Jack had seemed happy for a while. As long as he had a pack of smokes on the regular and Honeydew nearby, he was smiling. He acted shy when we surprised him after work with our little party, but once we got the music going, he got wild.That year was the first easy one since Momma’s passing, but then things got tough again, like always. When Jack left for that first piece of time on the rig, it was hard on all of us, even with the good money he sent home. I always tried to make jokes and tell funny stories about Honeydew in my letters, and send pictures to make him smile. The first time he came home he said the pictures helped him remember. He said looking at them and hash-marking the days on his bunk every night was the only thing that kept him going. Life on the rig made you forget there was anything else but being a worm.
After the blowout, they sent me his things in a thick paper grocery bag laid flat and closed up with packing tape. The note said his clothes and extra boots had been given to the other men, and that the pictures, my letters and a few torn magazine pages were the only other things left to send home. I couldn’t read the letters for a long time, but I put the magazine pages and the picture of him and Honeydew on the refrigerator right away. Jack never said anything about wanting to study to take care of animals, but I guess it makes sense now.
Story by Grisella M. Martinez
He was absolutely perfect. I was captivated by him; the dirty blonde hair that grazed his shoulders, those eyes that he always complained were too far apart but that I always loved. That couch? It was his mother’s. She died when he was sixteen. Lung cancer. The woman was 52 and smoked as many cigarettes as she could during the commercials of M*A*S*H. He hated her for it. It was blackening the parts of her surrounding her heart, and sometimes late at night, he would imagine that turning into ash, too.
Once she passed, he came to where I was living and picked me up immediately. I had been abused by my last, kicked and screamed at when I was too affectionate. It took me a while to really trust him – every time I wanted to kiss him I winced and backed away for fear of another bruised bone. But he wasn’t like that.
We loved one another. Ten years passed and on our anniversary, he came home with a giant present for me. Not the one pictured. Of course, looking at that stupid yellow paper that he wrapped everything in isn’t helping me get over it.
I ran outside like the absolute fucking idiot that I am and he chased me, laughing his gorgeously frustrating laugh. A ‘95 cherry red Volvo sped down the road. He pushed me out of the way.
They wouldn’t let me see him in the hospital. I wasn’t family, but dear Lord I was more family to that man than any of the people that were allowed. Oh, how I regretted every fight we had… that bastard was mine and all of a sudden, he wasn’t.
His lungs filled up with fluid. It’s crazy that a man so immensely aware of his health could die like that. I hear he asked the doctors to light up a cigarette in the room. The smell comforted him, I guess. He died that night.
It’s been four months, 8 days, and 12 hours. And it still hurts to look at that picture of us.
Story by Hannah Isaac