It occurs to me that since my move to New York I haven’t seen (or at least haven’t seemed to notice) any white Chevy Impalas on the street, probably due to life in New York City being so pedestrian-centric; when I am in a vehicle, it’s more likely to be a bus than anything. If I do happen to be in a cab, chances are I’m rushing to a meeting and reading or texting or doing some other kind of work that prevents me from paying attention to what other cars are on the road. All of this is good, though. Because in Chicago, after Jack died, it seemed as though I saw a white Chevy Impala nearly every day, and every time I did, I’d get a lump in my throat. After all, that was his car, the one he picked me up in for both every adventure we went on but and every mishap I found myself in. And, of course, it was also the car in which we went on our first date, which Timehop tells me was five years ago today.
I can’t tell you a damn thing about the play we saw—Mauritius—other than I got the start time wrong and we arrived 15 minutes late when I thought we were getting there 15 minutes early. I had press tickets, so we were nicely accommodated, but my ego was bruised; who wants that sort of embarrassment on a first date? But Jack was a good sport, not to mention a perfect gentleman. After the play, we went to eat at the Daily Bar and Grill, one of the few places open for food in my neighborhood at 10pm on a Thursday. And that’s when the magic really began.
You see, I didn’t know Jack that well before that night. I knew him well enough to go out with him, of course. We’d been friends, casual friends, but I didn’t know barely anything about him other than that I found him attractive and interesting. I didn’t know how old he was, where he’d gone to school, whether he’d ever been married, if he had any children, where he’d grown up, what he did for work, what he liked to do for fun, what his goals in life were, what his values were, or even whether he liked me. For all I knew when we walked into the Daily Bar and Grill, we were just two friends hanging out. It could have not even been a date at all.
But it was.
I barely remember what we ordered; it probably included cheesy tater tots (for me) and Diet Coke (for Jack), since that’s what would come to be staples for us in the future there. Mostly I remember that even though we both had to get up early in the morning—me, for a silly temp job; him, for his sales job selling concrete coatings to the construction industry—we stayed in our booth for hours, talking until the Daily closed at 2am. What we talked about was nothing and everything, but it was the first of many nights in which I’d realize that I might have just found the one person who could actually understand the way my mind worked…and not get scared off by it. And it was refreshing. I felt as though I’d found my home.
Jack and I didn’t sleep together on our first date. We didn’t even kiss, other than on the cheek. He did walk me to my front door, like a gentleman, and call me the next day to arrange our next date. We wouldn’t sleep together for a while, which I appreciated, because it gave us time to become comfortable with each other and secure in what we were doing, something I think has become underrated in today’s fast-paced world. We did kiss after our second date, and it was awkward but genuine, something Jack would later say was “like it is in the movies,” and I would agree with him. Everything about our relationship was like it is in the movies, except we forgot that not all movies have happy endings. That was (and still is) the kicker. I’m still coming to terms with that one.
The morning after my first date with Jack, I called Uncle Eddie, and I said, “You didn’t tell me he was so funny!” Eddie laughed and made some comment about how he’d just been waiting for me to figure it out on my own, that he’d known for some time that Jack and I were meant to be together. These days, Eddie and I are the only two people who remember the kind of relationship Jack and I had…and maybe we’re the only two people who ever will. But that’s okay. Even if a movie is only seen by two people, it’s still a movie. Even if it’s a sad one that makes you cry every time. Even if.
Five years later, the memories are fading; I’m trying to hold on to the things I can and realize that I won’t be able to keep everything. Mostly what I have are things that pop up in Timehop and other places, things I’ve written down and forgotten about until they come up accidentally and without warning. And it doesn’t escape me that perhaps my move to New York has helped facilitate this: without constant reminders of Jack on every street corner of my neighborhood (walking past the Daily Bar and Grill on a daily basis, e.g.), it’s easier to forget, or at least easier to let the memories slip away. Without seeing white Chevy Impalas every day or so, it’s easy to forget how it felt to be a passenger in Jack’s car, he the confident driver, me the happy companion.
I don’t know what happened to his car; his cousin came and took it away. I’m sure the bank would like to know, too, since payments were still due. Last I heard, they were looking for Jack’s cousin to get the money or the car. I can’t find the cousin, either, though I’d like to. He’s the only one who knows where Jack is buried. And I’d much rather know where Jack is than what happened to his car. But some questions will never be answered, and sometimes the most meaningful movies are the ones in which the biggest questions of all are the ones that are left hanging, no matter how much heartache that might cause.