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Jesse Carpenter embraced the warmth of the shower water. He was intently thinking about the impending evening. Will she recognize me? Will she know that I'm clean? He had been drug-free for eight tough months and was now lonely in his Chicago apartment. He stared at his distorted reflection in the shower nozzle as the water poured out. It became an all too familiar microphone beckoning……let it out. Talk to me.
“Y’know,” Jesse began, “I’ve known her forever. I mean, she and I were best friends, neighbors and eventually more than friends. Nobody knows her better’n me, right?” The faucet stared back at him, willing him to go on. “And,” he continued, “She’s saved my life a million times over again!” He thought about her as the apple-y smell of his shampoo filled up the shower. He recalled his childish fear of thunderstorms and the big, near-tornado experience that she calmly coaxed him through.
Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place where as a child, I’d hide.
And pray for the thunder and the rain to quietly pass me by.
He stepped out of the shower and stared at his reflection in the steamy mirror. Wow, where did the years go? The addiction had aged him, the rehab nearly killed him. He envisioned her, still young from clean living, with her gorgeous hair to her perfectly pedicured toes. His mind rested on her cerulean eyes.
She’s got eyes of the bluest skies as if they thought of rain
I'd hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain.
Thoughts of her always brought back bittersweet memories of Berkeley High. The class field trip to Forest Grove High School, (The two of them got lost in the woods for two hours!), the first test she ever failed (He persuaded the teacher to let her make it up with extra credit), to graduation (He cried when he got home). He remembered the accolades on her diploma. Valedictorian, class president, prom queen, and the list went on. None of that ever mattered to her.
He thought about his diploma and the seven words added on to it: Most Likely to be a Rock Star. What an achievement, he thought to himself. To him, guitar was as easy as brushing his teeth. That reminds me, where’s that toothbrush? He spent nearly an hour in front of the mirror, perfecting his look for the night. He walked over to the closet.
He took a deep breath as he gazed into his now-diminished closet; he had lost a lot of weight and most of his clothes didn’t fit anymore. He decided on a clean red t-shirt and some jeans. He pulled his monogrammed leather “Snakehead” jacket from its hanger and carefully fitted it over his once-muscular shoulders. He took one more check in the mirror (not too bad) and grabbed his helmet off the table. He looked at the clock. 7:30. Perfect.
He walked into the Westin Chicago and looked around. “Jesus,” he whispered under his breath. He saw a chandelier hanging from the ceiling, buffet tables around the perimeter of the gorgeous lobby and chefs coming around with plates of food and drinks. He felt awkward and underdressed. He began to head for the door when he heard his name.
“Jesse!” It was his high school friend, Joe. “God, man, you really are here! Heard you were in rehab? Are you – are you clean, man? Dude, that’s awesome!” His voice slurring.
Jesse kindly patted him on the back. “Have some water; get some rest.” He smiled and glanced around the room for someone that he could talk to. Then he saw her.
Her golden hair fell evenly around her shoulders. Her porcelain face was almost completely natural, except for a spot of blush and a touch of lipstick. A pearl necklace rested upon her collarbone, and a pink shawl was draped around her shoulders. A French manicured hand gently grasped a half-full glass of champagne. Her elegant legs were accentuated by an A-line skirt. She tilted her head back and genuinely laughed at a remark a friend made about an old teacher.
She’s got a smile that it seems to me reminds me of childhood memories where everything was a fresh as the bright blue sky.
Now and then when I see her face she takes me away to that special place and if I stare too long, I’d probably break down and cry.
After a bit of small talk and reminiscing with old friends, Jesse mustered up his courage and went to talk to her.
“Hey, Sloane.” He smiled at her.
“Oh, my God! Jesse! You look great! How are you?” She set down her glass to give him a hug. Her eyes were ablaze with a mix of concern and admiration.
“I’m fine. It’s great to see you,” He replied. Then, fighting his old life of self-absorption, he added on, “And you?”
“Oh, fine I suppose.” She averted her glance from his.
“I know that look,” He told her. “What’s wrong?”
“My husband and I are going through a divorce, and my kids are a bit afraid of him.” Her blue eyes reflected her sorrow.
“Oh, no, I’m so sorry.” He told her.
“It’s fine. I’m just worried about the kids.” She took her wallet out of her purse and opened it up. She pointed to a beautiful girl. “This is Iris, and she is six.” Her finger moved to a picture of another girl. Obviously younger; her cheeks were freckled and chubby. “This is Annie,” As she turned the plastic insert in her wallet, she pointed to a handsome baby boy with beautiful blue eyes like her own. “This little boy is Jesse.” She grinned into the older Jesse’s green eyes. “You should meet them sometime. I’ve told them all about you.”
He was touched. He fingered the picture as if it was extremely fragile. His eyes welled up with tears. “Thank you,” Was all he could manage to say. “I will be sure to visit sometime. I have to go. It was great seeing you!” He felt like a kid again, back in high school with only Sloane and a brilliant future. He began to hum-
Sweet child o’ mine.
Sweet love o’ mine.