Along The Way Home

Along The Way Home

Let me know when you get there, okay?”

I nodded.

The snow was blowing in faint swirls around the concrete as I stepped outside. The cold wrapped around my legs like giant fingers as I turned to kiss her goodbye.

In the car, the feelings started before I even got out of the driveway.

Don’t worry, none of them cut with the knife blade of surety that comes with full-on doubt. These were more nostalgic, like a hook in my side, but the place where it pierced was itchy, and the pain was good.

I flip off The Offspring, turn the corner onto the highway, slip further and further into the back of my brain as the car speeds up, until my hands are no longer at the wheel, but in my pockets, and I’m not driving, but walking and I’m flipping the hair out of my eyes as…

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the rain falls lightly through the trees above me. The sound of the rain drops on the dried leaves is like a whisper, and right now, those whisperings are all good things. I glance over my shoulder, tucking my skateboard further under my arm as I notch the zipper tighter around my chin.

She’s back there, around the corner, in the bed right below the window. The window that looks directly out onto the abandoned factory building with its crumbling bricks and the train tracks beyond it. It’s like something out of a Stephen King novel and I love her all the more for it. It could be a little early for that word, but I’ve never been one for caring what seems normal.

I don’t think this girl really cares either. I can see the word in her eyes, dancing there the way sunlights plays across water, the way a prism refracts a single beam into multiple colours. That look beams into my chest and instead of lights, it’s a flurry of emotion it leaves behind, jumpstarting my heart like a pull chord on a lawn mower.  I smile wide, just the thought of that look is enough to brighten those emotions inside me again.

The thought of a beer with Kurt and the boys when I get back to the apartment only serves to brighten my good mood.

Behind me, a train grinds into the station only a few blocks away and I once again look back, knowing that if the row of houses weren’t there, I would be able to see her laying in bed. I wondered if she was thinking about me too.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I yanked it out, but when it was Kurt and not her, my shoulders slumped. I let him know I was on my way and to have the PS2 controller and a cold beer waiting for me, then I jogged into the empty street,  hopped on my board and pushed off.

I pushed once, twice, and again, my shoes pumping into the pavement. The wheels purred across the slick street, passing over the soaked leaves glued to the road. I popped over the manhole cover in the middle, reverted to switch, pushed once, and pulled a 180 over the next manhole cover and continued on, not missing a beat.

To her, I had been “the skateboarder guy”, but now I was Jack, and soon I was going to be a lot more.

Or so I hoped…

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The red light loomed over me, painting the dashboard with dull red hue. I cracked my neck, then undid the top button on my shirt, yanking at the tie. It was a wedding night, helping out a friend as an assistant photographer. It was one of the rare days you’ll catch me in a collared shirt. A necessary evil of the job, I guess.

She liked it though, she always liked it when I was dressed up like this. “The most handsome thing she ever saw,” as she liked to put it, before putting her hands on my cheeks and kissing my lips.

I smiled as a warmth bloomed in my chest, seeming to flow down to my stomach like a sip of whiskey. I smiled. The light turned green and I drove on.

The drive wasn’t too bad, especially when I spent late nights at her place. Most of the traffic coming through downtown was gone and the lights are generally all green.

All green. It seemed to be the way life was going at the moment. I was up for a big promotion at work, I’d finally gotten myself out of the basement and into a normal apartment and life was looking up. It’s the first time in a long while that I can remember being this happy.

Carefree. Worry-free. Free.

That was probably the best way to put it. Just like that year in university…

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I drifted to the side of the road as the car pushed up behind me. The tires kicked up a cattail of dirty brown water, and I swerved on my board to avoid getting my jeans wet. My tail went too far back so I pushed down and forward, popping the board into the air as I jumped in order to get out of the skid.

In other circumstances, I probably would have had a few choice words and hand gestures for the jack-off in the car, but I didn’t think that’s what she would do, and I was too fucking happy to even think about doing something like that.

Besides, the close encounter of the automobile kind did nothing to spoil my good mood.

After that kiss, I didn’t think anything could spoil my good mood ever again. The feeling was so rooted inside me I could already feel the mortar setting, as this night set its way into becoming a part of the foundation of who I was. They always say you realize these things later on, but not me. I could feel it happening inside me as clear as if my body were soaking into a warm bath after a cold night.

The apartment was still a few blocks away, and the streets were quiet. Round orbs of light lined either side of the road, pushing through the old trees on curved, concrete cobra necks. I pointed the nose of my board down the centre-line, pushed, and worked on cementing every detail from the last hour into my memory.

I was nervous as she led me by the hand up the narrow staircase to her room. I had never seen a staircase so narrow, and I was thankful for it as we pushed in close to one another and made our way up together. I could smell the soft, flowery scent of her perfume coming from the collar of her shirt. Her long brown hair was curled in thick locks around her shoulders. I wanted to run my hands through it, but for the time being I was content with feeling the warmth of her body seep through our clothes as we pushed into the upper floors of her house.

She was still wearing her high heels, but she whispered to keep quiet, her roommates were all home. Then she pushed through her door, which creaked and popped like the entry into a medieval dungeon. The wooden floorboards joined in the chorus and I couldn’t help but laugh. I choked it into my throat and it tried to force its way out my nose. She giggled at me and hauled me through the door. Her hand left mine, but quickly went up to my cheek.

It was like nothing I had ever felt before. Any relationship in high school, any kiss, touch, sex, any of it, it all could have been done with rubber gloves and through layers of clothing. This simple touch was everything I had been missing without knowing it.

She was still giggling about the door ruining our attempt to be sneaky, and I knew it wasn’t going to be the first kiss, but that simple touch was more than anything I’d ever felt. As if my heart had awoken and finally recognized that there was something it needed besides a constant flow of blood and oxygen. It needed her, and from that second, the second her fingers touched my cheek, I knew that I needed her.

Not a want, though I knew I wanted her, I needed her in my life. Forever….

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As I pulled my car into it’s space in the underground garage, and pushed it into park, my mind snapped back to reality for a minute as I remembered tonight was the night for the final word on the job promotion. After months of waiting, I’d finally learn whether that application would actually come to something. The whole time, I’d been telling myself it was just an honour to be accepted to submit from the hundreds of photographers that could easily take the spot, but a part of me knew I would be disappointed if I didn’t get it. I pushed out into the cold stale air, knocking some snow off my wheels as I snagged my bag from the backseat. I tried to load my emails from my phone, but it took too long  and my fingers started to get cold, so I pushed it back into my inside pocket, locked the car and headed upstairs.

Reaching the main floor, I could hear the pedestrian signal on the traffic light outside begin it’s beeping countdown, the high-pitched signal…

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Beaming out into the night as my board ripped through the intersection. I imagined my shadowed form flitting through the white orbs of light of the waiting cars as I passed. I was only a block from the apartment, and Kurt had text me at least five times judging from the vibrations in my pocket.

I ignored every one of them though, avoiding anything that would take me away from the last hour.

I figured this is how lottery winners must feel. You’ve achieved something against the odds, something you never thought possible and something that is going to solve all of your problems.

When her hand left my face, she moved over to the bed and flopped down. Her brown hair fanned out across the white sheets. She slipped off her high heels, slipped her feet beneath the tangle of covers and yanked them over top of her.

“Come over here,” she said.

I’d been standing in the middle of the room, taking in every details of this place. I didn’t know how many had been here before me, but I knew that I was lucky to be here. This girl was smart, beautiful, funny, witty, everything. It was like she had popped out of the pages of a story I’d written as a teenager about what my perfect girl would be. This one didn’t skateboard and she didn’t really like The Clash, but I figured I could deal with that.

The lilac walls were adorned with canvas paintings. A few small ones hung askew above a small desk that was mostly occupied with a large mirror. The paintings were mostly of colourful landscapes, done in an almost dream-like style, making them look both modern and nostalgic at the same time. I loved every one of them.

“Don’t look at those,” she said, burying her face into the pillow.

“They’re beautiful,” I said, barely able to raise my voice above a whisper.

“Come over here,” she said again.

My eyes roamed over the desk with its cup of paintbrushes, the bookshelf in the corner with its collection of colourful spines. I recognized a few titles. My eyes then fell on a newspaper clipping on the edge of the shelf, in front of the books. I moved over to the corner, which was at the foot of her bed. She didn’t look up as I moved, I smiled, taking this as a sign of trust.

The clipping was one of mine, a photo I’d taken for the student newspaper.

“It’s amazing,” she said. I looked over to find her beautiful green eyes trained on me.

I waved the thin piece of newsprint a few times then placed it back on the shelf. “Thanks,” I said.

“Now will you please come here,” she said.

I dropped onto the bed beside her and she tossed the blanket over me….

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The door creaked as I pushed inside and flicked on the light. The old apartment had many quirks, but the massive bay windows inside my unit that poured natural light inside every morning made up for any negatives, including the older couple who lived beside me and seemed to have some sort of problem with my youth and having my girlfriend over all the time.

When I dropped my things onto my desk chair and slipped off my boots, I worked at unbuttoning my shirt and tossed it into the corner of my bedroom.

I needed to let her know I was home. The roads had been pretty slick and I knew she would be worried. When I picked up my phone, she had already beat me to it.

I love you so much, Jack. Thanks so much for making the trip out. I’ll see you tomorrow. The first message read PS Let me know when you’re home!

I smiled again, and let her know I’d made it back alive.

It was something so trivial, but it was a big part of all the things that made her so special to me. I knew that. Nobody had ever cared about me the way she did.

Not even her…

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The light was still on in her bedroom, creating a dull yellow glow beneath the sheets.

It wrapped itself around my eyes as my senses were enveloped with the smell of her perfume and soft skin. It looked so soft in the light, I was afraid if I touched it, it would move around like sand beneath my finger tips. Yet, I couldn’t help myself.

I placed my hand on her cheek, my heartbeat immediately responding to this bold action.

Her eyes closed briefly, then reopened.

That light was there, even in the dimness beneath the sheets. It shined from the depths of her pupils like a diamond on a sheet of black velvet.

“You’re going to do great things, Jack,” she said.

I had nothing to say. And that was fine for her. Her hair caressed the sheets with a whisper and her lips were on mine.

If her hand on my cheek had been the spark, this was the explosion. The feeling was so strong, I tensed and wanted to cry. My hands moved instinctively, first to her hips to yank her closer, then to her hair where I felt the strands wrap between my fingers as if they were alive and welcoming me in.

She pressed into me and I pushed back, our legs interconnected like two train cars locking into one another and we kissed.

Life would never get any better. I knew it then. I knew that this kiss was what life is all about, this feeling, this emotion, this love. This is why humans are put on this earth, and whatever you believe in, whether it’s god or something else, this feeling is above them.

No one single person or being could have created this feeling, this is the byproduct of two people, two of the right people coming together.

When her lips left mine. My eyes stayed closed, relishing the feeling. They returned briefly, as she placed one more kiss there, like a final stamp of approval, then her hand was on my face again.

I did eventually open my eyes, and when I did, hers were closed and I wasn’t sure how much time had passed. It was much darker outside and I could hear my phone vibrating from the floor.

She moved when I did, and when I slid to get out of bed, her hands were around my neck.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Of course you will,” I said.

“Let me know when you’re home,” she said.

I nodded and she kissed me again, her hand rubbing the back of my neck. The electric tingle hitting my nerves was so pleasurable I thought I would collapse. I gathered my will and moved to the door, my phone vibrating again from my pocket…

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It was an email. I threw on my plain black t-shirt and dropped onto the couch as I moved through my phone to read it. The internet was being exceedingly slow and I shook…

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The doorknob as I walked inside and out of thin air a beer can materialized from other room, soaring through the air. Thankfully, I’d already leaned my board against the wall and had both hands available to snag it before it crashed into the drywall.

“Get in here, buddy!” Kurt yelled from the other room. I could hear the buttons of the guitar clicking and the sound of My Name is Jonas playing on Guitar Hero. When I peaked into the room, Kurt had one foot up on the coffee table, Captain Morgan style, and was shredding away on the plastic guitar.

I tossed off my jacket, cracked open the beer and took a sip. I took a final few moments to make sure everything that had happened on the other side of that door was locked into my memory. Then I moved back to join Kurt, the thought of texting to let her know I was home had completely slipped my mind….

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I got it.

I stared at the list of winners, absolutely stunned.

After school, after almost a year of working in the warehouse, and toiling to find work, digging for a job, I’d finally done it. And with some success.

I immediately called her to let her know.

“I already know you’re home silly,” she said, when she picked up the phone.

“I got it.”

The words were like a detonator. She exploded with happiness, her shouts of joy and congratulations crackling in the speaker of my phone. I laughed the whole time, her joy, coupled with mine was enough to push me over the edge and tears started to leak down my face.

“This is big,” she said. “Oh my God, Jack, this is so big.”

“I know,” I said.

“Oh my goodness, I need to tell,” she trailed off, as if searching for someone to tell. “I need to tell everyone!” With that she was gone.

I put the phone down, cherishing the moment, the feeling, knowing this was another one of those blocks in the foundation, one of those nights I wouldn’t forget.

Opening my laptop, I put a quick note on Facebook to let my friends and extended family know about the news. I intended to call my parents and brothers almost immediately to share.

The likes started to flood in almost immediately, along with the congratulatory messages. Everyone except for me seemed to have known that I was going to get it all along.

Her message came in the middle of the pack.

“Congratulations, Jack. I always knew you were going to do great things.”

I nodded as the phone started to ring again. I picked it up, and she was back, her voice filled to bursting with excitement. I shut the laptop and leaned back in bed as the mortar started to set.

-End-

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