Wake up Jamie. Jamie. Jamie! Jamie! Jamie!
Saying these words in my head has the effect of me actually saying these words to him because both garner the same response. No word of mine gets heard and it never will, no matter how hard I try or how loud I shout them at him. He’s gonna be late for work. Again. And his boss has been so generous with him. Everyone at his job has been, really. He’s missed so much time and they’ve given him so much time off, but it’s been two years now. Grief is one strong feeling, but Jamie just doesn’t even try to get past it. Greg has just been recently promoted to editor at the paper and he’s already an anxious man to begin with. He’s given Jamie three stories to cover and Jamie has managed to miss the deadline for all of them. He’s gonna get fired soon. I feel it. And then Jaimie will be out of a job and blah, blah, blah and frankly I don’t know what would happen if they let him go. Being a journalist is the only thing keeping him somewhat stable and if he were to lose his job he would have officially lost everything he’s ever cared about. I go downstairs because I can’t bear to see the alarm clock get closer and closer to eight o’clock. It’s seven forty-nine before I leave the bedroom. He’s gonna be so freaking late.
I run my fingertips along the icy kitchen table I helped Jamie set up all those years ago, our little house not having a dining room. He hasn’t gone grocery shopping for the past two weeks and will make a stop at a WaWa or a Dunkin Donuts whenever he chooses to wake up. I miss his cooking so much. The aroma of sizzling bacon and perfectly salted eggs would waft through the house, making it’s presence known in our bedroom and I would rise against my own free will, no matter how early Jamie had risen. It seems like so many years ago when only two have passed.
A figure passes by our backyard and I approach the kitchen sink, peeking out the window above it. I smile when I see who it is and quickly accompany her. Carrie-Ann is knelt down beside a patch of tulips. I look around and see all the work she has done to keep the garden healthy and always growing. Jaimie never comes back here anymore so he never has to question how the garden has remained so beautiful during all this time. She looks up at me and grins.
“It’s become quite lovely hasn’t it?”
I inhale the aroma. The freshness, the rawness of nature. I mirror her happiness. “Yes. Yes it has.”
She rises, wiping off the few remnants of dirt from her hands on her dark blue jeans. We spend the next couple minutes enjoying the view before she turns to me.
“Today was the first day of second grade for my Annabella,” she says with pride.
“Oh, really? Oh my lord, she’s growing up. Time is moving so fast.”
“I know . . . and she got on the bus so happy and grown. She looked back once on her way to wave at Steve. She’s such a big girl now . . .” Carrie-Ann stops looking at me and was now staring off at the memory of her daughter, up into the sky and far off distance. Her eyes become shiny as her proud smile remains. I stare down at my shoes.
“ . . . and Steve had gotten her such a pretty lunch box. He’s learning, it’s amazing,” she gives a laugh and wipes away an escaping tear. I meet her eyes and I can’t help but get choked up as well.
“Ah, well, time is passing. It doesn’t slow down for nothing and for no one . . .” she turns to me with serious eyes. “I have to tell you something.”
“I am all ears.”
Carrie-Ann just stares at me for a couple seconds as if debating if she should continue. She inhales, preparing herself.
“I’m leaving, Cara. I think it’s time.”
And there they were, the words I have dreaded, but tried to prepare myself for were finally spoken and I heard them loud and clear. I have nothing inside of me. No heartbeat, no blood rushing through my veins, no emotions, nothing. I gaze down at the tulips she had been checking on. They are a light shade of pink. If she hadn’t been my companion all of the flowers would have died. This whole area would have been so barren, a reflexion of the man living inside. A man I don’t recognize.
“I think that’s wonderful,” A whisper is all I can manage, but it still is hard to hear. I raise my chin, hoping to subside my tears. I clear my throat to continue. “I think that it’s great for you to finally move on.”
“Cara,” she takes a step toward me. A light breeze ruffles the stems of all the flowers. It shakes the leaves on the neighboring trees, creating music, and it blows Carrie-Ann’s jet black hair across her face. She raises a hand to tuck the left side of hair behind her ear. “I think it’s time for you too.”
Before I can stop myself I have my back turned to her with my arms wrapped around my body as if that could shield me from the truth. But I can’t leave. Not yet, not when he needs me so much. Not when he needs someone to be there, whether he knows I am there or not.
“You know I can’t, Carrie-Ann-”
“Of course you can!” she is right in front of me now with her eyes pleading with me. My attention refocuses on the tulips.
I take a deep breath before continuing. “I need to be here. And you don’t need me, you’ve never really needed me.”
“Cara,” she looks at me with saddened eyes. “Now you know that’s not true.” A tear slips down her cheek. It drips onto the grass from her jaw and suddenly I am transported.
It was raining quite heavily, my hair was glued to my face. My jeans and white t-shirt clung to my body so uncomfortably. My mouth hung agape as I tried to see where I was, but my eyes could only manage a squint because of the downpour. My vision had cleared somewhat and when I looked straight ahead all I saw was sky. It was a dark blue and gray. Thunder sounded, making me jump. I looked down and took a huge step back. It was the city of Philly, I was staring down at the city of Philly. And then it hit me, the realization. My breathing was speeding at such a rapid pace. Suddenly the water on my face wasn’t just the rain.
“Wait,” I pleaded. “This can’t be happening. This isn’t real. I-I-I-I stopped the car, I-”
I was interrupted by screaming. It was terrible, it was the worst sound I had ever heard. Someone was in pain, such deep, awful pain and I looked around desperately to see where it was coming from.
There had been a woman some space over beside me. She was on her knees, but hunched over. I slowly approached her, not wanting to frighten her, assuming she hadn’t noticed my presence. She threw her head back suddenly, her long black hair flying through the sky then hitting the middle of her back. I halted where I was and watched as she shrieked at the top of her lungs. I soon realized she was shouting “no”. She began crying so vigorously her body was shaking.
I hurried over to her and knelt down, wrapping my right arm around her.
“What’s the matter?” I shouted over a crack of thunder.
“LUCY!” she shouted, clutching at her heart. “ANNABELLA! STEVE! NOOO!”
I stared out into the rain and down at the city where I lived. Jaimie was down there. I had heard him. I felt him squeeze my hand. That seemed like a second ago. How could I have gotten here if I felt his touch, heard his voice? He told me to stay with him and I told myself to obey.
“Lucy,” I turned back to the woman. She was silent now, but she remained shaking under my arm. I moved closer to her, trying to give her some kind of warmth. “Annabella,” she whimpered.
She too was staring out at the many buildings and array of passing cars. Her hurt was so palpable I felt the weight of my own heart. I had to drop my arm from her shoulders. I felt so weak, and the cold rain wasn’t helping with the sudden numbness I began to feel. She turned her head and stared at me as if noticing she wasn’t alone for the first time.
“I can’t believe this has happened.”
I swallowed. “Me either.”
I shake my head and take another step back. Carrie-Ann is still staring at me, waiting for a response. I take another step back, stepping into a bed of flowers.
“S***,” I quickly hop out.
“Cara,” Carrie-Ann is in front of me again, but I don’t respond. I just look at her and remember the past two years, everything we have gone through. We both have needed each other so much. I clasp my hand to my mouth, trying not to make a sound as the endless tears run down my face, finally being released.
“Cara,” she repeats. “It’s okay. It’s time though, I mean, I didn’t wake up thinking I would make this decision. It just happened. Once I saw Annabella go off for school I knew it was time to move on. It’s time to go, it’s time to see the other side. You know last week, Lucy forgot to pray for me. I was sad, but I wasn’t hurt because it happens, you know? She came home so tired from soccer that she just went right to sleep. Took a shower, brushed her teeth, said a quick goodnight to Steve and Annabella then just went out like a light. I haven't really been brought up much in conversation lately. They’re living, they’re moving on, they’re healing. It’s time that I do the same-that we do the same.”
I look away, shaking my head. “Jamie hasn’t moved on. I can’t just leave him.”
“What if you being here all the time, your being in that house all the time, him feeling you there, is making him stuck? You need to let him be free.”
“I am helping him be free!” I drop my eyes down to the grass. “At least, I am trying.”
A long stretch of silence accompanies us then, neither one of us really knowing what to say. At least for me. I am so proud that she would be leaving, moving onto the other side, finally being at peace with her fate. I just want Jamie to let me go, to become the man I had known. But then a part of me, a very small part of me, doesn’t want him to get over me. I hate myself for thinking it, but it is the truth.
When I finally meet Carrie-Ann’s eyes she is watching me and I have the feeling she has been the whole time. She gives a small smile.
“I think I heard the car.”
“It’s way past eight anyways.”
“True,” she walks over and bends down, fixing the bed of flowers I ran over with my feet. “But at least he left the house.”
Yeah, at least he left the house. God, but how I wish I had left the house with him. Our jobs began around the same time, we always had left the house together. He dropped me off at seven thirty then would get to the newspaper ten before eight. He was such a passionate journalist, such a talented writer.
How I wish I hadn’t died.
I'm Still Here
Wake up Jamie. Jamie. Jamie! Jamie! Jamie!