“So does this mean I’m your boyfriend now??
“What?” Her eyes do a quick search for something in his, “Of course not, no, I could never break up with Brett.”
“But we just made out for, like, an hour.”
“Ah, that was nothing. That was just us being friendly. We tried to study, the sun and the warm breeze and the people of the park made us do it. You’re ok with that, right?”
“Yeah, sure, I’m ok with that.”
“But I would like it if you’d write me while I’m gone.”
“Where are you going?”
“My family goes to Hawaii during the summer, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I still have your postcard from last year on my mirror.”
“You do? Ah, that’s sweet. So…are we gonna be pen pals this summer? I’ll need something to do at night.”
“I’m sure you’ll find plenty to do, but yeah, if by the unlikely chance you find the time to write a letter, I hope you’ll write it to me.”
And she did.
She would write him after a day of sun and surfing; and he would write her back. As soon as he would get her letter, he would write her back immediately. And he’d read it over, and then he’d write it again. And he’d wait a day and then he’d send his reply. And with every letter, he’d include a cut-off piece of a polaroid of the two of them — taken after the last debate meet of their Junior year. She had her head on his shoulder and he was looking at the camera.
And the years rolled by and time did what time does.
And then a letter,
Hey Dan, have you ever tried electronic mail? My school has electronic mail now - you can write me a letter on a computer and I’ll get it seconds later. It’s totally free. Go to your computer lab and ask about it. My address is JennyD7595@comp.it.email.weber.edu - you’ll have to type that in, they can explain it all.
And he did. He went to the computer lab and learned about electronic mail and every day he would find himself in the vicinity of the lab, so he’d take a minute to check his account and his heart would race a little every time a new message showed up.
Dan, the craziest thing has happened. You know that guy I told you about. I think...I think I’m going to marry him. It’s crazy, but I, I don’t know, it just seems...right. School is such a drag, you know it’s not really been my thing. I know he’s older, and I told you he’s got a kid, right? I know it’s probably a mistake, but you gotta follow your heart, you know, and this is what my heart wants. That’s the first thing I’ve been sure of all year.
And she did. She followed her heart and married the guy she’d told Dan about. And he was exciting. And he was kind. Except when he wasn’t. Maybe he’d had too much to drink, or maybe there was something she’d done to provoke him.
But the years rolled on and time did what time does.
And Dan would see her green dot light up on AOL Messenger and they’d catch up.
Graduation for him, a baby for her.
And they’d talk on myspace and Dan was one of her top friends.
Marriage for him, divorce for her.
Hey, Dan are you on Facebook? I wanna see some pics of that sweet new baby of yours.
I am, add me as a friend already. How’s Sophie doing?
She’s good. I can’t believe she’s going into kindergarten already. How do you like being a Dad?
Nobody told me that dads don’t get to sleep either. I have forgotten what it feels like to sleep through the night, is it nice? Does this end? Am I ever going to be able to hold a line of thinking? I may have to get a new job if this keeps up - nobody wants a developer that can’t keep his thoughts straight long enough to write a line of code. Speaking of jobs, how’s massage therapy going?
Ah, yes, I remember those days. Things will be better and you’ll miss that little human that kept you awake all night. God, I miss those days. Massage therapy is good - I’m done with my certification and I’ve been taking on clients at my house. It’s so nice to be able to work from home, as long as you can avoid the creeps, you know? My wrists ache. Did you know that massage therapists’ eventually have to quit after, like, less than ten years of practice because of so much damage to wrists and elbows? You don’t learn that until you talk with established therapists in clinic and by then you’re almost done with school. But hopefully I’ll be the exception and I’ll have a long, fulfilling career. Or maybe I’ll get a rich client and he’ll propose to me and I’ll turn him down but he’ll beg to pay for Sophie’s education. And I’ll say, ‘well, it’s Sophie’s choice,’ and Sophie will roll her eyes at me because she’s so tired of that joke. Anyway, not much has changed around here. I’m happy you’re doing well - I hope I get to see you when I go back to visit Mom - she’s not doing so well. In the meantime, get to posting some good pics on Facebook!
And the years sped up and time got harder to hold.
And they’d see each other on Instagram and she’d like his posts and he’d do the same. And one day, she posted a picture of a polaroid held together by pieces of scotch tape. And he liked it.
And one day, his wife told him he should get off Instagram.
And so, Jenny would send a text, or an email.
And she’d tell him about her new boyfriend. And that she was going to move in with him.
And she’d tell him about the shock she had when she realized she was pregnant. And the devastation of the stupid-ass boyfriend not coming home.
And she’d say in her texts, which would not pop up on his phone screen, because she wasn’t Jenny in his phone, she was Carl. And his phone would hide alerts for Carl. But when he was by himself, he could freely read Carl’s new messages which today read,
Are you going to the 20 yr reunion? I think I’m going to go. And if you go, then I *know* I’m going to go. You should go. Maybe even try to go by yourself - I’m sure all your friends would like to have some time with just you, you know? Anyway, either way, let me know, ok? But I hope you can come. Alone. I mean, not, like *come* alone but...never mind. Ignore that last part. Just, well, shit, just come to the fkin’ reunion, ok?
And he’d reply,
I’ll be there. When/where is it? I haven’t been on Facebook for, like, 3 years now. But it would be good to catch up. Not sure if much catching up will happen, I have a pretty short leash, but I’ll see what I can do.”
And he did go. And so did his wife. And he’d talk to the other couples and introduce them to his wife. They’d say how nice it was to meet her. And they’d talk about how wild it was that 20 years had already passed. And about how crazy it was that some of them now had kids in High School, and that Kerry Anderson Smoot was already a grandma, and wasn’t that just crazy?
And he’d catch Jenny’s eye and they’d hold it as long as they dared. And after she’d had too much to drink, she approached him. And she called his wife a bitch. And Dan had to act as though he didn’t even know this crazy person all that well. And he had to look at the confusion in her eyes. And he tried to mouth I’m sorry. And the whole way home, he sat through an interrogation about who was that woman, and why did she do that?”
And that night, as he lay on the couch, he thought about how good it was to see her, to be in the same room as her. He thought about what a coward he’d been. He pictured himself asking for a divorce.
But it never happened.
And the years were days and time couldn’t slow down.
The kids grew up. And Julie, Dan’s wife, was sick.And he cared for her. And he was patient. And life wasn’t so bad.
And he held a proper funeral for her. And children and friends talked of their enduring love. About the unbreakable bond they had and of what an example of love and kindness and romance and true love they had been. And how he was the love of her life, and she was his and how much he’d surely miss her.
And the years were a blur and time was too.
And then he got a text,
Hey, Dan, how have you been? I heard about Julie. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it, but I thought it was best I keep my distance. How you doin?
I’ve been ok. It’s been almost two years now, can you believe that?
No, that’s crazy. Has it really been that long? I’m sorry I didn’t reach out. I thought it best to keep my distance.
It’s ok. Crazy how time flies. How are you?
I’m good. Actually, actually, I’m not. I’ve got stage 4 cancer. I guess they didn’t get it all back when I got the mastectomy or something and now it’s moved to my bones? I don’t know. I don’t feel well, and I ache all the time and I’m scared, and for some fking reason, all I want to do is see you.
Then see me. Or, I’ll see you. Where are you?
I’m at the Huntsman Institute. They just admitted me today.
Huntsman? How? Why didn’t you tell me it was this bad?
It’s been really fast, and I know you’ve had your own shit to deal with.
I’ll be there. I’m leaving now.
I’ll be here. I’ll save you a seat.
And he went to the hospital and walked into her room and she hugged him as best she could from her bed. And he cried. He cried in the pillow as his head was finally next to hers. And they lay there all night. The nurses would come and he’d move for them and he’d go back to the bed and lay next to her.
And she held his hand and he said, “I wish we’d done this years ago.”
And she opened her eyes and looked into his and gently whispered, “Don’t be an ass; you’ve been with me the whole time.”