Today I went out to lunch with someone who knew Jack and could remember where he was when he learned Jack had died, how much it affected him. It’s been a while since I’ve felt as though someone listens when I talk about my grief, or that someone understood what I gave up when I left Jack, what I lost when he died.
I’d carry your cross for you
I’d suffer your loss for you
I’d break all the laws for you
Babe, I swear I would
Later, I was scanning through my digital music collection, and I happened upon Michael McDermott’s Hey La Hey, an album I purchased after Jack and I saw him at the Old Town School of Folk Music on July 31, 2009 — the last concert we’d see together, one of our last dates. Between that show and seeing Steve Earle at the Park West on June 25, those are the two I most closely associate with Jack (that, and the Flaming Lips at Pitchfork).
I’d right all your wrongs for you
I think I belong with you
I’d carry your cross for you
If I only could
A friend called today to get some insight about her own boyfriend, whom she suspects may have relapsed again over the weekend — they live in separate cities, and she has a hunch, but she doesn’t want to ask him out-right. I couldn’t tell her much of what to do, other than that she’ll know what to do if she listens to her intuitions. I know that I knew in my heart what was happening — something just seemed “off” — long before Jack admitted what he’d done. She called in the middle of my listening to McDermott’s Carry Your Cross, a song I listened to many times after Jack’s first relapse.
I’d turn back the time for you
I’d make it unwind for you
You’ve been on my mind, it’s true
You’re the shadows in my room
Talking to her — and listening to the song — reminded me of how I felt when Jack kept drinking and, then, when I ended things. I was in so much pain, and I loved him so much, but I couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t keep breaking my heart over and over again. I wanted to stay, to help him, to be that woman who stood by her man… but I just couldn’t. But after the first relapse — after the Fourth of July, 2009 — I was willing to do anything for and with Jack, if only it would be enough.
I’d fight any war for you
I’d break down any door for you
I swear I could soar with you
to our house on the moon
I felt the same way after the second relapse, but by the third time, I knew my heart couldn’t stand another violation of trust. Even though I didn’t want to, and I felt no small amount of fear and uncertainty about whether it was the right thing, I ended it. Over the months, I’ve felt no small amount of guilt for that — not because I feel as though I could have changed what happened. I’m 99% certain Jack would have died whether we were together or not. But I do believe he would have been less lonely when he died had he still known I loved him. Or, more accurately, since I believe he did know that: he would have had a more recent memory of being loved by me.
I’d take your doubt and fear
when trouble’s looming near
Cuz without your love I might just fall apart
We’ll find a way I know
I swear it, even though
We’re readin’ roadmaps in the dark
When I listen to Carry Your Cross now, I’m not sure if I listened to it so many times back then because I felt as though I were the one singing the song or because I wanted to believe Jack felt that way about me. With the perspective of time, I think I tried to tell myself that I wanted to carry Jack’s burdens, but really I wanted him to be willing to carry mine.
I’ll carry your cross for you
I swear I’ll be tried and true
I’ll show you things that you never knew
If you don’t go
I know that if I hadn’t left, there would have been more pleasure, more pain, more of everything but also not enough of what I needed: faith that I’d be safe, that he’d protect me, or at least not hurt me anymore. I wanted things to work out, to be okay, to be like they were in the beginning. I wanted to feel as though we were on the same side, that he not only loved me but wanted me to stop hurting.
A kingdom I’d create for you
I’d take all your pain for you
Forever I’d wait for you
Cuz I love you so
Except for me to stop hurting, Jack would have had to be a different person. He did exactly the best he could — no more, no less — and even though he was a wonderful man who helped a lot of people, he was still a human being who struggled with alcoholism, fear, and God. Toward the end, he told me he had a grudge against God, and nothing I said could convince him the universe wasn’t against him, wasn’t targeting him. He just never felt the love and the light that I had and do.
I’d live and I’d die for you
I’d light up the sky for you
I’d find out why for you
if I didn’t know
This is the time of year where it’s getting really difficult for me — memories of the last time I saw Jack alive, the Christmas present he mailed to me from “Santa,” the way he offered to bring me hot chocolate when he knew from Facebook that I’d be working outside doing some silly guerilla marketing thing. I never even got that hot chocolate; the job ended early, and I went home, and I missed him. Oh, did I miss him.
I hear a blackbird sing timing’s everything
Cuz I can’t find the door to your heart
My love for you is right here
It’s almost as if we’re
reading roadmaps in the dark
It’s sometime around New Year’s Eve, the last time I saw Jack alive. He looked only a little better than when I saw him on Christmas Day, obviously struggling. And the previous New Year’s Eve, when I wore a pretty sparkly dress and gold heels and showed up at a meeting, was the first time I thought there might be something there. One year’s time: from a spark to wistful pining. Another year’s time: from pining to deep grief.
When it feels like you’re going down
and it feels like your wings are bound
My love I swear I’ll be
I’ll be coming around
One year’s time: enough to turn things upside down, and while I have some (however small) degree of faith that things will be much better (at least in terms of Jack, and grieving, and etc.), I know by now that it’s ridiculous to predict, other than it will be another year passed. If I’d known just how quickly Jack would be going down, I might have acted differently. I might not have. All I know is how I’m feeling today, and that I wish he were here, so he could carry my cross for a little while among all this sadness.