She's been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, last night I spoke to her while battling the indifference of insomnia. She's been gone for over three years. Maybe it's this time of year. Maybe it's the way I looked up to her despite her hard edges, drug use and alcoholic tendencies. I loved Jenny more than I ever let on. She's been on my mind a lot lately.
Last night I whispered out to her through a conversation in my head. "Jenny, what am I supposed to do?" I asked.
She said, "First get up and go to the bathroom and then we will discuss this matter."
I got up, trudged down the stairs, gingerly stepping over dogs and piles of hurried moments, then did what I was directed to do. When finished, I ran back up the stairs in a hurry to get out of the cooling air and jumped into bed. Jenny was still waiting in my mind.
"So what should I do, Jenny?" I asked once again. "The dark is washing over me and I feel that old sense of despair settling in again."
She remained silent in my mind but I could of sworn I heard the steady rythym of her breath through my running thoughts. Is that what she wanted me to do? Breathe?
I turned on to my side as the cat jumped on the bed, stepping slowly up the silhouetted curve of my legs, my hips, my waist and until he settled on the bend of my ribcage. His heat seeped through the down comforter, creeping into my chest. My heart warmed and then slowed its flurrying beat. I stretched my arm, catlike under the pillow beneath my head. I placed the other hand beneath my cheek. Jenny began to speak.
"Be patient," she whispered, "all is well as life trods through shortening days and lengthening nights."
Mesmerized by her poetic appeal, I listened intently.
Jenny continued: "This is typical for you. I remember the slow graying that took over your life when I was alive. I remember the soft delicacy of your heart. I remember that you were always strong despite the bitter shape of betrayal your friendships took, . Stay strong. Don't succumb. I am waiting here for you but I can't tell you where here is. Your time will come, but not yet. You were given a shitty hand when you were born. You were never taught how to play the game. But you are strong and willing to learn. Watch and listen. Play hard. Life is an adventure. Make it one."
"Why did you have to go, Jenny? Why did you give up? You made me so mad, drinking and carrying on, the way you kept using drugs when the doctors gave you a second chance. I couldn't watch you anymore. You gave up. I saw you right before my very eyes. So bitter. So angry at everything shitty that life sent your way. Your hand wasn't so good either, was it?'
A quiet bubble of laughter waltzed back and forth to the surface of my thoughts. Jenny, chuckling, went on: "Yes, I did give up. Yes, I did see the disappointment in your eyes. But my pain was greater than I could ever explain to you. Your pain is dulling. Can't you feel that? Can't you feel the expectations finally lifting in your own mind, in your own life?"
"Jenny, I miss your understanding. No one gets me like you do; like you did. People expect me to be this confident, hard person but I'm not. You saw that in me but still accepted me. I can't compete in this world. My heart hurts. My heart has giant holes in it that nothing can fill. Not one person. Not one place. Not one adventure. How do I get past that? How do I stop the seeping that those holes in my heart permit? Anything painful permeates my life entirely. Anything hard weakens me entirely. But I keep going. I keep trying. I tell myself that I will prevail. But what does that mean? What is 'to prevail' in this world, specifically in my life?"
"You are already doing it. Can't you see that. Remember what Emerson wrote 'Success...To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have livedl This is to have succeeded.'"
By this point in the conversation, I had grown stubborn in my sorrow. "But how does that pertain to me?'
"Let Emerson's words be your god. Then look at your life, everything around you, everything you have created whether you know it or not. Look at the people you know, the people you work with. Maybe not all of them, but some have bent for the better because of your grace. Look at your niece, nephew, just about every child you meet delights in your humor. Look at the house you currently live in. You and Krystal have transformed it from near death to pulsating with life. Look at the love you have given to the land. See the gardens growing all around the yard. Look at the professors who admired you. Look at the betrayals you have endured. Remember the breathlessness you feel every time you see beauty in anything, everything. Remember. Always remember. Keep these things in the fragile holes in your heart. I am always here. I love you but I had to go. But remember how much I smiled and laughed with you as we sat at the end of the bar together, as we sat on Airica's front porch together... watching, listening and talking."
"Jenny, don't go. Stay with me tonight. Stay close by."
"I am always here. But now you must go to sleep."