My Heart Wears a Letterman Sweater
I don't write frequently of love and that strikes me as funny, because I love and I am loved well and truly. My parents, of course, love me and my brother loves me, because he has to. Visa loves me because I always carry a huge balance and pay only the minimum payments. My local florist is awfully fond of me and yes, my doggy loves me too, but sometimes I suspect that has all too much to do with my willingness to cave into her every desire and slip her bits of sinful goodness doggies are not suppose to have.
But then there's the capital L kinda love, romantic love, lacy, racy valentine love. I know that kind of love. I have that kind of love. But to know it and to have it does not seem to have equipped me well to write of it.
Sometimes, usually at night, when we are in bed watching The Simpsons or the news or whatever and Finny is slung across our legs, belly in the air and pink tongue lolling to the side, I cast a glance sideways and I am astonished by the realization that Jack is in fact a completely separate person from me, a whole 'nother person with different thoughts, different experiences, different body parts, a different name. Simply astounded.
Because he is so tightly wound into the fabric of my life, twisted into me like a skein of yarn, like a strand of DNA. I rarely stop to try to measure which fibers belong to him and which to me. I know there existed a time when he wasn't a part of my life, but it seems impossible now, impossible that there existed a moment in time when he wasn't at my side.
Still, I have a very clear and vivid recollection of the moment he entered my consciousness. I remember meeting him more clearly than I remember meeting anyone else on the face of this planet although we didn't speak directly to each other at all that night. It was my second year of university. We lived in the same residence hall, me on the second floor and he on the third floor. My roommate and I were in the second floor lounge, Lisa studying for an exam and me trying to finish a sketchbook assignment for my drawing class (a study of Old Master drawings) when the room was suddenly besieged by brazen, boozy boys bearing beer. Third Floor East was an all guy floor and they had organized an impromptu Centurion Club Party, the object of which was for all the participants to consume 100 ounces of beer in 100 minutes. That's a lot of beer and required a lot of preparation and apparently, a lot of hooting and hollering.
They dumped the cases of beer on the table where Lisa and I were working and someone handed Lisa a stopwatch. Now, Lisa was a party girl of fearsome reputation with an enormous tattoo of a peacock on her back, flame red hair and an attitude to match. She took it all in stride, closing her books and dispatching her time keeping duties with gusto and panache. Me? well, I huffed off to a chair in the corner where I pretended mightily to be most disgusted with this whole charade and too engrossed in the noble cause of pursuing art in its highest form to participate in any drunken frat boy shannigans.
Of course, had I really and truly been disgusted, I should have retreated to my room. But instead, I hid behind my huge sketchbook, propped on my knees like a shield and watched them with the guarded, pinched expression of a grey-haired spinster librarian.
Jack was amoung their number, wearing a white letterman sweater with a big red letter E stitched on it over a Dead Kennedys t-shirt, tall and thin and hacking himself hoarse from a bout of bronchitis. Everyone refered to him as "Flip", then. As in Flip Wilson. I would later crown him with a more dubious and distinctive nickname which I'm sure he'll thank me not to mention here!
I don't know what it was about him exactly that intriqued me so. He seemed some how... romantic. Maybe it was simply that he wasn't actually participating in the boorishness (later I found out that was simply due to the restrictions of his illness and the medication he was taking for it) Maybe it was the incongruity of his letterman cardigan with the Dead Kennedys tee. Maybe it was his eyelashes, long and dark and lush. Most likely it was that every time he opened his mouth, he would drop some dry witticism that had everyone bent with laughter, often spraying snotty streams of Club beer attractively about. I like that he never laughed at his own jokes, seemed in fact to be entirely oblivious of their effect. I liked that he seemed a bit shy, a bit nervous. I liked that he liked the Dead Kennedys and owned a vintage Letterman sweater. I liked that he reminded me of a vaguely British John Cusack.
Like I said, I didn't speak to him at all. But I noticed him. And he noticed me. And I noticed him noticing me and felt the hot pleasure of that spread itself across my cheeks.
It wasn't exactly love at first sight, but there was a certain spark. Something in me clearly recognized that something in him, sat up and waved valiantly at him over the lip of my sketchbook, trying to summon his attention.
I don't know how to explain the evolution of our relationship in a way that is concise or easily understood. When I think of it, I think of those old spirograph drawings which start as big loops and get tighter and tighter, more deeply wound, entrenched, until you can't tell where it begins and where it ends.
The next thing I know, we're at a Christmas party two years later and I'm bawling my eyes out because Jack, my best friend in the whole wide world full stop (and also, uh... and this is where it gets complicated... my boyfriend's best friend) has just laid on me the oh-so-casual, well liquored truth that eventually all this too shall pass and that someday we would graduate and go our separate ways and get carried away by the banalities of life until our relationship was reduced to the occassional exchange of Christmas cards and pleasantries until... nothing.
See, I just couldn't picture that. It was utterly unfathomable to me. I could strip everything else away, my beloved boyfriend, school, the country I lived in, everything familiar, but I could not imagine him erased and gone from my life. Not. Ever. He was as essential to me as breathing. And that is when I knew, really, somewhere in my heart of hearts (although it would be two more years before I could admit that out loud, even to myself) that we belonged to each other. Always had. Always would.
And so there it is, love uneraseable. Valentine love.
Happy Valentine's Day, J. You are the Everything.