Jude

stories & notes

This book started as a fight with hypochondria

 

& now these are stories and notes in the world of one character 

at different times & places &

this character Jude, he's sometimes only mentioned once but 

give the guy a fair shake & 

I mostly hope you find one line or story you can file away & 

yeah, that might be the purpose of this book 

Filing away

CONTENTS

"The last two days in Mallorca"
"Harriet and the flood" 
"Take the wrong train back to Bethesda"
"I sell life insurance"
"A letter to Caroline Winters"
"The car and Imani and On Loving Her With No Parachute"
"Go to hell, they said"
"A double date, elsewhere"
"Hush, or Our Proofs on the Harry Met Sally thing"
"Isabella and irrealis"
"Phantom limb"
"Capture the flag in Sardineland"
"And the waves threw spray on the rocks"
"When the sidewalk light stopped counting"

Previews on November 16

& here are
out of order excerpts from one story

I feel something good now, and it's been ages. There's this aromatic blend that I'll never experience again and ahhh look at me writing like this! I'm happy, my friend. Let me tell you what hangs in the air now.

 

It's seabreeze and a grill in the park, split-open lavender and a seasoned paella. There's cinnamon and paprika and then rhubarb and sharp ginger. Her rose perfume fills my nose with each gust of wind, which carries with it those other smells. 

 

And then there's the feeling I've been chasing these last few months.

 

There are things to worry about. There's too much to do. Too much work. Too much to chase. But enough with that.

 

Right now, think—if this isn't nice, then what is? 

 

Dad always said that in his notebooks. Reading it each time made me a little less mad that he decided to drop dead at such a bad time. Even though they're the words of another author, more or less, I'll give him credit.

 

Here goes: my arm has been without circulation for around a half-hour—happily so, curled around Isabella. My nose is buried in a mountain of waves that are not quite curls and I'm almost at peace. 

 

I'm making myself stare at the purple side of the skyline. I'll divorce it from the goldish end of the opposite horizon, then glance back to the gold, then trace the point where the purple and gold wrap around one another. By the time I finish each cycle, purple to gold, more of the sea salt and roses enter my nose and I'm brightened. I sink back into Isabella's waves.

 

If this isn't nice, then what is?

 

I look at her and feel guilty. I was stressed and shaking earlier today about too much work, and here she has me saying nice words about the state of things. She deserves someone to make her feel that way. I get the feeling people only ever seek to take it from her. I get another feeling that they draw in power from seeing her drained. That thought is the first one in a while that makes my eyes itchy and wet every time I entertain it. 

 

While I'm moving from purple to gold in the sky again, she sits up like she'd heard me think these things. She yawns and stretches her left shoulder, scrunches her nose. Then she opens her eyes and looks at me. 

 

"How did you sleep?"

 

"I haven't slept that well in so long. It only lasted about twenty minutes though. Now I've been watching the sky," I said.

 

"I see, I see," she said. "There was this cat in my dream, following me around everywhere I went. I kept turning around to make sure he was still there and on the last turnaround he was a huge monster—monster cat took both hands and tried to bite my arm off and—"

 

I tackled her! I'm a romantic—in Spain!

 

We crashed to the makeshift mattress and she laughed so hard and I felt myself thinking about the future again. She had the warmest laugh, a chortle-snicker sound if there is one. She knocked over the small chair with the bottle of Cava (the one I actually bought from Catalonia for what I think was a fair price). It fell three whole feet and didn't break. That was a sign, my friend. 

***

Nothing can prepare you for what this feels like. I'm hanging onto Isabella and she's testing the limits of this Vespa. I hear the echoes of guitars and drums by the restaurants to our right, with the ridges and the moon to our left. It feels like we have to choose which of those two we'll pursue, but not yet — for now we're soaring straight, and I battle the thought of leaving with the gratitude of a man on the cusp of love.

 

"CAN YOU FEEL IT YET?" Isabella yelled, tilting her head toward me.

 

I felt it and yelled that back to her. But now I'm losing the battle to the thought that this ride is just another version of the trip. I can't help losing grip of all of these moments precisely because I'm trying to actually grip them. I won't ever learn that moments aren't meant to be grasped.

 

We slowed down when we reached the T-split in the road. This felt very red-pill blue-pill. The restaurants or the ridges, the music or the moon.

 

"Which way?" she asked.

 

"Would choosing food make us seem old? I'm hungry but I think I'd remember this more if we gave those hills a shot."

 

There was a road—it could work.

 

"I think we do the ridge up there. There's nobody! We can settle down and relax up there. There's no rush tonight," she said.

 

Then she added: "Look at me, though. Stop trying to do everything we're gonna remember. I'm gonna remember this and so are you. But if you aren't...if you aren't careful, all you'll remember is trying so hard to remember it."

 

I kissed her neck and patted her leg twice. "I needed that, thanks."

 

Then: "What if we ran into a shop and got stuff to tide us over? Cheese and bread, vegetables."

 

She nodded, and we shared a moment for two brief seconds before she smirked and made that Vespa move like a Harley.

 

***

We made it up to those ridges a while ago.

 

"See? You'll remember that, I bet," she said.

 

The food had been uncovered and out for about an hour now on that rock, but the risk of spoiled charcuterie had never been less important. I grabbed my shirt off a patch of grass and really observed it all for the first time. We were on an elevated space with the ocean to our right and a larger ridge to our left. I couldn't tell if there were people up there and I didn't care.

 

I sat down and tucked my legs into my chest, let my arms hang over my knees. I messed with my wristbands—the custom black chain that I found in Barcelona last week and the leather one with the H pendant from a long time ago. I looked up and felt peace and distraction, and then tears squeezed through my eyes and I didn't try to stop them. I don't know why I cry sometimes when I look up, but it's no longer a scary surprise.

 

"Did I do something?" Isabella asked, concerned.

 

"Ha, no no no. I do this sometimes," I said.

 

"Is this about your family? I won't pry, Julian, I just...I hope that you know I'm here for you. Which is lame, the way I just said it. Just know. You know?"

 

"I know, I know. Nothing recently. Just hard. I guess it's my mom — she's got me to worry about studying abroad. My sister's about to be in college. And the—"

 

"Ah, is this Diana?"

 

"Yes. And then Percy, he's younger, remember, and she knows that might be the last kid that she can really connect with."

 

Isabella nodded and rested her head on her arm, which was draped over her knees too, and looked over at me in a way that assured you she was listening. She wasn't looking for points to contribute with her story. She was letting me talk about this, knowing that was what I wanted. She had thoughts, but saved them. Another virtue of hers for me to chase.

 

She kept looking at me for about five seconds, then looked down and nodded some more. She was still understanding, yielding the floor. I found some more words — she was good at this.

 

"I don't think this should get to happen to me. Every time I think about getting this, I think about the safety of not getting it, and talking about not getting it. The safety of feeling not that great when you don't have a perfect trip like this. And the worst part, when I get the trip and the feelings creep back on up."

 

She nodded and looked up at me, then reassured with her words.

 

"I know you know that having good things happen to you doesn't mean the bad ones go away, and that they don't make the bad things wrong to talk about. Both things can happen all at once. You don't have to cut bad stuff out because there's new good stuff. And I'll listen. You know I'm good at this," she said with a little laugh.

 

"You're a miracle," I said.

 

I looked out at the ocean and the moon. Someone's probably said this, but the way the moon's reflection sat in the water looked like a little twin to the moon that sat within the stars. Two parts in different places, with different worries but the same measured look. I wondered whether they might change with their distance, whether a place can really do that much to something. The two moons are still both moons. Part of me wants to believe they never changed as they split from the horizon and took their corners. I thought about how all the moon-crazy writers and artists would laugh at my ignorance. Then I could only think of Isabella.

 

She shook my jaw while she stood up and the idea graciously blew away.

 

"Should we head back?"

***

Isabella had been awake for hours. She flowed between failing to fall back to sleep and watching Jude quietly snore, her nose nestled into the crevice under his. She felt funny about it—how uncomfortable it was to have snore air blown onto her nose like an exhaust pipe, and strange to think they were trading each other's oxygen, and how hot in temperature and humid it was to resist the urge to retreat to opposite sides. But it was worth it, always. It was worth it for the thought that he might wake up and she might do the same, and the delight they would take in their last day beginning with such a spark. No one had corrected Isabella's claustrophobia like Jules had.

 

But then, of course, she fell asleep for twelve minutes and Jude shot up like a lightning bolt. His sitting up sort of summoned her energy and she rubbed her eyes.

 

"We're so late," Jules said, recovering still from his sleep.

 

Isabella pulled him down to her. He could stand to at least pretend-sleep for another ten minutes.

 

As they laid there and as Isabella tapped back into her dream, Jules thought of tomorrow. He thought of how he might leave her, how he could never be prepared. He ought to stop trying, or thinking about it. He ought to buy her flowers. He ought to bring her with him. He ought to upend his life—he'd met an angel, and there was to him no better reason to abandon a flight plan. He ought to do all kinds of things.

 

Jude thought of longevity. He looked out the crevices in the shuttered window and thought of the sea and a person's twenties—and how crossing these things can swallow a love without permission or a promise to return it. He wasn't ready to wake up yet, so he went back to the crevice above Isabella's nose and almost slept.

bits from The last two days in Mallorca