By Marica Wickes
When my Jodi died, I wanted to die along with her, just lie down beside her in the hospital bed and drift away on the wake of her spirit. I wanted that desperately to hold on to her..... for there just didn't seem to be a way for me to get through the pain of it, of the loss of her. In the final days of her illness, when I was on leave from my job and by her side constantly, she would drag herself out of her drugged stupor from time to time and talk to me about the future that I couldn't face. I would hold her hand while she whispered over and over, promise me you'll go on without me baby.... find someone to be with..... you'll break my heart if you give up on love....... don't you give up on it..... promise me...... and of course I would promise her because I wanted her to be peaceful, I didn't want her to worry. But I knew that I was lying. I knew I wouldn't have a heart left to give, after she went. How could I ever love anyone else the way I had loved Jodi..... Jodi, who finished my sentences when I started them...... Jodi, who had worn my ring for 18 years..... my sweet Jodi, who loved me in ways that no one else ever had, ever could. Love another, after Jodi? How could I?
And in the first days after her passing, when I was home and wandering the house late at night when the rest of the world slept, I kept running across reminders of her....... a bookmark in a book that I pulled off the shelf with her notation, tell Lynnie this is good..... and I wept because she had never told me, she must have forgotten, I wept holding that book to my breast and whispering her name in an agonized whisper because the pain of her absence at that moment was so strong that I couldn't draw breath without the knife of it striking me.......... So many reminders...... an old sock, balled up in the back of the closet (closing my eyes remembering her calling baby do you know where my other turquoise sock is?).... oh honey, I do now, please come back and I'll show you...... her alumni news in the mail, months after her death (send in what you're doing NOW it blazed at me from the cover and I shredded it and threw it across the room shrieking she's dead she's dead you b*****ds)........... One night when I couldn't sleep I sat in her kitchen rocker next to her shelf of cookbooks and pulled them down one by one just to read the notes she'd written in them......"this is yucky, never make it again" she'd written in one, or "screw the margarine, this is better with butter" in another...... and one heartbreak notation......"Lynnie's favorite..... make often......" with a tiny red heart in the margin. Oh god, oh god, how I cried that night, and I cursed the fates that took my lover from me, the one woman I loved and trusted and needed beyond needing.......
And the time went on and the pain dulled a bit, but never went away. I of course went back to work and I worked hard and long hours, because I hated that moment of opening the door when I got home and listening for her, "Hi honey, welcome home" that would never come again. I hated the empty house, I hated the absense of her... I hated the loneliness. But I was resigned to it, because I knew that in spite of my promise to Jodi, there was no way I would ever love again.
Then I met Larilee. She was my friend, even before Jodi's death, and was a quiet presence in my life in those gut tearing months following Jodi's passing. She brought food, she brought books, she called work for me when I couldn't; sometimes on the worst nights I would call her at 2 A.M. and she was always the same..... tell me, she'd say, tell me, as if it were 2 in the afternoon and not the rabiddogaftermidnightsavagingweehour of 2 A.M. Tell me, she'd say, and I would and sometimes it was better for the telling. More than once she came over and spent the night on the couch as I thrashed in bed, lost in my tears and hopeless crying.
The night I realized I loved Larilee, I sat down at Jodi's desk in an agony of bewilderment. I had never cleaned out Jodi's old antique rolltop... never even looked in the cubbies and drawers except briefly to look for insurance policies and old bills and such. But that night, I pulled open the top drawer restlessly and my heart clenched when I saw her old fountain pen lying there. Oh, god, how many times I had watched her in her old rocker, writing with that pen... poetry and letters and recipes and to do lists and doodles and schoolwork... that pen WAS Jodi, it had written her heart so many times... and I picked it up and pressed it to my fevered cheek and whispered tell me baby... tell me what to do... I still love you... tell me... then in disgust, I dropped the pen and went into the kitchen for a drink. That particular habit had come back after her death and I tied one on that night, trying to numb myself to the pain that had come roaring back when I had least expected it.
In the morning, the pen was where I had dropped it on Jodi's old journal that I had never had the heart to put away after her death. I moved to pick up the pen and put it away, jostled the journal, and it fell to the floor. As I picked it up, I noticed that the page it opened to had my name written at the top...what on earth, I thought, and I sank into Jodi's rocker to read the words there.
Jodi, please read this baby...........
By now I hope that your life is better, that the pain is receding; by now I hope that your memories are more happy than sad, and that you know that I will always be with you. By now I hope you are sleeping at night, baby, and working hard and not crying. I hope you are seeing people and making a good life for yourself.
Hey you..... by now I hope you are coming to realize that you can love again, that you need to love and be loved. Sweetheart, you made me very happy, all my life with you....... and you will make me happy now if you know that it's OK to love again..... it's OK to live again...... I want that for you, darling, I want your heart to be light and for you to laugh. Don't drink too much, baby, and eat right..... you know I want that. And honey...... she's a good woman, your Larilee..... give her a chance.
I love you.............'
I started to shake, sitting there in her old rocker, and I began to wonder...... did she write this before she died..... did she somehow know that Larilee and I would grow to love each other....... or did she return, in the lees of after midnight and write this to me? I picked up the fountain pen, peered at it closely, then gently put it away. Had she used this pen last night, or in the time before she got too sick to write? I looked at the journal, held it to my face, and sighed as I smelled the faint odor of patchouli and eucalyptus still lingering in the old leather cover. Then I put it down, and rose to call Larilee. Did it matter, really, when she had written it..... when her pen had made those words for me? I didn't know. I just know I had to tell Larilee how I felt and see if she felt the same.
For you see, I always listened to my Jodi. Always.
© - Marcia Wickes