**This story refers to the loss of a spouse, and includes light profanity and a very brief assumed reference of abuse.**
Remember that time in Malaga? You and me, and Jonah? We arrived with twenty bucks in hand and no plan at all. I’ll never forget that night. Remember that bar we landed at? I think I was five energy drinks and vodkas in, and Jonah had had at least that much. Remember how much we laughed? I’ll never forget the look on the bartender’s face as Jonah jumped onto the counter and did a cartwheel. I still can’t believe he landed on his feet when he slipped and fell off.
Sometimes I dream about him, you know. His sandy brown hair that would fall over his eyes. His smile so wide and happy you could hear him laugh, even when no noise came out. It’s funny to me that he was the awkward one when we were kids. Who knew he’d end up being the hottest of us all. Sometimes in my dreams he is still that little ten year old with scrawny arms, but then he’ll suddenly transform into the beautiful man who held me so tight for so many years. You remember, don’t you?
Sometimes I think about how hard it must have been on you. To always be on the sidelines, watching as we fell in love. We didn’t have a care in the world other than ourselves. But you were always there, laughing alongside us, and sinking off into the shadows when the evening was wrapping up and it was time for three to become two. I always tried to ask how the rest of your night went, but I don’t know if I ever really heard the answer. God it’s cheesy, but I could just get so lost in him. I’m sorry if that sometimes meant I forgot about you.
My head hurts. Do you think they’ll come soon? I miss you. I miss him.
Last week I was at the Hungry Whale. It looks the same. The beat up chairs, the sticky floors. Our initials are still on the back of booth four. And the smell, well nothing’s changed there. Stale beer and fried hash.
I could go for some fried hash right now.
Betty still works behind the bar. She’s aged a bit, but not as much as we always thought she would by now. A few wrinkles around the eyes, the dark circles still there. Did you know she quit drinking? I don’t know if I could do that, let alone work at a bar and not drink. God we were such assholes to Betty. Why were we such assholes? Sometimes I think about that night where you and Jonah got into it. I can’t remember why. But I remember Betty. I watched you and she watched me. The fists flew hard and Betty stared harder. I remember grabbing a glass of water and asking her what the hell she was looking at. She just stared. My anxiety was so high about you two battling it out that I took it out on her and flung my empty glass of ice just to the right of her cheek. She didn’t flinch. That Betty. She was kind of a badass. I don’t know why she ever let us back in that place.
I think I hear voices. I hope they come soon. It’s so dark in here. I can’t feel my feet. I think they must just be cold, but I worry it’s something much worse. Please keep talking to me. I need you. I always needed you, you know.
Sometimes I think about when it was just you and me, bombing around the hood on our crappy little bikes. No helmets of course, and plenty of skinned up knees. Remember that day we snuck behind the Levine’s house and hung out by the creek for hours? Man, I must have had a million bug bites when I got home. I can still smell the calamine lotion my mom put all over me. I hated that stuff. I remember how we sat there until the sun set behind the trees, the water dripping over our bare toes. You told me about your uncle and what he did to you. I know you saw the tears in my eyes. Nobody had ever trusted me like that before. I never told a soul, you know, not even Jonah. I wonder if you ever shared with him, but you two were never quite as tight were you? I’m sorry if I had something to do with that.
I’m getting tired. Please don’t go. Stay with me until they come. I can’t do this alone.
It’s funny how life comes full circle. How after the accident it was back to just you and me. Katie and Adam, partners in fun. Partners in sadness. You never left my side. Not when we were kids. Not when my world revolved around him. Not when I lost him. When we lost him. Have I ever told you how much I love you? Because I do, you know. Not in a Jonah way, but as my best friend. Do you know how lucky we are to have been best friends?
You have to find a new best friend. I need to know someone will take care of you. No, I’m not going anywhere, I just need to know. Just for fun. Just to know. Tell me you’ll find someone.
My head hurts. I’m so tired. I wish I could lay my head on your shoulder. It always fit so well there. Man, there have been so many times, just you and me. Dreaming. Crying. Being. Sometimes I think our shoulders were physically designed to perfectly hold each other’s heads. I would give anything for one more night sitting by the creek, head on your shoulder.
Are you still there? It’s so quiet. I think I’ll just close my eyes for a moment. Just stay. Don’t go. I’ll see you when I wake up. We’ll go get ice cream at Lick’s and then head over and give Betty some crap. Sounds perfect, right? Just a few minutes. I’ll be there in just a few minutes.
It’s such a beautiful day. I feel so light.
Jonah, my love!
It’s so good to see you. I have so much to share.
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Mazie, I so enjoyed reading this reflective piece. I can't imagine the loss of a spouse, but I think that's well captured here, with snapshots of memory, the "taking stock" and the re-valuing other relationships. I so liked that she considered she might have had a part in the quality of the guys' relationship and apologized. Here's a great line, "and it was time for three to become two." This also serves as a great essay on how adults can love other adults that they don't have to have. I loved so many of the women I worked with through m...
Hi Mike - thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to my story and giving such wonderful feedback. I am so happy the theme of love is showing through in this otherwise sad tale. Thanks for reading!
This was beautifully poignant, Mazie: you have captured the different ways we can love in such a short amount of monologue - amazing! And your turns of phrase were so evocative: "Remember that day we snuck behind the Levine’s house and hung out by the creek for hours?" made me want to be a kid again, because I remember those kinds of days, and that really brought it home to me again. Just lovely!
Thank you Wendy! I always appreciate your thoughtful feedback and I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed this story!