The tarmac glistened under the afternoon sun. She could see heat radiating from the ground, a distinct shimmer rising from the blacktop making the world seem shiny and unreal. From her window, Jane saw workers scurrying about with last minute preparations for takeoff. Out there, standing at one of those distant windows, Tom stood, waving goodbye. She wondered if he would be there when she returned, if she wanted him there at all.
The engine rumbled, sending a hum climbing through her body. There was no going back to the life she had before, and, although she kept thinking about all her wrong turns down seemingly one-way streets, she wondered if those missteps had been the ones that brought her here to this moment on this airplane bound for the unknown.
The image of a revolving door kept flashing through her mind, in and out in a neverending dance of comings and goings, and those words that Claire had said, hovering like lightning.
It had been after Jane had admitted her plans, laid them out raw and bare for Claire to see. At first, Claire couldn’t look at her, and Jane thought her world might end again. However, a few nights later, Claire had sent a text–a simple message, really–that hadn’t made sense until right now. A quote from Jane’s favorite novel, The Goldfinch. It read, “Can’t good come around sometimes through strange backdoors?”
As the plane began taxiing down the runway, she couldn’t help but think of all the strange backdoors that brought her to seat J9 on a plane bound for a place she hadn’t seen in almost twenty years.
The plane launched into the air, climbing and climbing towards the clouds and a destination she longed to see. So much time had passed since she last saw those white beaches and swaying palms that she couldn’t believe it was finally happening. As they hit cruising altitude, Jane let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding and reached for her ipod and the tattered journal in her carry on.
The worn gray cover felt familiar, as if she had only written in it yesterday, but it had been almost as long since she last felt his arms around her. Although she was flying, unannounced, to see him, Jane had been consciously trying to avoid thinking about him since she booked her ticket. She couldn’t bear the pain she was causing to everyone she knew, but she also felt a magnetic pull to Florida, one that she thought she left behind. It wasn’t until her father died that Jane remembered that life was short and that she only had so much time to finally tell Jack how she felt.
Gingerly, as if it were made from Tiffany glass, Jane opened the journal and was transported back to the days after she had left. Her fingers gently marveled over her messy handwriting and she could almost feel the emotions running across the pages.
I can’t believe I love him this much. We talked for hours tonight and he wants me to come back. I’m going to save money. I’ll take another bus if I have to. He is…everything.
Those dreams perished a few months later. They had been young and their dreams, so close together yet 3000 miles apart, seemed too daunting, too abstract for reality. She remembered when he had called a few months later, the agony in his voice as he let her go.
Jane shivered, the pain of those days sending needles of ice through her skin. She had hated Jack then, his weakness and lack of faith in her. Years later, when he had proclaimed apologies and love, she realized he had never left her heart, and she was angry all over again. How could he have loved her and held it back? Kept her in the dark, floundering around for a life that was waiting on the other side of the country?
Instead, Jane had found Tom and a steadiness that often buried her light but also made her feel safe in a way she had never known.
Her eyes continued to scan her ancient scrawlings just as a flight attendant handed her a complimentary can of Sprite. The can felt heavy in her hand, condensation dripping between her fingers and onto the notebook. Jane watched as the tiny droplets soaked through her words, blurring the ink, now unreadable. The last thing he gave to her was a cup filled with Sprite.
“It’s styrofoam so it won’t sweat on the ride,” he had said, his eyes downcast, hands in pockets, feet shuffling, kicking at errant rocks on the hot pavement. She had felt so happy and miserable in that moment, knowing this may be the last time her eyes, weary and worn, would ever find respite in his rough features, yet she was overcome with his want to care for her, even then as she was leaving him behind. Again.
Looking out the window now, she saw the land with a certain detachment, as if the houses and cars and people were nothing more than toys waiting to be crushed in some child’s hands, the same way he crumbled her heart between his perfect fingers. Jane began to again wage the battle between her heart and mind, wishing she could jump off that cliff into the darkness with a certain faith in the unknown. Instead, her heart hammered and not even the music pumping through her headphones, that song he used to play when he missed her, could assuage the knot in her belly.
Was this the right choice? Should she forget Tom and run towards Jack, the only man she had ever truly loved? Or would it be better to stay nestled in her cocoon of safety, write her books, and sip hot tea in the winter?
Jane closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She sat motionless, the soda can growing warm in her hand, until the sun dipped behind the earth. Only then, when her heartbeat had slowed and her muscles had loosened, did she flip on the overhead light and begin to read.
Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge–Telephone