What is Life Without the Main Character?

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What is The Walking Dead without Rick? What is Hart of Dixie without Zoey Hart? What is Breaking Bad without Walter White? What happens to me without my husband? What happens to our son?

 

October 19, 2006

I wrote up something about Jason today that has been on my mind. The main character in a blockbuster movie is always a famous actor. And most people watch the movie when it comes out just because they love the actor, and they assume that any movie he is associated with will be worth watching. Who cares who directed it. As far as we know, the famous actor makes the blockbusters. So this is a total metaphor for Jason and his life. He was the main character. He made this movie, our life, worth watching, worth living. The dynamics were all hinging on Jason, on his actions, on his moods. If the main character dies at the beginning of the movie, the movie flops. No one wants to watch it if the main character can’t make another appearance. Jason can’t make another appearance in this life, but he can make another appearance on earth. He is in heaven. Later we will all be on earth again. But this life has lost its main character. Without Jason, there is no husband, father, son, brother, friend, nephew or cousin. You could say that he was a part of the final destination- he escaped death twice as a child and numerous times as a young adult doing foolish things. You could think that all of his strength was spent fighting for life, and the risky behavior added up and the culmination of these overwhelming factors ended in one day of destruction. But we will walk the earth again together. God has promised us. God is the genius director of this movie of life. All things work together for good.

What is left for us, the lesser, lower-paid, unknown actors that are struggling for our careers in this life? We are alone, without the main character, without my husband and the daddy that was going to raise Caleb with me. My pastor said, “Live by faith, not by circumstance.” With all the analyzing I do, it all comes down to trusting God. I cannot be hopeless. I know that good will triumph over evil. What a great Lord we have to serve. And I need to focus on serving Him.

Jason has been gone almost seven months. And it is just as fresh. If he came home tonight, I could jump back into being his wife so fast. I would have no trouble changing my way of life, because this is not my ideal lifestyle. I don’t need to describe how wonderful it was to know Jason is here, and that we would be together every night. Knowing he was here, and knowing I was loved was the security and comfort that I need now. My circumstances now are rootless. I live between two different towns trying to make things work for Caleb, and my random existence is monotonous and unnatural. It would be the opposite of shock if I could jump straight back into my life with Jason again. If he could walk up to me and say that he is sorry for leaving so long, I could tell him that I already forgave him. I always knew that it wasn’t his fault anyway. I would throw all of my energy into making his life easier and full of devotion and love. I would cook for him, follow him, compromise anything for him, and find any creative means that I could to show him my affection. I know what it’s like to be both provider and mother to my son now.

He left for work Monday the 20th of March. It was yesterday. As far as I’m concerned he’s so fresh in my mind. When I think of him this way, and try to forget what happens next, I smile because the memory seems so close. And I’ll find him at the gates. And that sounds so unrealistic and surreal, but it will happen. It’s like saying I want to fall asleep and find myself in a dream, but it will happen. How do people ever cope with death when they don’t believe?

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Regret and Blame

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Before losing my husband, I never suffered anything traumatic. A friend worried that my limited life experience left me emotionally unprepared. Emotional strength comes from having the right foundation. Everything I was taught was biblical. I retreated back to it, grateful to know that Truth could not shatter like everything else.  While standing in church, I told myself that it was my sanctuary from pain. At least while I was there, I would feel peace.

In some ways I was doing well, but my bouts of depression usually led to being withdrawn. I was often around large gatherings of people that knew Jason, and this made his absence more severe. With all the love coming from everyone associated with Jason, both friends and family, the animosity of just one person was enough to make me hesitate and avoid interactions.

Everyone deals with death differently. Mine was to regret. Why didn’t I go home sooner? Maybe I could have stopped him. If he saw me and the baby, that would have been enough…But my logical mind always knew the truth. No one could have predicted such a thing would happen. No one had the ability to read his mind or feel the hidden turmoil that he must have been experiencing that day. If they did, they would have tried to stop him. I did not eat for a week while I rehashed every detail. Jason said he didn’t feel well when he talked to me on the phone that day. He stated that he was coming home to work on cleaning out the truck in the yard. He didn’t even say that he was planning to go to the hospital.

At that point, did he have a plan? In hindsight, he sounded sad. But in the moment, I couldn’t make that interpretation. The bottom line is that everyone who saw him that day would never conceive of it being his last. It was too unexpected. There was no one to blame.

I remember seeing movies with this storyline: a parent is rushing to make it to their child’s Christmas play and dies in a car crash on the way. The child then feels like it’s their fault until a wise adult steps in to reassure and correct the child. It’s a simple truth, and it really doesn’t have to do with forgiveness, because the child did not cause the crash. This has always made sense to me. To treat the child as if it was her fault would be heartless and unjustified.

Losing a husband really is like losing your other half. The person you learned to lean on is no longer there to hold on to. The situation became more hurtful when one person decided to blame me. Seeing the negative change in this person was disheartening, a stark contrast from what I knew was right, but it was not in my power to change the anger of another person.

It was years later that I learned the severity of that hatred. The person went so far as to slander me throughout the community with a theory that I poisoned my husband. Of course the toxicology report came back with only slightly elevated levels of Adderall. Many people have come forward to confirm that these sad allegations were made, and they also assured me that they never took the person seriously. Anyone that did wasn’t a part of my life and didn’t know me.

Toxic People

 

 

 


 

A trigger was released in paradise, and the shot traveled a short physical distance, but the aftershock pierced a heart one mile and one hour away. One year and one week after that shot was released, the pain and the loss and the dreams increased. Relief is a fleeting and other-worldly desired emotion. It mocks and remembers and dangles images in a mind of what was and what could have been. Reality was confused with nightmare; someone forgot to wake up, and soon the dreams became the desired state. It becomes better to sleep through the night and maybe sleep through the day and never wake up because the dream is the only possible return to that shattered paradise. Life only seems to move in one direction when purpose and love get lost. There is no sigh of release with a warm and welcome feeling of contentment.

 

 

 

Six Months a Widow

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By this time eight years ago, I had been a widow for a little over six months. I read books and watched movies in which loved ones died, and there were only two ways: either it was unexpected like a car crash, or it was looming in the future because of illness. Philosophizing on what was better turned out to be counterproductive. I refused to be angry at Jason. Instead, I focused on how much he loved us. There was a physical problem that led him to hopelessness. It wasn’t enough of an explanation, but hope for myself and my son saved me from spiraling so deep into depression that I wouldn’t recover.

The idea of taking anxiety medication never crossed my mind. My doctor never suggested it because I never told her that I lost my husband. I knew the words wouldn’t leave my mouth before I would break down. It was best to avoid the subject if possible. Too many times I was asked, “I’m so sorry. How did he die?” The answer was too much to process, and there was no reply that could gracefully close the subject. To avoid this, I began answering that he died in a car wreck. It was the only way to save myself from going through the same awkward exchange time and again.

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Over those six months, close friends took me out to play pool, go to the movies or the beach. My aunt lost her husband when she was young, and she encouraged me to travel. She said it would seem like a new life when I returned. Two times I left town to visit friends because I had to escape the memories of everything familiar. In Waynesville, I hiked in the Blue Ridge Mountains, feeling my spirits lift with every step. In Greenwood, I spent time with my best friend and lived a weekend like a college student, complete with a trip to the laundromat. I saw Josh Turner in concert at the Waterfestival and admired how he cracked a joke when he introduced his wife: “That’s my beautiful wife at the keyboard. She’s not fat, she’s just pregnant.” Every distraction was welcomed. It was my way of being strong and coping.

As you can imagine, my bank account took a hit from this quest of self-discovery. I started training to become a tour guide in downtown Beaufort, SC during the summer. Being outside and doing physical work was so therapeutic that I grew to love the humidity and blazing sun which left me with a constant reddish tan. Customers were so delighted with my historical narrative that I was able to shed my reserve and began engaging others more naturally. Many days started at the barn where I fed 1500 lb. draft horses, trailered them to town, entertained my guests and then brought the big guys home for more hay and horse feed. The economy was great, and the tourists were generous with tips.

Some nights I went horse back riding on Cane Island with friends from work. The horses were so monstrous that we had no saddles to fit and probably wouldn’t have used them if we did. Lead ropes and halters became make-shift bridles, and we had to climb on the trailer to mount up. Rocky, my beautiful dapple gray Percheron wasn’t the best trail horse. Every snapping twig in the woods made him jump or leap forward, but we cantered across the island, eating up the ground in long strides. At work, he was the most endearing and annoying horse- always knocked over my diet cokes at the end of the day and walked so slowly on the tour that I was forced to learn more history to fill up the time. Let him out in the pasture though, and he galloped and kicked like he hadn’t worked at all.

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I felt more confident with every debt that I paid off. Planning for an independent future became so important because I had to believe there would be no more surprises. I had to be in control. When my uncle and aunt offered to pay for classes to finish college, I imagined holding the degree in my hand. I wanted to have something that no one could take from me, something that I could not lose.

By October of 2006, I was enrolled at USCB to finish up my bachelor’s degree in English. In an effort to avoid romantic literature, I took a war/anti war class where I was assigned to read House Made of Dawn, The Killer Angels and All’s Quiet on the Western Front. My brother was going to Afghanistan with the National Guard, and I wanted to pretend that war was literature, not reality. I won tickets one weekend to see the Gamecocks play against Florida, and this was yet another opportunity to do something new. In no way was I healed, and I didn’t have a concrete future plan, but I felt like I was moving in the right direction. When I went running, I repeated the word Strength. When I felt like crying, I repeated Resilience. When I was in church, I thought Peace. 

 


 

Cold Hands

Everyday I travel farther away.

Someday I might wake up and forget.

Or think it was only young love

But I’m still here now.

I still know that I had undisputed love.

It was never a mistake.

I have to fight the complacency.

The pain washes over my senses.

I cross the bridge as the sun rises over the river

I remember I was here last year, crossing the bridge

I was going to college

I was peaceful

I was spending my day in Beaufort

Then I was crossing the bridge at sunset

I was going back

I was driving on 170, then Snake Road, then 462, then 336, then turning into Ridgeland

I was smiling, I was singing to the radio

My heart was beating, and I was anticipating

I turned right and I turned left and I turned left again

And a brown house was smiling at me, the light shining in the window

I was walking through the door

And he was standing in front of me

And he was opening his arms

And he was smiling

And his eyes had that glint of recognition

And he said he loves to see me driving up

I felt his hug, and he squeezed my hands

He rubbed my hands and said they were cold,

And he kissed my hands, and he smiled

But now I’m still on the bridge

My heart is beating slowly

And I notice that my hands are cold

And he isn’t going to be at the brown house when I get back

And I have so much to tell him

And he’s so far away, and he’s been gone for far too long

So God, please tell him everything for me

Tell him it hurts

Tell him I’m trying to be what I need to be

And I’m trying to do what I have to do

But there’s a life I loved and lost

And nothing is the same

I can’t hold him at night

But when I get to heaven, I hope he is waiting by the gate

I hope he will hug me and smile and warm my hands

 

 

Written For My Son

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Subtleties about a person can be forgotten over time. Your husband might wink at you when he’s joking, or your son might scratch his nose when he’s asking a question. These expressions are involuntary, and you find it endearing to watch. That is the limitation of photographs. Most are posed, not candid. Like staccato strokes on the keys of a piano, they carry the subject from photo to photo, never capturing those habitual gestures.

Not only do I want Caleb to learn about his dad’s personality and sense of humor, but I want to help him see the nuances of Jason’s movements and body language. This letter was meant to become a book, but I felt like I jumped from each memory too quickly and exhausted myself with so much emotion in each paragraph. We didn’t have smart phones, didn’t take endless videos. If so, I could write hundreds of pages with ten minutes of footage. This was my only documentation. Reading this seven years later, it’s almost like the words blur and fade in front of me, allowing me to disperse the cobwebs of nebulous memories…and I can see him again.

 


August 5, 2007

It’s difficult to write about Jason, but our son should have some way to know him and know what some of his last days were like. I believe that I met Jason after graduating from high school in 2002. I don’t want to go back that far right now because we didn’t start dating until 2004. I fell in love with him shortly after meeting him, but he was only actively in my life from March 26, 2004- March 20, 2006. It was not a long time as far as lifetimes go, but I lived a lifetime of young love, marriage, family and loss during a period of time that most of my friends were only going through college.

Jason liked to kid me just to get a rise. I went to Indiana shortly after we started dating, and when I called Jason, he was spending the time drinking, and he sounded wounded that I would leave him for a week like that. He needed constant reassurance that I loved him. I told him that I wouldn’t call him if I didn’t love him. He told me that he was going to buy a Pitbull so he could use it for fights. He seemed very determined that it was a good idea. He didn’t admit that he was kidding until I got upset. Another time he asked me if I would get mad if he started growing weed behind the house. I basically told him, ‘over my dead body.’ He put on this sheepish smile and had me believe that he had already starting planting. I blew up because he did something so irresponsible! We could get in so much trouble! He let me continue lecturing him for a few minutes until he finally told me he was joking.

It was even “worse” when we made plans with another couple to go horse back riding at a plantation where I was caring for some horses. I didn’t really know the woman yet, and Jason told me that her family owned race horses. I naively believed him. When we were getting to the stable I was telling her about the breeds we were going to ride, and apologetically telling her that of course these horses would not be as fine as the Thoroughbreds she is used to. She looked at me quizzically, and after a few questions, I found that her family was not breeding racing stock. In fact, she had only taken riding lessons when she was about twelve years old. My face probably turned red when I realized that I had been fooled, and I explained what Jason told me. Jason hid on the other side of the barn, busying himself brushing the horse and smiling impishly. He probably didn’t mean to let me believe that story for so long. He’d just forgotten to tell me.

One balmy summer night he described how he came to start Drew Brothers Plumbing. This story goes back before I even knew Jason, but he told me so many stories, and I also learned a lot about his childhood from his family, so I feel that I know a lot about his life. He really drove himself with pre-determined plans. He started in the grocery business after reasoning that food, of course, will always be in demand. His customer service was so charming and personable that he was quickly made into a bookkeeper. That lasted until he bought beer one night while on shift with the last cashier that was also a friend of his. The camera caught Jason buying beer underage, and he lost that job. After quitting the grocery business, Jason started working with a septic company. He assured me that this was part of his personal plan to educate himself on all things related to plumbing, which was his goal. He told me he thought about it, and decided that, “Everybody has to take a shit.” He told me this so matter-of-factly before continuing…He was soon working for a successful plumbing company in Beaufort, learning everything he needed from his boss. Jason stressed that his protegee did everything right. Plumbing fixtures were set meticulously. His work was the best, and he criticized plumbers that did shoddy jobs.

Sorry that I cannot repeat these conversations very well because Jason described his jobs and the shortfalls of other plumbers with specific details about the parts and materials as if I had a working knowledge of what he was talking about. Let me assure you that this short paragraph does the subject no justice. Jason told me about the day’s job almost every night until I was tired of hearing about plumbing. But I tell you the truth- I would trade anything to have him sit me down right now and tell me for hours about setting toilets and laying pipes. He was always earnest and excited. Jason thought about plumbing so much that he would dream about it. One night he called out, “That was a hell of a run!” I was really curious what he was talking about, but he wouldn’t wake up to explain. The next day he told me that a “run” was laying the pipes for a new house.

When we first started dating he was working on the plumbing rough-ins for the town houses in Buck Walter. Many times Jason stayed out all night to get a job done. He also did the plumbing for the student housing at the University of South Carolina Beaufort at Bluffton, the New River Campus. One day he came home and told me that he was outside working when a student came over and commented that he’d hate to be the man doing that kind of job. Jason had a lot of pride, and he had a right to be proud. He pointed at the Drew Bros. Plumbing van and told the guy, “You see the name on that truck? That’s me.” The student put two and two together, realized Jason was not a hired hand but the owner, and made no more ignorant comments. Jason explained once to me that he may not have a college degree, but he was enterprising, and he carefully planned to be his own boss. He would come home at night and smoke on the back porch. We would sit in the white wicker chair or swing. He would tell me about his plumbing jobs during the day and about the people he’d been in contact with. He described a young inspector that followed him on the job, chatting incessantly. Everyone wanted to talk to him. Everyone wanted his attention.

I went to Parris Island one night when Jason was doing work in the new housing development called Pine Ridge. We were going to go on a date, but Jason wanted to put a few things together in one of the duplexes. We went in the white Explorer Sport Trac. This truck was brand new in 2004, but Jason made a mess of it- perpetually unorganized. The bed was full of tools and various plumbing necessities. The interior of the truck was caked with debris and dirt and old bags and cups that came from fast food restaurants. The point is that Jason had to search for everything he needed. He kept a couple of white buckets in the back full of materials that I suppose he used most often. You could say that his lack of organization was part of his charm. He didn’t even carry rags. Instead of wiping caulk on a rag, he wiped it habitually on his jeans. We removed our shoes before going into the duplex. I followed Jason around uselessly while he attached fixtures in the bathrooms. He laid his tools out on the floor, and I handed him what he asked for. Soon we headed to the other side of the duplex. They have porches on the front, but they are separated by a middle banister. I walked off the porch and around to the stairs to go in the other side, but Jason hopped over the dividing banister gracefully with a smile on his face and beat me to the door. After completing the job, we spent another hour searching for the truck keys that were somehow buried deep in a bucket of random plumbing paraphernalia.

When we became new parents. Jason had his own opinions about how Caleb should eat: we should make sure he is full so that he will sleep longer. We should put cereal in his bottle. I relied more on baby books, and we constantly clashed on who was using the right methods. But let me paint a picture to dispel the negativity: We went to church with Caleb, and everyone wanted to hold him. He was and is by the way, a healthy, loved baby. We were a charmed family. Jason was wearing a handsome mint green, long sleeved shirt that he bought right before we got married. He was probably wearing a pair of khaki slacks and his black shoes. Jason was always dressed well if he wasn’t at work. His style was tasteful and classy. His hair was dark brown, curly, and he styled it carefully with beeswax. He wore Georgio Armani cologne that I bought him for Christmas the year that my mom bought him a rectangle-faced Kenneth Cole watch which he loved to wear as well. His eyelashes were catchy because they were dark and long and curled at the ends, accenting very large brown eyes which actually did twinkle when he looked at me. He would sit with one leg crossed over the other, one arm slung casually around me or over the back of the pew. The other arm would hold Caleb close if he hadn’t been lovingly passed to a doting lady in the next pew. His upturned foot tapped with the music, and the louder and more vigorous the music became, the happier Jason got. He would bite his lower lip, and the dimples would show around his mouth, and he’d quit his jaunty composure on the pew. He’d roll his sleeves to the elbow and clap. I can see the light glinting off the ring on his finger. After the service, Jason never failed to go to the front and take up a guitar and strum some old praise and worship songs. He loved to sing.

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Misdemeanors

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Jason started up a plumbing company of his own in late 2005, calling it JD’s Plumbing. Men that used to work for him were loyal and followed him into the new business. We sacrificed to make their paychecks, even took out a loan for $5000 on his Mustang to make sure they took home the pay that they were due. I spent hours on the phone with credit card companies, transferring balances to new accounts to save money on interest, doing my best to lighten the burden. Every Friday, I was driving our Sport Trac to MUSC so they could take care of my high risk pregnancy. An extension of my dad’s federal health insurance saved us over 100K, but I still felt guilty that I wasn’t in a position to take a job and take some of the stress off my husband’s shoulders.

That was one of the most stressful times of our lives. Eventually, we sold the car and paid the loan. I was careful with every purchase. We emptied his change into a Coinstar once to pay for groceries…My parents bailed us out and paid $3000 worth of bills one month. They never asked me to return the money, but I made a point to pay back every dime later. My parents are the ultimate examples of wisdom in my life. They have prepared for the future, lived within their means and even saved me and my husband from financial ruin.

On the day that I finally told my mom that our bank account was in the negative, she asked me with love completely devoid of judgement, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” She and my dad made payments on every bill to hold over the creditors and told me that they would be there when I need them. They raised me to be a better steward of my finances, but held no judgement when I needed help.

I should not have been surprised. There were two other events in my life in which I expected to be judged- at 17, I tried to race a Corvette on Parris Island bridge…I won, you know. I was better at darting through the traffic driving a 1992 Sonoma S10. I watched another car that was part of the action turn off on a side road, then I turned my attention to the red Crown Vic that was pulling up beside me…”He wants some competition,” I thought, until the blue lights alerted me to his undercover status. Busted. I called my brother. He was a cash hoarder. And I mean that with the utmost respect, because he only spent it on things that meant the most to him. He said he would loan me the cash for my $400 ticket- which was written as a reckless driving offense! Yikes. I tried to hide the upcoming court date from my parents, but then I spilled the beans. They showed no anger, just agreed that I should work to pay off the ticket and the inevitable increase in insurance. They supported me at court in front of Judge Tupper. He was very lenient and gave me community service and erased the record. He wasn’t so lenient with the Marine. I saw the Marine when I went to a dance at Battery Creek High school. He laughed when he saw me and said that his insurance went up quite a bit.

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During my punishment, the police department had me work in the office refiling police reports. It was really interesting to read all of the local misdemeanors first hand! I filed away, one day listening to a police officer intimidate a young boy to whip him into shape (with his mother’s blessing) and yell at another girl to do a better job cleaning the walls. I listened with round eyes while another senior officer told me about how he raced at the track in Hardeeville (an honor I hoped to achieve at the time). They amended my sentence for good behavior. I think I did 32 out of 40 hours.

In 2012, I was a journalist for Beaufort Online, covering new events. I was sitting at the bar during the opening of a new restaurant called the Old Bull Tavern in downtown Beaufort. I started a conversation with the man beside me, asking if he was a journalist because I noticed him working on on iPad. He said no, he was a lawyer. I told him about my new job, how I was “over the moon” to have found employment finally using my degree, doing what I was meant to do- writing. Then I realized- it was Judge Tupper, and I thanked him for taking mercy on a reckless teenager. I went on to say that I learned my lesson, bought a Prius and drive slow-as-can-be to save the earth (and my budget). He paid for my wine and salad when I was on the way out.

In 2005 at 20 years old, I realized that I was pregnant. I called Jason to meet me at the plantation. I was leaning on a white fence when I told him, gazing at the horses in the pasture, and he blinked, pushed back from the fence, and said we need to make sure. I said I was pretty sure.

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I wasn’t married. As a Christian, I knew I had done wrong, knew that I had disappointed my parents and God. Jason and I held the information for a few days, but when I told my parents, they said they were not disappointed. They were there for me. We made plans for a shotgun wedding, but my mom made it clear that I did not have to get married if I didn’t want to. However, they wouldn’t let me stay over at Ridgeland. You might think, well, it’s too late for that, but they were thinking of morality. I was still a child in their eyes.

First Dates

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March 27, 2004

I called Jason from work, and he still sounded excited about going out. He called exactly at five like he said he would. We went to Applebee’s, where I decided to avoid ordering my favorite (hot wings) because I didn’t want to look like a mess in front of him. I got a salad, and of course he got the wings and a Crown and Coke. Not fair! Haha. He was telling me all about his job, but I can’t remember what he does because I was so distracted just being with him.

We walked on the Waterfront and then saw the movie Ladykillers with Tom Hanks (it was fantastic)! But the whole time I wondered if I was boring him, because he was constantly looking at his phone. When he dropped me off I got a hug, and he asked what I’m doing tomorrow. Then he told me to call him again. He never mentioned the dating thing, so I was very confused until he called at midnight! He wanted to see if I was okay and say he’s glad we saw each other at Keith’s.

I told him I was so glad he called. He said he had a really good time. So we are set to play some basketball tomorrow after work. That should be a blast! Alli said she doesn’t know if I should date him, but I should pray. She’s right.

March 28, 2004

Jason is a gem. He is sincere, chivalrous, likes kids, loves his friends, etc. We played basketball on Lady’s Island, and his cousin came with his girlfriend. I laughed so hard when they did a “play” then acted out a “rewind” at a faster speed. I wish I could have that on tape.

We took a break and talked seriously too. Jason wanted to know if I liked being with him and why. I tried to explain, you know, how I always liked him. He keeps saying that I’m so sweet. He even played the game so that no matter what, it wouldn’t end. He made up rules that I couldn’t make sense of, but he insisted they were legit. If he didn’t make a shot a certain way, he had to make five more before we could quit.

He called me around eleven and said he missed me when I left. He saw me looking like a hobo all covered in dirt and sweat, and he still called me and told me my eyes are pretty.

March 31, 2004

I never imagined life could turn itself around and become so happy. Jason finally made it to my house around 8 and met my parents. I laughed when Jason said he was worried that my dad would look like a biker, so he was relieved to meet someone not-so-intimidating. We played pool and watch a movie. Jason is a gentleman and so sweet even in competition. If we touched shoulders getting out of each other’s way, I literally got a shock. We played for about five hours, listening to country and some Brian McNight type songs. Our game really improved too! We plan on making a great team. He reached back and got my hand when he was on his way to the door.

After he left he called asking if I think we can date. He missed me already, and I miss him now. I wish we could see each other tomorrow. We have plans to golf, play tennis, pool hustle, paintball, go on trips, etc. We will be going to church together on Sunday morning and having dinner with his parents on Saturday night. I am so excited!! All thanks to God!

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He used a series of phrases that I will never forget… a perfect shot was “Beautimous.” If you hit the ball into the pocket with enough force, he would exclaim proudly, “With authority!” He carried a black pool stick in a leather case and seemed embarrassed when he said he bought it at Walmart. My parents have a beautiful pool table, and every time the eight ball went into the pocket, he would swipe the rack from the wall and say, “One more game.” My mom called him Jason “One more game” Drew. He always racked the balls the same way- by numerical order and by color, and I have done it that way ever since. He rested the eight ball on top of the others, and when he shoved the rack forward, it fell into the vacant center spot.

Keith’s Place

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journal 1I have a cheerfully-striped composition book that I bought for college classes in ’03, but it was re-purposed for  boredom in class. I didn’t have a computer for taking notes after all, and the best way to stay awake in English class was to draw while quoting brilliant authors!

I was 19- this is what I wrote on March 26, 2004:

Every day is great, but today was so great that I have to return to my old journal habit and skip the poem, because I don’t want to forget how happy I am. After making myself go to the gym, I worked out w/Kris, Abe and Michael. I returned Kris to work, then went back to the Y. Me Abe, and Mike played some half-court basketball, and I had so much energy and we all laughed so much we didn’t leave until 3:30. I saw my brother’s friend Stephen on the way out.

I napped around seven because I didn’t want to do homework, and Stephen called around nine. I dressed up and we went to Keith’s Place where I met up w/Jason Drew. Jason came over and had us all playing pool together at various tables with his friends.

I played with about the same talent as the others. By the night’s end, only me, Steve and Jason were left playing cutthroat. Jason said he hasn’t dated in eight months, and he made sure I wasn’t dating Steve. He asked if I would ever consider dating him and why I never called him when he gave me his number at the Pig. I tried to explain that I didn’t think he was seriously wanting me to call cause he’s always friendly and hyper like that. He was surprised to know that I have always had a huge crush on him. I said I guess I just expected you to know. He said he really wanted me to call that night. I told him that his lifestlye is just faster than mine. He said- “I’ll slow it down.” Is that sweet or what?! He made me promise over and over to call him tomorrow so we can go see any movie I want (scribbled)! See, I’m so excited I can’t write correctly! Maybe I can get him to pick me up at home! Can’t sleep now!


It’s been over ten years since I wrote that, and I didn’t include many details. Now I can only see glimmers of memory from that night, but each one is a flash of clarity in my memory. The faces of the people there, the tall shoes I was wearing and the tassel on my skirt when I looked down at the floor. Jason leaning next to me to ask questions and tell me the words I had hoped to hear in all the times I was around him as a friend in the past.

No one else noticed when the fuzzy green felt under Jason’s hand was mashed flat. He was so absorbed that every clink of Bud Light bottles on the counter of Keith’s bar failed to divert his attention. I was the only witness to the stillness of his concentration. One could mistake the scene for a photograph if other bar-goers would not occasionally lift a drink and laugh. The Marlboro smoke hazed lazily back into his face and caused the slightest wink of his left eye, the one he used to judge the shot. The intensity in his eyes glowed back from the reflection in the target. One fluid movement sent his right elbow forward, and the sweat on his hands would fudge the accuracy of his shot, had it not been absorbed by the chalky powder. Bystanders glanced back to their conversations without acknowledging their involuntary flinch at the moment of impact. But Jason freed the suppressed felt and rubbed the ashes of his cigarette into a dirty ashtray. The creases of his shirt lengthened and re-converged as he straightened his slouched posture over the table.