I am still here. Somewhere. Out in the ether, which is not true but it feels like it. This story was actually written on the same early morning as the Oboist story but I was indeed falling asleep and just didn’t have the gumption to get it together as a post and subsequently just felt a little flat so I didn’t get back to it until now. I’m afraid that it does read as if it were written in the wee small hours of the morning, cue Frank Sinatra, please. Off we go.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Jane-Ellen was nearing thirty and was still single. This was at a time when society judged women. Women judged women. Men smirked. Maybe times haven’t changed all that much after all.
Jane-Ellen wasn’t initially attracted to Rodge. In fact, the dark circles under his eyes and his accent made her think of Frankenstein’s monster. And she may have said a few Hail Mary’s as repentance for that thought, or not, mostly not. She was not a good Catholic girl, and especially not later when she learned that her family converted to Catholicism for her father’s job, but that’s another story that will probably forever go untold. His cologne, however, had a hint of patchouli, which always gave her good thoughts and enabled her to have good thoughts about him, despite the fact that he kept talking about spies. He was from an eastern bloc country, so she didn’t know if his paranoia was ingrained, or what. He wasn’t the first foreign man she’d spoken with who seemed obsessed with spies, which made her wonder, kind of vaguely, whether she should be worried about spies. Were there spies everywhere, especially in DC?
She and Rodge went on a date and the next time to a movie that moved her, so she kissed him. She was like that. A bit too easy to lean into her emotions without forethought. It never occurred to her that she wasn’t really attracted to him, that she really couldn’t see a future with him. He smelled a touch like patchouli—is that an aphrodisiac?–and that seemed to be enough.
But then John suddenly re-appeared like a pop-up manifestation of everything she wanted and the devil all at the same time. “I want you back,” he said. Just like the devil.
Jane-Ellen wasn’t to be easily convinced. She’d been there and done that and had absolutely no t-shirt to show for it. Yet, John wasn’t Frankenstein’s monster. John was the man of blue eyes and weird humor and full lips that devoured hers (sometimes just a little too moistly, but that was okay, she supposed; she wasn’t an expert on kissing but she did think she preferred the kisses to be a little less slobbery) and who had kissed her absolutely silly in a past life—a year ago—and danced with her to Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” and who she had kissed in return with abandon on a dance floor. Oh, the bloody hormones.
Even with the powerful memories, Jane-Ellen still wasn’t easily convinced. She was prim primster. She was narrow lipped Nelly. She was facing losing a battle because despite of all of her prim primstering, her hormones raged.
John helped her prepare the setup at her apartment for a Thanksgiving that he wouldn’t attend. Loaned her a table. Drove her to buy wine and beer. Helped in the miniscule galley kitchen. No coercing, however, would get him to join her for the family Thanksgiving she was having in her tiny apartment. Rodge did, however, and she may have momentarily succumbed. To being an idiot.
The next time she saw John. The next time she saw John. The world shifted.
Jane-Ellen steeled herself. She had tried with John twice before. John was a commitment-phobe. Or something. Could he actually move forward with her without backtracking? But he was asking her to move in. Asking her to meet his family. Asking her to love him. (That last proved him a bit unaware. Silly man.)
“I do mean it,” he said. “I want you in my life forever.”
Let’s move aside all the times in the past when he’d hurt her. Badly. Jane-Ellen might be in the running for the most able to forgive because she had and would again. But, maybe somewhere in the future, she might need to be forgiven, and she hoped it was in place. We’re all human, she thought. Although she frankly could not imagine a time when she might need to be forgiven.
Because she loved him silly, Jane-Ellen agreed to move in with John.
And maybe Jane-Ellen and John didn’t live happily-ever-after. Maybe they argued, snarked, made each other cry. Maybe they had brilliant afternoons in sepia sunshine. Maybe they raised pints in front of a roaring fire in a Leicester pub. Maybe they made love on a sultry Santa Fe evening after lightning sliced the earth in two. Maybe he got mad at her on his 50th birthday for a stupid reason he wouldn’t remember ten years later. Maybe they held hands at funerals, at weddings, at anniversary parties. Maybe they survived living with each other 24/7 for a month during the pandemic. Maybe they made each laugh and competed in Wordle and found that love grew and grew and grew, like patchouli plants given the right climate. And maybe that’s enough. And maybe it should be.
And Jane-Ellen thinks she’s happy enough.