This Is a Draft

July 4, 2024

I have started, deleted, then restarted this more times over the last several months than I can count. I may never get around to actually writing it the way that I want.


I wrote the first part in the third person as a scene because that’s how it always plays out in my memory. It was one of those moments that, looking back, seems so surreal. Did that really happen that way? I promise, it happened almost verbatim the way I wrote it. Sometimes when I pull a sock up around my calf (where she kicked me) I catch myself there in that singular moment.

“Are you ever going to talk to me…”

I am going to be honest with you, dear reader, writing that has put a lump in my throat. Writing this part of my story scares the shit out of me same as the idea of actually talking to her once did.

I want to tell you that Jen and Rudy lived happily ever after. That they were the quintessential love story of high school sweethearts that go on to get married, have 2.5 children, a Labrador Retriever, and a home in the suburbs. Once the kids moved out they sold the house and traveled the world, dancing in a small café in Casablanca, canoodling on the shores of the Seychelles, and sipping champagne in Champagne. That this massive blue ball was smaller than their world of two. They ultimately lived in marital bliss for almost sixty years and died days apart because the thought of one of them living without the other was just too much for either of them to contemplate. That would be such a fun, beautiful little story to tell you. But…. There I go again talking in the third person.

I got her to cut class with me for the first time in her life shortly after our meet-cute. We headed to my friend Ron’s house. I think Nicole was with us, too. On the way there we almost got caught by a truant officer. That white, unmarked Crown Victoria was fooling nobody.

“RUN!”

I watched the three of them head one way and I stopped. I got caught. Thought I was being a hero. I ended up tossed in the back of the white, unmarked, conspicuous as fuck narc’s car. We headed back to school, I got to hear my counselor call my dad at work and explain what I did. Again. She handed me the phone so dad could tell me what was going to happen once he got home. I didn’t care, I just wanted to get to Ron’s.

I got off the phone and sent to class. Never quite made it that far. This time I took the backyard route to Ron’s and got there ten minutes later. They were standing in Ron’s driveway while Ron smoked.

“I told you he’d be here!” Ron shouted through a smokey smile.

I don’t remember much more of that afternoon except that Jen and I ended up in a bedroom alone. We talked a lot about I don’t remember what. Likely, I had the usual diarrhea of the mouth and rattled on and on and on… I put on one hell of a front, but I truly had no game. Zero. Less than, even.

Remember that scene in It’s A Wonderful Life where Mary loses her robe in the bushes? It ends with the crotchety old fucker yelling, “awwww, youth is wasted on the wrong people!” When I look back at this particular moment I hear that old man screaming at me. And maybe the voice in my head adds, “dumbass!”

At some point we were in that moment. You know the one – you’re looking into each others eyes, time seems to slow, and you’re praying to god your breath doesn’t stink. And your hero did what he does. Which is to say, I blew it. I stammered and pulled away, scared out of my fucking mind. She pulled me by the back of my head towards her lips and kissed me.

I was done. We fit. Not like peanut butter and jelly, or peas and carrots, or even a cool drink on a hot day.

We fit like Rudy and Jen. We were two solitary pieces amongst billions that could only ever possibly fit together, one with the other.

In hindsight it is the easiest thing in the world to see that we were young. We were in that age of our lives where things felt deeper, richer, more painful than at any other time. We were growing up, making our mark and our mistakes. And we did it together and sometimes apart, but it never made sense until we came back to each other. She was the Woman Homer Sung; she was a pain in my ass, she was the love of my life.

The first time I said the words we were outside of the music room.

“I love you.”

She slapped me. Not viciously, but not playfully either. It was a sort of test and we both knew it.

“I love you.”

Slap.

Rock.

Immovable object.

“I love you.”

Sl – I caught her hand.

“You’re done.”

She took the back of my head and pulled me in. She didn’t say it, but I knew and that was enough.

There was a constant push and pull. Testing our limits, testing the limits of one another. We’d break up, we’d get back together. Sometimes in between we would venture into other relationships. We’d mock each other for our romantic choices because we were petty and jealous. We would inevitably be back in each other’s arms because “you know I’m the best thing for you.”

Sometime later I ran away from home for the umpteenth time. I was bouncing around from church busses, friends’ garages, and unoccupied houses. I met her and some friends out, but I was absolutely not feeling social. We fought. I stormed off. I ended up in some church foyer not far from the mini-golf place we’d been hanging out and sat on some pew. She came in after me, pulled me up and put her arms around me. She didn’t say anything. She just held onto me. At a time when I was so worthless, so less than that even, she held me up when all I wanted to do was collapse. I have spent so much of my life in that moment that I suspect I’m still there, just imagining this life I live now.

I didn’t have the words for it then, but I was broken. I was an unwanted, unloved mess. I hated everything and everyone, but mostly myself. I couldn’t run far enough away because the thing I wanted to leave behind the most was me (she liked to remind me that I was running to stand still just like the U2 song). I was also a resentful shit. I lashed out at the people who were trying their damndest to love me, but I was too busy blaming them because mommy no love me. I was so fucking angry so goddamn always and here I was in the arms of the one person who made me feel less frayed at my edges. I cried. I bawled. She held me upright. She didn’t judge me or make me feel small. She just held onto me.

She was the best part of me during a part of my life where I could not find a good thing about me.

All of our pushing and pulling came to an end sometime in our junior year. She broke my heart with a dickhead named Marc with a c. I ran away to a different school, got popular-adjascent (I had all the right friends), and learned that playing bass -even shitty bass – in a crappy garage band will really get the girls. Days before graduation I called her.

Hi, she said.

I was done. She didn’t even have to ask, I was hers. Marc with a C was … I really don’t care where, she was mine again.

The next year and a half was to become the best year of my life to that point. Then it ended. But before it ended we had a trip to Santa Barbara to visit Eve. There was the beach, there was volleyball, there was a lot of laughing. Then there was the drive home and Billy Joel. CADIL-AC-AC-AC at the top of her lungs and laughing so hard I hurt. When we got home she laid her head in my lap and said something I suspected, but was too insecure to really let myself believe.

I’m your girl, Rudy.

I don’t know why she said it. Maybe I’ve forgetten. What I do remember is that I must have said something silly because she seemed surprised at my surprise.

She died that autumn.

And when I die what will you say about me? Will you say that I loved you well? Will you say that I broke you, left you in pieces? Will you hold onto the best of our time and shine your light without me? Or will you cower in your grief and forget the magic in you? Please don’t do that. It would break my heart. You made me yours through sheer will. You won me heart and soul. Please don’t weep too long. I beg you, dance, sing, love, fuck with all of you for that time you have left. You owe me that. I can’t so you fucking better. If you ever loved me like you said, you absolutely better.


That last paragraph is something I like to believe she might say. It’s a very Jen thing, I think. I don’t know what our lives would have been had she lived. I really don’t. I was still a stupid boy with dumbass tendencies. Maybe we would have made it, but anyone who was there says we wouldn’t have. Maybe we would have been a footnote in one another’s lives. A lesson learned. Or maybe we would have run table against all odds. I have no idea. I just know that I always feel a bit of guilt when I talk about her.

You see, I have this amazing life. A life I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for anything. A wife who is my better. I dog who is fluffy if not annoying at times. And honestly, I never expected to make it this far. I guess, I just fear that I may miss something ahead of me if I spend too much time looking backwards.

©2024 Rudy Martinez