“I feel like I have holes all over me,” he said in a dream I had a few weeks after he died. “I feel so disgusting.”
“But you’re not,” I said, “I love you.” And I woke up.
It’s not the first time I fell asleep into his darkness.
“I keep having the same nightmare over and over again,” I said to Jay a few times over the years. “I dream you are someone else and you act like you don't even know who I am. You don’t want to be with me.” And then he forgot to kiss me before he got out of bed and I kept hitting snooze on my alarm clock.
I always wanted him to kiss me before he got out of bed in the morning. It was one of our issues we circled back to many times, getting dizzier with each round. “I don't understand why it is so hard,” I would argue, yell and plead until I knew I had gone too far. I would then shake and say, “I am sorry. Please don’t leave.”
But he would slam the door anyway. I followed him on cold nights in my pajamas and bare feet out the door hoping not to wake up the kids reminding him of our deal. I was afraid if he left he would get in an accident, so our agreement was that I was the one to leave when it got to that point. I drove around until we were less mad and we would make up over the phone. "I'm coming home," I said in a quieter voice much too late in the night, "but I want things to be different."
He broke his promise for the last time on the morning he left. He was pulling out of the driveway, and I followed him on this cold morning in my pajamas and bare feet onto the front porch to blow him a kiss goodbye, but he only gave me a slight wave. Looking back now, I can see in his vacant eyes that he had rolled back over to go to sleep. He was already gone and he forgot to blow me a kiss back.
I was not even mad on this morning. I decided a couple of years before that I was tired of the threats we made to one another. “I’m done,” he said. “I’m done,’ I said. But the truth is, neither one of us ever was really done, and life was happier when we gave up pretending we were that brave. The happily ever after rainbow Junebug created in her imagination of a family she would have one day made it difficult to see in black and white.
Jay’s assistant at work wrote me a card after he died. She wrote, "when I think of Jay, the first memory that comes to mind is how in the middle of his work day when his laptop screen went idle and his screen saver popped up, he would sit down and stare at all the pictures of you and the kids. He loved you guys so much and it showed."
He was a family man and we spent most weekends at home with the kids. He had a rainbow too. He spoke about how in love his grandfather was with his grandmother, and he said to me more than once "I want to treat you like he treated her."
I wonder if I made it too easy for him to roll over and fall back asleep. Maybe I should have shaken him harder when I repeated “I keep having the same nightmare over and over again that you are someone else, and you act like you don't even know who I am. You don’t want to be with me.”Maybe I should have argued longer, yelled louder, pleaded more, Maybe I should have left.
I have a hard time with the word "enabling." It feels like a term thrown out by people who have not followed someone barefoot on a cold night. With numb feet from chasing Jay, even I could not understand what it felt like to be in my shoes. I only could feel the fast beat of Junebug's heart as she ran upstairs when she heard her dad dying, and casting my rod out in hopes of saving a man I loved very much was the only way I knew how to calm her racing heart.
As I dig out layer upon layer to find my truth, I unearth forgiveness for myself every time I remember he was an adult responsible for his own alarm clock. The self-blame is buried so deep in soil that does not feel it deserves to grow flowers in the spring or talks herself out of a kiss she deserves. She is used to unexpected frost just when the weather is getting warm, and even with cold winds and harsh conditions, she thinks she can reach the sun. I wanted to grow old with Jay and stand tall and proudly amongst sunflowers in the greenest of fields under the bluest of skies.
Even though we loved holding hands, I realized as I turned my hand's palm side up and back, staring at them in the middle of my kitchen a few nights after he died, that we were holding onto one another for dear life. HIs thumb on my pulse, mine on his and our fingers interweaved tightly into the hands of the other.
He felt so close that night I cleaned the kitchen when I could not sleep. “It’s OK babe,” I said, “I love you no matter what and I always will, and I know you love me too. You know I never stay mad." I was never good at staying mad.
As was our pattern until the end, I wanted to set him free and forgive but I also wanted to argue, yell and plead him to come home but I did not want to wake the kids. “I want us to have another chance,” I said to him. If only I could follow him into the warm Earth in my pajamas with my bare feet where he lay, but I knew it was time to wake up finally to my life.
Space Oddity by David Bowie, Me and Jay at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami