Monday, September 27, 2010

133.) Retreating

Soundtrack Song - Yellowcard, Shadows and Regrets

When Jo didn’t answer my calls or return my texts, I started to go a little crazy. I had no idea where she was or where she would go. Of course, I was ninety-nine point nine percent sure that she was with Tubby, but that still didn’t mean that I had any way to make sure she was okay. I had Tubby’s number as a just-in-case precaution, but if he knew what was going on, he wouldn’t answer. We didn’t really get along all that well on the best of days, let alone knowing how well we’d get on when I had done something to upset Jo. Tubby was way too protective of Jo, and he’d wrap her up in a bubble if it meant she’d never get hurt. He’d seen her in pain for years, so this would all be a conditioned reaction for him.

That’s why it sucked to have to put my foot down. I guess it was tough love, which was something Jo wasn’t used to. She had to have known that I didn’t like the idea of having to spend the season away from her. She was my girlfriend; I wouldn’t have been in a relationship with her if I didn’t want to actively spend time with her and make her happy. I just knew that helping her reach her long-term goal would make her happier in a few years when she got her diploma instead of coddling her now and keeping her happy when it would take her that much longer to graduate.

I tried to be as patient as possible as I waited for her to come back. To pass the time between calls and texts that were never answered, I cleaned the apartment and unpacked our bags. I did everything I could to prepare the place for her, and then I even called in for Chinese because I knew Jo would like that.

If she would have just come back—or rather, never even left at all—I knew we could have talked about it. I knew that if Jo would have been able to understand where I was coming from, she would then have seen that this wasn’t as easy as her picking up her life and coming with me.

She wouldn’t just be packing a bag and coming to live me wherever I was told to go; things wouldn’t be that simple for Jo during a move. First and majorly, she’d be out of school—a good school, at least—for a year if I wasn’t extended in San José. Jo had told me all about her ambitious plans to graduate in three years since she was already behind her peer group by a year and a half, and there was no way she’d reach her goal if she went with me. I had always encouraged her to realize her dreams to make James proud, so how could I be the one who messes up her plans? That would be counterproductive to everything she had worked so hard toward after we met back in October.

What was one more year apart in the scheme of things? I wanted us to be together forever. As far as our careers would go, we’d find a compromise there. Maybe she could get a job in the city where I’d be that was related and do the research things in the summer when I could be the one following her. We could make it work. So one year now wouldn’t make a difference; I’d rather suffer through the separation now and be happy with her as we grew old together rather than putting it off.

But that wasn’t all. If I wasn’t in California, then she’d have a whole new place to get used to all over again. She’d have to learn to navigate a brand new city, especially if she planned on taking some kind of classes. That’s hard. It takes a long time to get used to a new place. And she’d be alone when I had to go on road trips. There would be the WAGs for whatever team I was a part of, but I knew that Jo wouldn’t easily make friends with them. Although she was getting better at it, she didn’t get along well with girls. It would be tough for her to start over completely new.

Plus, there was the constant threat of getting traded again. What if we relocated and set up camp together, only for me to get traded again? We’d have to go through another last-minute separation and teary goodbye in the airport, because she’d be taking classes. If she stayed established in Pittsburgh, then it wouldn’t matter if I got traded again because I wouldn’t be uprooting her or upsetting her routine.

Sure, Jo would miss me. And I’d miss her, too. In fact, I was the one getting the short end of the stick if she stayed here while I moved for the season. I loved having her to come home to after a road trip. Having a warm body to curl up next to in bed. Knowing she was in the stands, wearing my number, cheering for me when I was on the ice. Celebrating wins with me and consoling me through the losses. She understood me, she knew me, and having her around was good for my own mental health. Jo’s my everything. If I wanted to be selfish, I’d never let her stay, and insist that she move with me.

But that’s not how I learned to love. Mom taught me that if you really love someone, you want the best for them regardless of how it affects you. True love is selfless. This was best for her, and sometimes, the best things aren’t easy or fun. Life requires sacrifice. I’d do whatever it took in order to show her that this was what was good for her, as counterintuitive as it felt. Right now, there was too much uncertainty about the upcoming season to have her transfer. If she could just do one more year in Pittsburgh, then we’d reevaluate our circumstances in a few months and she could fill out the paperwork and apply to whatever school she wanted for the following year—and I’d pay for it all. I’d even keep her set up in this very apartment through the next year so she’d still be comfortable. I was giving her everything I could, and I hated that she saw the only negative and blew it out of proportion.

Jo knew me through and through, so couldn’t she see why I wanted this for her? Her dreams were as important to me as my own. I would champion her causes even if she didn’t want to anymore. I couldn’t let her abandon everything that she worked so hard to overcome or let that all go to waste. She worked so damn hard to get this far, but she still had miles to go.

For girls that had been with their boyfriends since juniors, they knew what the life for a professional hockey player was like as well as what it would take for them to be in a relationship with a pro player, and those girls all bought into the lifestyle. They knew what they were getting themselves into. But Jo, she didn’t know and she didn’t ask for this.

Meeting was serendipitous for the both of us; I had never expected to find someone whom I had clicked with on so many different levels in such a random way at the arena. Part of the reason we had connected was because we had both lived a lifetime in only a few decades. We were developed individuals with plans and dreams and painful experiences and heartaches, all of which were added together to make us the people we were. How could I change the fundamental aspects of the person I loved? Wouldn’t that turn her into someone else—someone other than the girl I fell in love with?

After about a million calls and a billion texts, I still wasn’t getting a response. I was getting agitated and anxious. Surely Jo knew how worried I’d be about her. I drove around Pittsburgh for a bit, checking out some of the places I knew she went, but there was no sign of her. If this was my punishment, I was feeling it. I even desperately called Tubby, but just as I had suspected, he didn’t answer either.

I stayed up as late as I could, waiting for her to come back for the night. Where else would she sleep? She was out so late that I fell asleep on the couch with the television on mute. At one point at night, I woke up and even double checked that she hadn’t snuck in while I was out, tip-toed past me, and got into bed. She hadn’t.

It made me miserable. I took care of Jo—it’s what I did. It’s what I wanted to do; taking care of her was something I loved doing. It was one of the ways that I could physically show her how I felt about her, by making sure she had everything she could ever possibly want or need. Providing for her made me feel like I had a purpose in this life, beyond what I wanted to accomplish professionally. Jo needed to be cultivated, and that was one task I took on willingly. She was like a flower that needed the right amount of water and sunshine to bloom beautifully and fully. It was my most important job to give her everything she required or desired.

With her gone, though, I couldn’t take care of her. She was out there on her own, and I had no idea about what she was doing or where she was. Hopefully at Tubby’s. Probably. But without concrete knowledge of her whereabouts, I was going to worry about her. She had just left the apartment, leaving me behind like she was so upset with me that she couldn’t stand to be in the same vicinity as me. If she were out there alone, something could have happened to her, something bad. I was a nervous wreck. I needed to know that she was okay.

In the morning, I was frustrated. She had been gone all night. She had to have known this was killing me. Even if she was still upset with me, she could have at least had the decency to send me a text to let me know she was okay, or that she wasn’t coming home. Jo knew I would have been worried, and even if she didn’t instinctively know (which, still, she should have, since she knew me so well), then all the texts and missed calls would have been a clear indication.

I picked up my phone again, ready to call again. Until it hit me that maybe she really had meant... goodbye. Maybe she really was done with me. Jo had told me to let her know if I had changed my mind. What if I had? She still wasn’t answering. Was this it? Was it over, just like that? And was it all over because of something like this?

Suddenly, I felt like the walls were caving in around me, like the floor was sinking and trying to swallow me whole. I couldn’t be in that apartment anymore—our apartment. It certainly wasn’t mine; it hadn’t been since Jo had moved in with me back in December. Even though I had rented it for the past two seasons, it’s like I couldn’t remember living there before Jo had moved in. I couldn’t stay, or I felt like I’d go crazy. Stark-raving mad.

I didn’t even shower. Instead, I began packing a bag for Montréal. Mom was already expecting me to come home, and I needed somewhere to go outside of this place. All of Pittsburgh would haunt me if I hung around. Before I left, I wrote a quick note for Jo. She’d have to come back at some point because she’d need her things. When she left, she had only grabbed her purse. Jo’d need her clothes, her cell phone charger... she had nothing. Jo would have to come back, and I knew she’d see the note.

She could stay here, and I was letting her know that. I knew she wouldn’t want to go back to her old house, and I wouldn’t put her in a position to force her back there. I wanted to facilitate her dreams and help make them come true, so I’d let her stay in this apartment as she took her summer courses. Through fall and spring, and the following two years, too. I’d do that for her. Or even if she didn’t want to stay here—which I could certainly understand, since I couldn’t stay here either—I’d set her up in another place. I’d do anything for her as long as it meant she was happy.

The only thing I asked of her in the note was that she called me. I needed to know what was going on to be able to take care of her and set things up for her. I wasn’t happy that this was what she wanted, but she obviously didn’t feel like talking about it. Maybe I was expecting more of a fight out of her, but I had apparently pushed her too far.

I couldn’t even see her one last time, because I didn’t know where she was. I didn’t know where Tubby lived to go over there to see if I could squeeze him for information. There was nothing I could do. It made me miserable, but at least I knew that she’d stay at CMU this way. After all, this was all for Jo in the first place. It didn’t matter if I was miserable as long as she stayed on the road to fulfill her dreams. I knew this was going to be hard on me, but I wasn’t prepared for this. We were supposed to have the whole rest of the summer together before I’d head off for training camp.

Dejected and hurt, I retreated to the airport. I bought a ticket to Montréal on the next flight out of the city, not bothering to call ahead and warn Mom. She was waiting for me anyway. When the cab pulled up to her house in the late afternoon, I barely had the doorknob turned in my hand before the door flew open and Mom had her arms around me.

Hé, Maman,” I sighed, letting go of my bag and hugging her back. After everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours, it was nice to have a welcome reception by someone who loved me.

Kristopher! It feels like I haven’t seen you in forever. I can’t believe only a few weeks have passed. You’re so tan! How was Hawaii? Did you have fun?

I picked up my bag and followed her into the house. “Yeah. It was tons of fun.

Good. I’m glad. You deserve it, Kristopher, after this past season.” She ushered me into the living room and took my bag from me so she could set it down next to the stairs. Suddenly, she turned around and cocked her head to the side, looking at me intensely. “Where’s Jo? Wasn’t she coming, too?

Uh, well, Maman, we got into a fight...” I started, my throat feeling like it was closing up. It was the first time I had to talk about it, and I was finding it difficult to speak in general.

What happened?” she asked. When I didn’t answer her, she questioned, “Was it that bad?

I shrugged with one shoulder as I shoved my hands into my pockets and looked down at the floor. Then I nodded. “Oui. It was bad.

Mom pulled me into another embrace. “Oh, Kristopher. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. Do you think you two will work it out?

I don’t think so,” I told her honestly, closing my eyes and leaning my forehead against her shoulder. I was trying to not let the tidal wave pull me under, the current threatening to whisk me out to sea.

Maybe it’s not as bad as you think. Maybe you two just need a little break. Some space. Time apart. Things’ll work out,” she said, trying to comfort and soothe me.

I didn’t even think you really liked her,” I mumbled, trying to shake off her sympathy; it was only making me feel worse.

I’m your mother. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to give that up or see you want to spend time away from our home—my home. I don’t think I’ll ever want that,” she sighed, cupping my face and kissing my forehead. “But I realize that you want that, because you’re not just my son. You’re a man. And if you have to grow up and find someone you’d rather spend your time with, well, then I was okay with Jo. You love her, and I know she loves you, too. A fight won’t change that.”

“But I don’t think that matters if we want different things. That’s something we can’t overcome if neither of us wants to compromise. Jo doesn’t even want to fight about it anymore. If she doesn’t wanna fight, then things aren’t looking good for us.”

“Don’t worry, Kristopher. She loves you. She won’t let you go. Just you wait and see.


I leaned my forehead against her shoulder again, wishing that things were simpler like they were years ago, when a hug from Mom could fix my boo-boos. I didn’t think anything could fix my broken heart.

10 comments:

  1. seriously, your story is awesome. this chapter explains kris' stance on the issue at hand. i just hope that jo calls him and they actually talk. :)

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  2. What in the the hell? Nooo! These two have a problem of jumping to conclusion before anything is talked/worked out.
    I hope that neighbor doesn't sneak back into his life.

    -Saf

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  3. oh noooo :(
    kris! way to give up!
    gah!
    fix it! hahaha
    loved this, great chapter!!

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  4. Oh my goodness, it's worse than those soap operas where you're yelling at the TV, "Talk to each other!" A lot of assumptions going on here, and not enough communication.

    It's true that Jo should be answering her phone, but maybe she needs to chill out a bit. And I don't know if I like Kris's talk of looking after her like a delicate flower. She's a person capable of making the life decisions that affect her. And they both need to give a little for this work out, but first they need to understand each other's points of view.

    For two people that have been so careful and considerate of each other, both are letting their emotions take over and acting very impulsively. It just seems like there is a huge possibility for misunderstandings now, and now Kris has added physical distance as well. Don't let Marie come out to comfort him!

    Argh! Talk to each other! Can you hear me? Mon dieu!

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  5. You've got to be kidding me.....He left town?!?!?! what if she had been hurt or in trouble...god I was aggravated that she wouldn't think about staying at Dave's and this is what he does....Geez, neither of them are being mature enough to be in a relationship....maybe his Dad will come back to tell him he should not let her walk away, like he did.... boy Jay you are doing a great job with this story...I don't usually get worked up over these stories....Can't wait for next chapter!

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  6. dammit Kris! dammit Jo! again with the jumping to conclusions!! Just take two seconds and talk to each other.

    Kris needs to realize that Jo is a big girl and can make decisions for herself. Yes you want to take care of her but come on now.

    and Jo stop flipping out and running away when things get tough....it's rather annoying!

    I love these two! Jay please make it better! please?

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  7. Jeesh. They just need to talk. Seriously. I hate this. Kris should not have run away. I hope love is enough. I love these two together.

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  8. After 133 chapters, this story is still amazing and it keeps on getting better.

    I'm so disappointed in them. They've come so far and one little argument might ruin their relationship. I hope Kris doesn't do anything with his neighbor and Jo doesn't do anything with Dave.

    PLEASE make things better between them. I can't take them being apart any longer :(

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  9. I'm a little worried. I tell you all the time how multi-dimensional these characters are. How true to life their emotions and conversations are. This story isn't a romantic comedy, where it's a foregone conclusion the boys gets the girl in the end. It's more like a documentary of their lives. In real life things don't always have the ending you were hoping for.

    But you wouldn't do that to them (and us). Would you?

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  10. Oy vey. Now I'm depressed. I have a couple scenarios going through my head that I hope not happen.

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