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What was I supposed to do? It’s not like he knew what was going on inside my brain. What I did was best for everyone. It doesn’t matter what it cost me. It never does. But let me back up, I’m getting ahead of myself.
It all happened last summer. I was sixteen. I can still remember everything; every detail is so crystal clear I’d swear it happened only yesterday. He was standing beside his ‘78 Dodge-D 100 when I walked up. “Hey Shey!” I smiled. I couldn’t help but smile whenever I saw him. “Hey Jon!” I called back, ignoring the fact that he had used my nickname. I hated it when people used my nickname. I much preferred Sheyenne instead of just plain Shey. I mean for crying out loud it made me sound like a personality trait.
As I stopped a few feet from him, I noticed his shaggy, black hair was falling in his eyes. Surprising he saw me coming at all. “So what did you want to talk about?” I leaned against the truck. He was quiet. At least, more than for usual. I looked out over the trees surrounding his yard as I waited for him to speak. “I don’t quite know how to say this.” He sighed.
I slipped a sidelong glance at him. I noticed, not for the first time, his strong jaw clenched tightly. Jonathon, what could possibly be on your mind? I sighed too. “You know…it’s about…” He was having a hard time spitting out whatever was on his mind. That wasn’t a good sign. Never did Jonathon ever have trouble expressing his thoughts. “It’s about college, isn’t it?” I was surprised to hear the words coming out of my mouth. He looked at me both relieved to have the words spoken aloud, and worried about what he had yet to say. “Yeah.”
“Well have you picked one yet?” I knew he had. He had been basically worshipping MSU since he was, like, five. He slipped his hands into his jean’s pockets. “As a matter of fact, I have.” I waited for the rest of it. I’m going to MSU, Shey. It never came. Instead, he sighed again and turned to face me. I searched his face for any hints. It was blank. I looked into his deep blue eyes. Oh, how I just wanted to dive into those eyes. “I’ve chosen the Marines.”
It seems that in that one moment my world shattered like so much stained glass. Jonathon and I had been friends ever since our mom’s introduced us when were little. The two-year’s difference didn’t seem to matter much to either of us. We had gone through school together. We had shared problems with each other. We had even done what most boy/girl friends say they would never do, we shared relationship drama with each other. I picked out all the gifts for him for his girlfriend. He gave me all the inward workings of a guy’s brain.
However, all of this seemed irrelevant as the one thought screamed through my head and slammed through my heart. I love you. I love you. I love you. Over and over and over again, like a thundering tornado. And it was true. I had noticed it about a month ago. Jonathon was different in my eyes. He had a sort of light to him, a spark in his eye, a glow to his skin…something I had failed to notice before. And now he was leaving.
“Shey?” Jonathon’s gentle concern brought me back to reality. I realized with painful blatancy that I had been holding my breath. I let out it out. “Are you okay?” The concern was still on his face. “Yeah. I’m fine.” “Good. You started to freak me out, there for a second.” He laughed. Such a wonderfully beautiful sound. I plastered a smile on my face. I know it looked fake. And so did Jonathon.
“Oh, c’mon now, what’s wrong? Aren’t you happy for me?” I let the smile slip off my lips. “Sure I’m happy for you, Jon, but…” “But what?” He hiked an eyebrow. Not like I could see it through all of his shaggy hair. “But…well…isn’t kind of…I don’t know…dangerous?” He laughed. “Well yeah it’s dangerous.” “Then why did you pick it? What happened to MSU? You’ve always wanted to go there! You were going to go and play football.” He smiled. “Things change.” “What things? We don‘t change, Jon. We never have!” I tried to calm myself down. I knew I must sound hysterical.
Apparently so did Jon. He turned and looked at me, again. This time with one of those looks that said he thought I was crazy. I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, but it’s just big, you know?” He nodded. “There’s something else.” Well of course there was something else. “Yeah?” “I’ve already been sent my assignment. I leave for training tomorrow.” I stared at him. I no longer cared what emotion crossed my face. At that particular moment I’m sure it was a canvas filled with everything I was feeling: fear, anger, hurt, shock, surprise, anguish. “Tomorrow?” I thought I had mouthed the word, but it must have just been me because Jon nodded. “Yep.” “But…tomorrow! Why so soon?” He shrugged. “Maybe they’re just looking for new recruits.” I nodded. My head was spinning. I no longer knew what to say.
“Are you going to be okay, Shey?” Once again his voice was layered with concern. “Yeah.” He looked at me skeptically. “What?” “Nothing. It’s just…You tend to overreact sometimes.” I looked at him indignantly. “I do not!” I knew that was a lie. He laughed. “Do me a favor while I’m gone?” I nodded. He patted the truck that we were leaning against. “Take care of old Bessie for me.” I laughed. “Sure. I’ll take her on down to the junk heap.” He scowled at me. “You better now. This truck means a lot to me.” I laughed. It came out choked and dry. “Don’t worry, Jon. I was just kidding. I’ll make sure she’s taken care of.” He nodded. “I know you will.”
We stood in an awkward silence. All the while my brain screamed at me, tell him! Tell him! Tell him! TELL HIM! “I guess this is goodbye then?” He nodded again. “Unless you want to come see me tomorrow.” I shook my head. “No. I think now’s best.” He nodded. “Me too.” We both knew how much harder it’d be tomorrow. I reached over and hugged him, all the while trying to choke back tears. He wrapped his arms around me. I tried to hang on to the feel of him. Tall, solid, strong. “Well…uh…I got to go.” TELL HIM! He nodded. “Yeah.” TELL HIM! “Bye, Jon.” He nodded again. “Bye, Shey.” Tell….him…
I walked away from Jon with tears running down my face and hitting the red dirt road beneath my shoes. I knew he could hear them. They were as loud as thunder. Drip. Drop. Thud.
Two months passed. I received regular letters from Jon. I wrote back of course, but I never was able to tell him what was still so heavily on my heart. Every time I would start to write it, it sounded stupid, so I’d crumple the paper up and throw it in the trashcan. Soon all I had accomplished was a full trashcan, a mess on the floor, and a pack of paper wasted. So I gave up. I would write about how I couldn’t wait ‘til that semester. I’d tell him of the latest gossip, and of course about Bessie. Not that there’s much to say about a truck.
Then next thing I knew it was the week before school was supposed to let back in. How had two months passed by so quickly? That was the only thought going through my mind as I walked to the mailbox. I opened it, pulled out a stack of bills, and leafed through for Jon’s family handwriting. Instead I found a pink envelope addressed to me. Weird. I walked back to the house trying to reassure myself. Jon’s letters were always there. They were never late. Today I didn’t have one.
I laid the stack on the counter, grabbed the one addressed to me, and headed to my room. I took a closer look at the handwriting and sighed. It was Jon’s. But why the pink envelope? My heart started to flutter as I tried to open it. My hands were shaking so bad that it took me two minutes to tear off the top. I dumped the contents onto my desk. There was a dull clink. I looked down and blinked. Jon’s dog tags. And a note. Hesitantly I reached for it.
If you have this letter, then it means you have my dog tags too. Probably better with you than where I am. Needless to say you won’t be getting any more letters or notes from me for a while. I’ve been taken prisoner. This small note was all I could sneak out to you. I just wanted you to know that you’ve been such a great friend to me all these years. We’ve shared some real problems. And here’s my last. I hope life treat’s you better than what it’s treated me.
I reread the note again. And again and again. My heart did not want to accept the truth I knew Jon was telling me. He was dead. I crumpled up on my bed and started sobbing into my pillow.
Two days later it had made the headlines. He truly was dead. I was numb all day. I walked around like a zombie, taking the condolences and apologies automatically. When I was finally back in the safety of my room, I closed the door, and collapsed. I waited for the tears to come. They never did. Only one thought seemed relevant to my anguished mind. You never told him. I had so many chances to tell Jon and I never did. So many times I could have…
I stood up then. Looking back, I realize I was a little too calm at this point. I had already made up my mind, even though I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing. I walked over to my bed and sat down on the white satin sheets. I reached under my pillow. For a moment I had no clue of what I was searching for, but then the cool steel kissed my fingers.
It all happened very quickly after that. I brought the gun out, aimed and fired. My head hit the soft white pillow and my blood started to leak out, forming crimson tears.
Now that we’re back on the same page. I’m laying here in my last few seconds of life, wondering why that sweet black blanket won’t hurry and cover me so I can tell Jon what I should have told him a long time ago. “I love you.”
Cranberry Twp, Pennsylvania
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
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Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow
If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster. ~Isaac Asimov
The only cure for writer's block is insomnia. ~Merit Antares
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Grab life by the balls. -Slobberknocker
We cannot change the cards we're dealt just how we play the hand
Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted
It's pretty easy to be smart when you're parroting smart people
Wow, that was so sad and sweet, it was amazing! Great job. Keep writing!
Btw, will you check out and comment on my work?