He had friends -- many of them, for what that was worth -- but ultimately to him, it wasn’t worth much. It wasn’t THEM, he didn’t want to take them to task, ever, and when he did, he’d always quickly add that he himself didn’t know shit and that they were probably right...
But you could tell from the pause that followed that qualification, and those eyes that scanned the horizon while they seered inward for the thoughts that would come pouring out next, that he was unsatisfied, but unwilling to criticize people he still called friends.
He avoided them that week at home, spending Monday through Thursday wandering around the Downriver area -- walking, driving, hiding in movie theatres and bars -- a Nowhere Man on the run, trying to ignore his parents’ direct and impossible questions along with his own profound sense of failure.
Now it was Thursday night and he was coming back to Wrecht State to put to an end this chapter of his life, toying with the idea of not coming back in the fall, and predicting the reactions this news would provoke from those who knew him, or thought they knew.)
I heard a familiar voice on the radio, some religious channel coming through at midnight. I was thinking of somebody else, somebody I barely know anymore, a name I put on an envelope. And this young woman made me think of her, that last time I talked with Yolanda on the phone.
“No, I’m okay, I’m not okay, heh, I don’t know. No. So, how are you? How’re things in Michigan? Have you written any more of that vampire story?”
I had wanted “No Reflection” to be about the effect you had on me that first quarter, Yolanda. It was our story. But I couldn’t seem to write beyond Chapter One. There wasn’t enough truth in it. Not anymore.
I had succumbed to the romantic bullshit you surround yourself with, Yolanda: incense, Tarot cards, crosses. Pat answers you accept because of who you are.
“Well, no, not really, I’m really questioning the power of the vampire. I don’t believe in it, I don’t identify with it anymore.”
It was ‘our story.’ Was that sick...?
“I don’t know. So yeah, my masterpiece is on hold for now. But I’ve got some other ideas I think could work out...”
“Tell me about ‘em.”
I love you, Yolanda. Do you know what you did to me -- NO! What I allowed you to do? I was a kid, I didn’t know a fucking thing. I came back home to get away, fuck, I never can. It never ends. I live on the memory of two weeks with you, a lingering guilty pleasure.
It’s about you, Yolanda. The only fucking thing I can think about, how I fucked another man’s wife, how that bastard beat you and you ran back to him anyway, how I almost killed myself after that. A story to GET RID of all the shit I took in gladly, including your love. No vampires, no monsters, no horror lurking under the sewers. Just... me.
“I haven’t got much yet. I think it’lll be about last quarter. I’ve been going through some serious shit...”
I’m not the only one who’s changed, Yolanda. What happened to you? When I saw you in November, you looked like a different person, like those two weeks never happened. You gave me a look like “I’ve been in your pants,” but you didn’t seem to know anymore who I was.
Yolanda, why did you call?
“So, how’re you doing, Yolanda?”
It starts, the confession. I finally gave her the magic words.
“Jack, I think I should tell you...”
No, wait. That was the past. I’m detached from all this now. I was wrong about this shit never ending. It has ended. It ended last year. The problem is that I can’t seem to get beyond it and move on.
“And then, I...”
Yolanda’s confessions: her list of pain, she shares it with me. Yes, I’m listening. I’m listening. I never should have picked up the phone. I’ve got too many friends. Too many. “Yeah, hey, no problem, Yolanda. That’s what I’m here for. Good to hear from you, too.”
Her fragile voice sends chills through my body. I want so much to believe in her Tarot cards and vampires, but I can’t. I want so much to believe.
And now my mind wanders back to the pleasing voice of this young woman on the car radio, my companion on this dark stretch of highway, so beautiful without a face.
“You can find love in Jesus. You can end the cycle of pain, just by accepting Him. When you believe in Him, you can believe in miracles.”
I can’t. I believe in people, but not necessarily their half-baked ideas. I can’t fall in love with faceless angels anymore.
Maybe had it been TV, I would’ve seen her
in those gaudy pearls and sickly makeup.
Instead, I had been imagining that she
looked like Yolanda.
(Jack switched off the radio and slipped a cassette from the pile that littered the passengerseat into the tapedeck and as the ominous, looping chords of Fugazi’s “Shut the Door” filled the air, he noticed he was in Ohio.)
(First published in TUNE IN #2, Sept. 1992. Copyright © 1992, 2002 by Rob Imes.)