The Reunion: Part 5

Part 5

The turkey bacon club that I ordered came about halfway through Jed's story. Usually, I just dive right into sandwiches like this because I adore the combination of flightless birds and flightless gargantuan mammals. I didn't do that this time. I was listening intently to every word that Jed said. Not because it was seducing me, but because it made me nervous. When Jed finished his story, he looked at me as if he wanted my approval. All I could say was, "Okay." That's all I had. It would have been totally romantic if I would have had a totally positive and life affirming reaction to this story, but I didn't. The only thing going through my mind at that moment was memories of Starlin.

What I told Jed of my relationship with Starlin wasn't the complete story. I did meet Starlin while I was going to UCONN. He was a philosophy major and I was a photography major who had a thing for philosophy majors. We dated for a long time, then we got married, because we can do that in Connecticut, in front of family, some friends from college, and the 4563 people watching on UStream. Not everybody approved of this union. In fact, Starlin's grandparents were told that their sweet grandson was marrying his longtime girlfriend that he had accidentally knocked up. There was no mass of cells growing inside of me, but there was a mass growing inside Starlin.

We went off for a honeymoon/working vacation in Puerto Rico. In between dining out, getting drunk, and touring the Captain Morgan plant as a “business trip”, Starlin started complaining about a stomach bug. He and I joked about him picking up a parasite at the Captain Morgan plant, but the doctor we saw was not in a jovial mood. Starlin had cancer, a cancer that had started in his stomach and spread to his liver, lymph nodes, and brain. With as far along as the cancer had progressed, there were no effective treatment options. Starlin, the man who epitomized my grandest fantasies, was going to die.

His final words were, "Holland, I wish I could have spent more time with you. The thought of me putting you through this experience pains me more than the disease does. I love you." Then he closed his eyes and took his final breaths. 2:01 P.M., May 11th, 2011.

After that I didn't want to do anything. My bosses at The Ridgefield Press were a great source of support, but they couldn't give me what I truly wanted. What I wanted was Starlin. I wanted the pain of losing him to go away. Not for me to forget him, but for it not to hurt anymore. Then the invitation arrived in the mail. Somehow, the class historian had found me and invited me to my High School reunion. This seemed like a good opportunity to feel something good.

Then Jed told his story to me. No. Not again. Not this soon. Not with the wounds so fresh in my romantic soul. No. No. No.

The look on Jed's face prevented me from just running away, tears streaming down my face. I couldn't lay all the things I had recently gone through on Jed, but I also couldn't crush him. Giving someone an ounce of the pain I was going through at that time would have been just too cruel.

"Jed, I didn't know you felt that way about me. I wish I had."

"Well, I didn't know how to tell you Holland. When you left for College, I still didn't. I'm only getting my head around this now."

"Jed, I want to try. I really do. But, I can't just leave my job, my life in Ridgefield."

Jed got his rejected look on his face. "Oh. Okay."

"But we should keep in touch. Who knows. Maybe, over the course of several late night Skype conversations, you can convince me to come home."

I took Jed's hand, look deep into his eyes, and kissed him. The look on Jed's face was one of optimism, a face I don't remember seeing the whole time we were friends in school. I had let him down, softly. For now, I had prevented Jed from experiencing the romantic pain I was still trying to deal with myself.

Perhaps something can develop between Jed and I. The cards hold such funny things for us. Who was I to know that I would fall in love with a man like Starlin. It's not something that I'm going to pursue though. For now, I need to get back to my life. I need to start developing a new normal for myself.


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