As I made my way home through the streets of the city, the sky still as gray, I realized that my newfound revelation meant nothing in the face of inaction and unfortunately, I didn't know how to act. I arrived home as the afternoon turned slowly into evening and I sat in my car in the driveway for a long time, dismissing and silencing calls on my cell phone, work calls, Hiram, Jude, my brother, until finally, I stopped wallowing in what was alternatively glee and pity, understanding more about myself, my Aleckness, understanding it, instead of simply living it.
Jane was standing in my study, uninvited but not unwelcome. She was looking at the marble chess set on which I taught my son what had become years ago. She smiled at me when I entered, which did dissuade some of the surprise at seeing here, unannounced.
"Jane," I said, even though I hated it when people said names as greetings. "Why are you here?"
She smiled, as if stalling, and touched one of the chess pieces. "I was thinking about things tonight and I remembered the first night I came here and how I stormed out in the morning because I was so angry you wouldn't tell me something about yourself."
"What, can I say? We're both good at entrances and exits."
"I was so angry at you because you reminded me that I couldn't just come back into your life after more than fifteen years and demand to know you as well I used to." She kept smiling, still looking at the chess piece instead of me. "And I thought I did deserve to know your secrts because I still felt the same way about you and even though I hadn't spent fifteen crying and pining—I had even been with someone for six straight of those years—I felt like… I just… to me, no time had passed."
"I think that's why I was angry," I said. "No, it's not. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I didn't want to be vulnerable."
She finally looked at me and her smile reflected fondness rather than nervousness. "Honesty."
"I do try sometimes."
She was quiet for a long time, uncomfortably so, because neither of us had sat down and were ten feet apart, echoing almost, in my giant study.
Finally, "I don't care that you want time."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I don't care that you want time. I don't think it's important. I don't think it changes things or might you ready or come around. I think it's just going to make us old."
I opened my mouth to speak.
"Shut up," she told me, affectionately. "I'm not going to give you time. I'm not going to be old anymore. I'm not even forty, Aleck, and my life won't be over when I am. And it won't be over without you. So I'm not going to wait you out. I'm not going to let you lose me slowly. It's going to be quick, if it happens. So I thought I would come here and tell you that, because honestly? Worst case, I'm going to storm out of your house like the first time I was here and date someone else again for six years and who knows, maybe they'll stick."
She moved closer to me, closing the gap. Dusk had come and she had only turned lamps on. In the dim, her features were indistinct to me, and I had never previously considered her an enigma but… so she was.
"If you're looking for an answer, Aleck, the one you think you'll get from time, here it is." She breathed, just one breath, as if she knew it was necessary to continue living.
"Aleck, I love you. And I think—I believe—I know you love me. You love me. And that's all the reason for anything in the world."
It was my turn to be silent, to be shrouded by the dim. It was my turn to grasp for words. We stood directly parallel to each other but still, despite her honesty, could manage only the most furtive glances forward. For the most part, our heads stayed tilted off to one side. We maintained a surprising symmetry, our posture, our facial expressions, those same worried hands, both of us mirroring slides of fear and hidden hurt, knowing that if we dared to look forward, our eyes would have met causing both sets to fill, obnoxiously and unwillingly with tears. It was in this strange, frozen posture, that seconds became minutes.
She had come for me, to call me out on my stalling and procrastination, to make me admit that by putting her off, I gained nothing. She gained nothing. Instead of giving me the power and waiting me, she had come to make me admit that I was wrong. I didn't know the first thing about love and she was being honest with me and maybe I should return the favor.
Maybe I had been waiting to be left or gotten or chased. The silence stayed. Her words hung. I was overwhelmed by the immensity of it all.
"I don't want to be lonely anymore," I croaked, finally, my voice breaking. I was so afraid I was so quiet that she hadn't heard, that I would have to repeat this terrifying admission.
"Then don't be."
And in a moment, I had moved to her, as if less than moment, as if I had fallen asleep suddenly and woke with a start to find myself wrapping her in my arms, savoring the height I had over, wanting to kiss every part of her, but stopping myself, garnering only the courage to hold her.
And in that moment, I forgave myself, for everything I never said and everything I wasn't, and everything I was and the parts of myself I hated and Jane forgave me for everything I never said and never was. It was this moment where I knew that this had been what I needed, that her ability to walk away could humble me. That when Morgan had left me for Jethro, I had been in pain, because of her loss and the loss of control and my capricious nature, my natural ambivalence needed to be checked.
"I knew we'd both die waiting on you, or fall in love with someone else again." Which was worse, I didn't know.
"Twenty years, huh?" I said.
I finally kissed her, gently on the lips and then I pulled back. It was brief kiss, hardly worth mentioning under other circumstances. "I want it to be you."
"I don't want to storm out of here," she said. "At the very least, we'll be great, old friends, with a good love story, but we'll be that, whether you push me away or bring me in, and frankly, Aleck, we're better people if we go through it together, even if we don't stay together, though I think we will stay together, but even if we didn't, we're better people for each other. We always have been."
She took my face in her hands firmly. "I knew I'd have to come get you, you."
"I never knew I had to be gotten." Pause. "But I'll try to know these things."
Her smile and eyes chided me for that, as if it thought I had been trying and maybe was lovingly disappointed I hadn't been trying.
"I have been able to want you in my life at every stage of it," I said. "You blew back in after fifteen years and I still went to bed with you that night but it was different and we were fighting and moping and fuck. It's always different with you but I still want it. With Amanda, it's a moment."
"I'm in love with her… but with my memories of her and what it was like. And every time I try to put it back together, you know what, it's fucking great. But it's like a dream. A really nice, comforting, recurring dream. And I always wake up and I'm sad that it's gone. But it is. I wake up and realize that Marco isn't eight and there's been a lot of hurt and years." I touched her hair.
"She and I had our moment—it was beautiful—and you and I—shit, Janie, we've cut every moment short, so you know what, maybe we'll end up divorced, maybe we'll end up dear friends with a great love story, but maybe. Do you know how to make iced tea?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Well then, just maybe, we'll end up growing old together because I don't know how to do that with someone but I think it involves iced tea."
"So you're not going to ask me to go get gay married in Canada with you?"
"Massachusetts is closer… but no. But. I don't want to be lonely. And I want it to be you that I'm not lonely because of."
"So what are you asking, Aleck?"
"Well, I guess I'm not asking you to never leave me," I said finally. "But I am going to ask if you'll stay for dinner."
Five years late.
I admit, it's not the ending I originally envisioned. Someone else was going to die. But it's an ending with which I am satisfied.
Thanks for reading. I loved writing for all of you.