I pulled her hand up to my lips.

Jo nodded and sniffed, tears threatening to leak from her eyes again. “But you’re just so strong. I feel like you wouldn’t be like this in the spring, on Luc’s anniversary. I just can’t imagine you being overly sad or needing someone to lean on. You’re the one who gets leaned on, not the other way around.”

I smiled grimly. “I get sad, Jo. I miss Luc. I still miss him constantly. But it’s not about being sad or missing him. It’s about remembering the good times you had with him and then remembering to make the most of the life you have now.” Squeezing her hand, I emphasized, “It’s about remembering to appreciate your friends and family.”

She snorted, which wasn’t the response I expected. “Family? This ripped my so-called ‘family’ apart. You know, my dad had the nerve to show up today. He wanted us to go visit James’s grave together. He didn’t even call me on my birthday, because he was upset that it was James’s birthday, too. Like, it didn’t have a thing to do with me.... It was always about my brother.”

“You have to understand that how hard it is for a parent to outlive their child.” Jo rolled her eyes at me like I was crazy, giving me a distinct look that asked how could you possibly know that? “Luc’s mom was devastated. Charlene was an absolute wreck, but Suzanne, she was....” I shook my head as I focused on the road, unable to find the words in English to convey how upset she was. Crushed? Defeated? Desolate? No one word seemed fit to encompass and fully denote her emotions at the time.

“Was he an only child?” she asked with difficulty. Her voice was low and strained.

I knew what my answer was going to affect. “Yeah.”

“Then that’s one thing. I know it’s gotta be hard for them, too. I mean, my mom and my dad, and Luc’s mom. It’s gotta hurt so, so bad. But, I mean, like....” She struggled to gather her thoughts as I pulled into my parking spot outside my apartment building. “I was still alive. They still had a living child. Did that count for nothing?”

I sighed, trying to think of something magical to say that would make it all better. That would comfort her and simultaneously make her understand that they couldn’t have handled the situation any differently. “Jo, sometimes, people just get so caught up in their grief and mourning that it’s all they can see or hear or know.” She nodded and I felt encouraged to continue. “People all deal with it differently. Your dad had whiskey, and your mom had to run away.”

That was going too far. She hugged herself and shook her head. “You make it sound acceptable.”

“It wasn’t, Jo. Don’t mistake what I mean to justify it.” I got out of the car and opened her door for her, helping her onto the sidewalk. “Come on, let’s go inside and take that nap.”

“Imagine that,” she cracked wryly. “You trying to get me into bed.”

“Are you complaining?”

“No,” she admitted honestly. “I could use the sleep.”

“Yeah, Tubby said you looked exhausted,” I mentioned absentmindedly.

“Tubby? Tubby! Oh shit!” she hollered, looking behind her like he’d be there. “Oh, fuck. What happened to him? I mean, did we just leave him? Ugh....”

I rubbed her back as we left the elevator and headed into my apartment. “No, he left when I showed up. He was pretty sure that he wasn’t needed there anymore. Once he knew I was there, he drove home.”

Jo shook her head and collapsed on my bed, holding her head in her hands and pressing the heels of her palms over her eyes. “I’m such a horrible friend. Look at what I do to Tubby.”

“He’s your friend. He knows you’re having a rough time with this. He understands.”

Jo went on like what I said didn’t even matter. “I’ve fucked up his life, pulling him out of school, and I still walk all over him. And look at what I do to you, Kris! You give me so much. You’re like a giant Band-Aid—you make everything better. And I take everything from you, and I don’t give you anything. I’m such a horrible girlfriend. I don’t know why you put up with me.”

“Hey, don’t say that. You give me plenty,” I assured her, sitting next to her and cupping her chin and making her look at me.

“Like what?” she sniffed, defying me to answer her.

It’s funny, because back when I met her at the beginning of the season, I wanted to save her from the demons that were hounding her back. And even though she was so sad today and we had hit a plethora of speed bumps along the way, I feel like I helped her. It was a strange desire to reach out to Jo, but I didn’t think it was much different than the way a counselor or interventionist helps other troubled people going through their own issues.

But in wanting to help, I had become inexplicably attached to Jo. It was no longer about just helping her be happy and helping her accomplish the dreams that she had shelved years ago; it was now about wanting to be the one who made her happy and the one with whom she shared her dreams. Jo had been put off by my advances and offers, but I would do it all again and put up with her constant refusals if it meant we’d end up here, in my bed, all over again. “Your smile.”

Jo pulled back and looked up into my face, her eyes brows fused together in confusion. “I’m being serious here, Kristopher.”

“I’m serious, too. I would give my whole world if it means I get to see your beautiful, smiling face. All I need from you is this, right here,” I told her, tracing her bottom lip with my left-hand index finger as the edges of her mouth curled upward. “When you’re happy, I’m happy. Making you happy makes me happy.”

“You’re amazing,” she whispered, pressing those smiling lips against mine for a moment. “Now let’s take our clothes off and get under these covers.”

I cleared my throat, wondering how to have this delicate conversation. “Uh, Jo, well, I have to talk to you about that. I shouldn’t really... I mean, we shouldn’t... before a game....”

She laughed. “I didn’t mean so we could have sex. I meant so we could nap.” Jo pulled her sweatshirt over her head and then removed her sweatpants, too. As I watched her in just her blank panties and blank cami, I thought about tossing that “no sex before a game” rule out the window. I admired the swell of her ass barely covered by the thin material and the way the camisole dipped down just low enough to show her slight cleavage. She yanked back the comforter and sheet and crawled into my bed, holding up the covers for me to slip in with her.

Quickly, I discarded my sweater and jeans and left on my boxers and undershirt, following suit and curling up behind her. Jo was still wearing her hat, so I pulled it off, causing her hair to frizz out with static electricity. She giggled and rolled over so she was facing me. I ran my hand over her hair to smooth it out and then pulled her against my body, savoring the feel of her next to me in this sexy-but-not-sexual way. She nestled against me as I enveloped her in my arms.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“For what?”

“For coming out today. For bringing me here. For... caring. I mean, I never thought I could be this, just, not miserable today. But somehow, you did it.”

“You’re welcome,” I told her, kissing the top of her head and waiting until I heard her breath even out before I allowed myself to drift asleep.

8 comments:

  1. awwwwwwww, seriously, cutest. chapter. everrrrrr

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  2. I don't comment much, but I adore this story!

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  3. I don't even know what I can say that I haven't already. This was touching and beautiful as I have come to expect from you. I am very happy that Jo and Kris are letting each other in. So, good.

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  4. you're an amazing writer.
    end of storyyy (:
    this chapter was amazing, as usual!

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  5. Yep, pretty amazing stuff.

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  6. Heart = owned by Kris and Jo's relationship. I seriously don't think they could be any friggin cuter! This whole update was just impossibly sweet. Kris is like the epitome of the perfect boyfriend. He knows just what to say to make Jo feel better and that's what she really needs especially on this day.

    Fantastic, as always, Jay.<3

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  7. Dare I say it...but are they actually leaning closer towards saying the L word soon?? I keep going back in forth in my mind wondering who will eventually say it first???

    Also, I completely agree with PeytonRose. My heart = Owned by Kris and Jo. I want to take a nap like that too! In a completely non-creepy way of course.

    Great update! Your writing seriously gets more amazing with every chapter!

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  8. Okkk it's time to get caught up... so far behind but, I'm kind of excited about it... SO MUCH TO READ, YAY!!

    "He didn’t sound happy to make the phone call, but he did it for Jo—the sign of a truly great friend."
    ^^ Can I talk again, about how much I love Tubby?! He's not a fan of Kris, but he still calls him because he's THAT AWESOME! Tubby = best. friend. ever.

    "Even though it was underneath her Dartmouth sweatshirt, I knew the length of the chain and where it fell because I had memorized everything about her."
    ^^ Ughhhh excuse me while I die! Kris is so perfect... this line... /sigh.
    It's just amazing, I'm seriously melting here.

    "My heart tightened as I heard her speak to him. It was one thing to hear her say that she spoke to him, but it was another to hear it. It was devastatingly sad yet hopeful, at the same time. I wasn’t sure how that was possible, but it was."
    ^^ Yes, that is a whole paragraph that I quotes, but I was incapable of breaking it up.
    I'm getting all emotional and I'm only on the first update!! Oh no! I'm starting to tear up... poor Jo =(

    “I’m serious, too. I would give my whole world if it means I get to see your beautiful, smiling face."
    ^^ Another melt worthy moment... oh Kris... you just keep getting better and better.

    Ok, I love that he waits until she's asleep, before he even allows himself to fall asleep (routine be damned!). It just goes to show how he has his priorities straight... and how much she means to him =)

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