Monday, October 4, 2010

136.) Roller Coaster

Soundtrack Song - Relient K, I So Hate Consequences

The only good thing about being busy is that it leaves you with very little time to think about things. My past three weeks had been incredibly, outrageously crazy. I had to find a place to stay, move out, get a job to be able to pay rent at my new place and also buy books, and then start my classes. I had to take my car to the mechanic for a tune-up, since it had sat around for a few months without being driven. And, most importantly, save up so I could take James’s jacket to a leatherworker so I could get a wallet made out of it. I still wanted that piece of him with me, so it had to change if I could use it. Just like my dreams changed, his jacket had to, too.

Things fell into place rather easily for me. Some things just seem to work out. Drew was moving out, so after Dave talked to Carl and Wayne, they took down their ad on Craigslist for a new roomie and I got to take the now-open bedroom. I packed up my things from Kris’s apartment, and Tubby, Dave, and Carl helped me move my bed and dresser from my old house one day when my dad wasn’t there.

I got a job at Sheetz. It wasn’t a great position, making the MTOs that I had so often ordered for dinner, but I wasn’t going to go crawling back get a position at my old job. Besides, they had probably filled up all the positions at the new Consol Energy Center by now anyways. I just would’ve been screwed. But this was better, I thought, because it was like making a clean break from the life I had known before Kris had entered my world.

Kris had wanted me to stay at Carnegie Mellon, but just knowing that kind of made me bitter toward the place. After all, if Kris hadn’t felt so adamantly that I stayed here, then none of what happened would have happened. But regardless, I threw myself into my classes, like physics II and calc II, which were going to be my hardest courses. I had a computer course, a stupid poetry class, and psych, too, to round out my sixteen credit course load. As long as I passed them all, I would be a sophomore come fall. The courses were condensed into six weeks, so I knew that it would be too much of myself to expect straight As again, but I was going to try.

So between classes, reading assignments, homework, and working an average of thirty hours a week at Sheetz, my schedule was pretty full. My free time was spent sleeping, and I didn’t do much of anything other than that.

That’s not to say I wasn’t upset or sad over what happened; I just didn’t get a lot of time to be upset or sad. At night, when the lights were turned out and I hadn’t yet succumbed to sweet slumber, the memories of Kris haunted me. I cried myself to sleep a lot, but I didn’t have the luxury to isolate myself over this lost part of my life. When James died, my life steadily deteriorated. But now, under these circumstances, I had to keep moving forward. I had to work, had to go to class, had to wake up every morning and pretend like I was okay with it.

Tubby spent a bunch of nights over at my new place. It felt a lot like the summer before, except that I wasn’t drunk, we weren’t getting high, and Tubby wasn’t babysitting me. But we did the same things: sit around, talk, and he’d spend the night. We never did anything, but it felt nice to have a warm body in bed with me and someone to hold me so I didn’t feel so utterly alone. He held me when I cried and constantly told me that things were going to get better, that things were going to be okay. I knew that my life was doomed to get really hard again once Tubby left for Philadelphia for school, but until then, I was going to take advantage of the comfort offered to me by my best friend while he was around to comfort me.

I had a random Wednesday off. Usually I had class, but there was some kind of problem with Science building so class was cancelled that day; since I usually would have class, I wasn’t scheduled to work. I planned on spending the day in my pajamas, doing nothing, eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and watching television. It was going to be difficult to avoid thinking about Kris with all that time on my hands, but I was getting worn out by being some all-work-and-no-play version of Jo.

It was a hot morning, so I was still in my shorts and cami which I had slept in. My hair was pulled back in a sloppy bun, and I hadn’t even washed my face yet when I walked into the kitchen for something to eat. I didn’t have a lot of food since I ate at Sheetz and got to bring stuff home a lot. It saved me from having to buy groceries, which was really great since my pay check didn’t last much once all my bills were paid. I found a banana that was almost black all over, broke the peel, and then got a spoon to dig out the mush. I had become much less wasteful once I had to provide fully for myself.

Dave was wide awake and fully dressed, sitting at the counter and reading the newspaper. He was kind of like an old man that way. I yawned and greeted him. “Good mornin’.”

“Hey, morning, Jo. What’s up?”

I yawned again. “Nothing. I got a message from the school that my class is canceled, so absolutely nothing is up today. You? Work today?”

“No, actually. I’m taking Ryan and Regina to Kennywood,” he explained. I knew that he was talking about his niece and nephew. Dave took his sister’s kids at least once a month so she could relax and pamper herself or go on a date with her husband. Dave really was a genuinely nice guy—especially since Ryan and Regina were eight-year-old monsters, born ten months apart.

“Sounds fun,” I laughed. I couldn’t imagine him with those two kids running around Pittsburgh’s amusement park after all the stories he had told me about them. “Are you going to be able to keep up with them? They’ll run you ragged.”

“Ugh, no, I’m completely unprepared for this,” he replied with a chuckle of his own. He paused for a while as he took another bite of his cereal. Then he asked, “Do you wanna come?”

“To Kennywood?” I hadn’t been there since before my senior year in high school. James and I always went together, and I hadn’t gone after he died. It was too difficult to go with my classmates for our school picnic, even though Tubby said he’d go with me. I missed a lot of things that year, like prom, too.

“Yeah. You said yourself that you’ve got the day off, and you could use a little fun.”

I wanted to say no, because I wasn’t in the mood to go out and do anything for the sake of having fun. But I made myself say, “Okay.” The usual Jo would have done anything to go out and mess around and not be so serious. I missed that old Jo, which is why I agreed.

We left the house at about ten to go pick up the kids, but by the time we made it to the park, it was eleven. Dave’s sister, Sarah, was ten years older than him, and a little overprotective of her kids. They weren’t monsters per se, but they were full of energy and a handful for us to keep up with. They literally ran from ride to ride, from the Jack Rabbit to the Racers to the Log Jammer, from one ride to the next closest like there wouldn’t be enough time to ride them all. Since it was a Wednesday, the lines weren’t long. By the time we got off the Aero 360, I felt queasy from too many fast-paced rides in such a quick succession.

“Can we sit down for a second?” I asked, pressing a hand against my stomach. “Omph. Gimme five minutes, please.”

“You okay?” Dave laughed, as the kids rolled their eyes at me. I guess I was lame. “You gonna be able to keep your breakfast down?”

“Yeah. Just....” I took another deep breath as I tried to calm down. “Every time I ever came here, there were lines for like half an hour. It’s too much all at once.”

“Uncle Dave, can we go ride something?” Ryan whined. “There aren’t any lines. I don’t want to just sit here. Please!”

“Okay, well, you two can ride something, and we’ll sit this one out,” Dave conceded.

“I wanna ride the Pirate Ship next!” Regina cried out, her eyes getting wide with excitement.

“And the Musik Express!” Ryan replied. He started off running, his sister close on his heels, and Dave had to call after them to slow down.

“I’m sorry,” I moaned. We meandered farther down the stretch of concrete, the kids far ahead of us as I tried to walk fast but felt like I couldn’t. The two of us sat on a bench where we could watch them stand in line. This is what it would feel like to have kids, I guess.

“No, it’s okay. I didn’t want to seem lame, but I needed a break, too.” He smiled at me and shrugged. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Uh, I don’t think I like conversations that start out that way.”

“It’s not a bad question, I’ve just been wondering for a while... whatever happened to your motorcycle? Do you still have it?”

“Oh, yeah,” I answered, surprised that that was his question. I wasn’t sure what I had been expecting, but certainly not that. “It pretty much was just scraped up. Still works and all.”

“Do you ride it?”

I sighed. “No. I don’t.”

“Why not?”

Shrugging, I told him, “I don’t know, I guess. It was the last thing on my mind for so long, and honestly I haven’t thought about it until you brought it up.”

“Really? No urge to ride at all.”

“So much was going on. It was winter, and then Kris’s trade, I was busy with my semester, and then not home to even have a chance to ride. Honestly, I never thought about it.”

“So what about now? Do you feel like riding now?”

I thought about the bike in my dad’s garage. It was just sitting there, unused; I wasn’t even sure if it would work. The first thought in my head was: Kris would flip a shit if he knew I was even thinking about getting on my motorcycle again after the accident. It was only after I thought that did I realize that it didn’t matter, because he wasn’t a part of the equation anymore. Even so, there was another reason why my mind had pushed riding far from my mind. I was worried I’d wreck again.

“No. I’m scared.”


“Yeah. Definitely. I feel really lucky that my accident wasn’t worse. I mean, the truck could have not stopped at all, and it could have hit me. I had some broken bones, some bruises and scrapes, but I was pretty much okay, physically. Wrecking, though, it hurt so much more than that. I don’t want to go through all that again, you know, just in case it happens again.”

“You know what they say, though, don’t you, Jo? ‘You have to get back on the horse that threw you.’ You fall off once, and you get right back on.”

“Aren’t you a paramedic?” I asked, turning toward him.

He rubbed the back of his neck as he looked to see Ryan and Regina getting on the Pirate Ship. “Uh, yeah, you know that.”

“So don’t you see bad things happen to people all the time? Accidents? Death?” He nodded in response to my question. “So how can you encourage people to take risks?”

“Because accidents can happen during the most mundane things. You go for a walk and step funny on a crack in the sidewalk, and boom—your ankle’s broken. You look both ways before crossing the street, but some guy comes flying up and isn’t looking, and wham—you get hit by a car. Accidents happen whether you’re engaging in risky behavior or being safe, and I don’t expect anyone to want to stay inside in their house and never leave just to avoid something bad. Hell, something bad could happen in your house, too.

“But part of being an EMT is more than just being a first responder. We transfer people to hospitals from their homes or assisted living communities, too. So we see these old people, and honestly, it’s kinda sad. It makes you wanna go out and do things to live your life—not sit at home because it’s safe. It makes you wanna just enjoy your life while you can, do the things that make you happy, and live to the fullest.”

I nodded my head. It was a nice little speech, and very inspirational. It reminded me of a lot of things that I had forgotten about. I used to think that way, too: live life to the fullest, because you never knew when you wouldn’t have the chance to do so anymore. Now, I was living like a zombie, waking up, going to class, going to work, doing school work, and sleeping, only to do it all over again the very next day.

“But what if I get hurt again?” I asked. It may have seemed like I was still talking about riding a motorcycle, but in my head, I knew that I was talking about more than just riding; I was talking about life. I had been hurt by someone I had trusted and cared for, and I was scared of opening up and letting someone in again. A few weeks had passed, and I was still wary of everyone.

“Then you get hurt. It’s a scary thing, but sometimes, the benefits and rewards outweigh the risk. Don’t be scared to live your life, Jo.”

That was solid advice, something that the old me would have told my current me. I smiled at him warmly, glad to be having this conversation. Now it was my turn to ask a question of Dave. “Why did you want to become an EMT? And a doctor?”

“Well, I wanna help people. My parents were in this accident—”

I pressed my hand against his arm. “I’m really sorry, Dave,” I whispered. Just another person’s life, touched by tragedy. But he was trying to make the most of his life in response to the devastation.

“Oh, no, Jo, it’s not what you’re thinking. They’re okay. My parents were fine. That’s why I wanted to get into the medical field. The EMTs, the doctors and nurses in the hospital, they saved their lives. I’m indebted to those people, and I want to repay the favor and save people, save parents, and sons and daughters and wives and husbands for the people who love them.”

“That’s really noble,” I sighed. Without really knowing what I was doing, I leaned against Dave’s side and rested my head against his shoulder. I always knew that Dave was, at heart, a really good guy.

He responded by putting his arm around me and giving me a little squeeze. “Thanks. I try.”


  1. i hope jo and kris talk soon because their fight was blown way out of proportion! they are each other's other half and i would be really sad to see them not work this out. please dont keep them apart too long. on another note, i really enjoy this well-written story. great writing. keep it up! :)

  2. OMG! No!! I can't take this anymore! Jay, your killing me!

  3. Wow, it seems like time is really flying by and Jo is getting on with life. Good for her, she's not staying at his place (Kris was nuts to think she'd want to stay there, where there were many memories and he might come back anytime) and she's working and going to school. The part with Tubby is a little off and quite sad, it's like Jo keeps it together in the daytime but falls apart at night. But overall, she's stronger and it's like she's moving on.

    And I'm really nervous about Jo riding her bike again. I feel like something bad is going to happen. And she was taking all her pills, right? Because everytime she gets queasy or weak, I'm thinking pregnancy.

    Plus, am I dyslexic? I read "Ryan and Regina were eight-year-old monsters, born ten months apart" as ten-year-olds,born eight months apart, and I'm like, that can't be right!

  4. Please Please Please!!! get Jo and Kris back together or at lease talking again ugh it is killing me!!
    Update soon

  5. step off, dave.
    she's got a giant-ass ex boyfriend that still loves her.
    and i am not looking forward to this motorcycle excursion...
    more! bring kris back!!

  6. Okay, I know I am going to be alone here with my unpopular opinion but I LOVED THIS CHAPTTTERR!

    I love Kris, I think he's over dramatic to the MAX, but I still love him. But, OMG how can you not love Dave here? Not that I love Dave FOR Jo, but I just think being around someone different, someone who helps her realize that it's okay to have a different mindset than Kris 'safety first' Letang is good for her wellbeing. She was always so ready to do whatever Kris wanted her to and she's stopped doing some things that were really good for her because of it - ie. having Dave as an amazing friend which he obviously is.

    My favorite line?
    "I still wanted that piece of him with me, so it had to change if I could use it. Just like my dreams changed, his jacket had to, too."

    Jay, you make me feel so smart. And just like you mentionned at the end of DNW, I feel like I am back in a literary class everytime I read a chapter and like I am dissecting everything and letting everything all come together. <3

    I hate that Jo and Kris are apart right now, but I think it's necessary. I think Jo and Kris both needed to realize that Jo isn't the same girl she was when James died. Kris needs to have more faith in Jo as a person with a way of life and her own brain to make decisions about her goals and her dreams and what she wants to do without him feeling like he needs to enforce his input, and Jo needs some reaffirmation of that, too.

    I'm sad she's spending nights with Tubby crying, and I still think he is like the greatest friend a girl could ever have, but look how much healthier her mindset is than when she was sad before. She is growing and this chapter, while sad and depressing, really underscores how much we have seen Jo grow and develop into a wondrful woman that her brother would be super proud of.

    I don't want anything bad to happen on the motorcycle and I think it makes a lot of sense that Jo is scared but if all she takes from the covversation with Dave is a reaffirmation of the person she is, her way of life, and how to balance that and the 'safety first' fear that kris has taught her, I think that is a very good thing.

    Ugh, I am anxious to see what Kris has been up to over the past few weeks! I hope he's done as much growing and thinking as Jo has (but by not talking to Jo over weeks and running off to Montreal I am going to guess that isn't the case). A couple weeks after their couple week vacation - wouldn't that mean Kris is a free agent? Or has San Jose signed him? Or someone else? And what has come from whatever Julie had to do with him when he was 'drunk' from his half glass of beer?

    So muuuuch I want to know! Great stuff.

  7. Dave needs to back off. Kris needs to come back and make up with her now.

  8. Kris you idiot! You need to get back to Pgh. pronto buster. Wake up!
    Jo is moving on with out you!

  9. UPDATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. I think Jo being with Dave is a good thing. She's rediscovering herself. Over time she has made herself into what Kris wanted. I hope this gets her to a happy medium. The good parts of the old Jo and the good parts of the new Jo. Hopefully Julie is reminding Kris of a more carefree time in his life, making him realize that being so careful can zap the fun out of things. I do not want them to be more than friends with Dave & Julie!!
    Of course I want them together and happy.

    I think the Sharks are "Marc Staaling" Kris. He's RFA so they don't have to worry about him until he gets an offer from another team or training camp starts. So what if it reeks havoc in his life!?!