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You Don’t Get to Say Goodbye – Episode 5

November 19, 2019

Heartbreak.

While the heart may be broken many times, there comes with each a sense that the present one stands as the most painful of all. While the feeling is understandable, retrospect identifies which ones inflicted the most impact. Some become bellwether moments while others get the nod of “that was destined to happen.”

When you reach a point where you no longer own access to your will to live, you know you’re in trouble.

Elizabeth

She always walked with a pronounced bounce in her step. This produced a number of mesmerizing effects on Ray. Her hair nearly always sported a ponytail. “Chantilly Lace” came to mind every time he witnessed the phenomena. That bounce in her step fell nowhere near ladylike, yet it came even less close to sultry. The only description Ray could conjure fell to words like joy, self-esteem, confidence, comfortable in her own skin, and free.

Elizabeth was a Jewish girl one grade beneath him. That type of observation stood as an interesting juxtaposition to the fact that she was far more intellectual than anyone in the senior class. She was the only underclassman in the Trig/Calculus class. There were only 7 people in the class out of the entire high school.

Her eyes appeared as large saucers. A deep brown, incredibly expressive nature allowed her to convey joy and merriment without saying a word. She possessed a quick wit and an amazing ability to think 10 steps ahead of most people. Few would call her attractive. She had no physical classic beauty attributes. She would never be confused for a model, or even a “looker.” But to Ray, Elizabeth defined beauty. He could not understand why all his friends could not see just how stunning she was.

He actually knew why they couldn’t get past the physical aspect. They were all caught up in Playboy model types of beauty. Elizabeth had nice curves, if not classic. But she possessed something no other girl in school could come close to: a mind loaded with creativity, exuberance, brilliance, and she genuinely cared for others. She was not “stuck on herself” like so many of her compatriots.

Ray and Elizabeth became fast friends She was a total flirt and Ray loved it. They made up little flirtation phrases and never failed to use them when they passed in the halls of school. She lived quite a ways away on the top of a mountain. Ray would sometimes drive up the mountain to Japonica Lane just to see if he could guess which house was hers. He only did this a couple times because the street ended in a cul-de-sac and there was no way to make the trip down the lane without being noticed. He didn’t want to be creepy.

As his senior year moved quickly on, the prom sprang onto the horizon. Ray was now head-over-heels gaga over this little Jewish waif. He mustered all his will one day and approached her during lunch break.

“Hey Bethry!” Ray tossed her direction, using his flirty name for her.

“Hey! What’s up? Want to find a dark corner?” Ray felt the thrill attached to the mere thought of doing such a thing. They’d been flirting like this for quite some time. Of course, Elizabeth flirted like that with many guys. She was simply bubbly that way.

“You realize prom is coming up soon,” Ray jumped right in.

“Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed.” She shot him that sly, ‘I’m lying’ teasing look, daring him to ask her.

“Would you like to go as my prom date?” Ray’s boldness surprised him.

“Why, I’d be most honored dear sir!” Elizabeth stated in an exaggerated southern drawl. She batted her eyes at him for added effect. He so defined the word smitten.

“Well, me lady, there’s only one thing with regard to this shindig,” Ray replied with a less admirable southern accent.

“And what, pray tell, may that be?” When she was in full flirt mode, Ray could scarcely think, much less corral his thoughts enough to make sense.

“I, uh, um, well, I don’t, I mean, I’ve never really, um, danced before, like, uh, you know, at a dance.” His stumbling did not seem to bother her. In fact, her eyes lit up at his uncomfortable stammering and she poured on the flirtatious charm even more.

“Well, now that seems a mite troublesome as this IS a dance you’re inviting me to, sir!” She winked at him. “I suppose I could teach you some steps if you’re willing…” she tossed over her shoulder as she walked away from him.

Ray stood in place for a moment. She was halfway across the room before he realized she kept glancing back as an invitation to walk with her. He scrambled to catch up. “Oh, I’m willing, ma’am. I’d be much obliged!”

She grinned. “I’ll be wearing a long, yellow dress.”

She strolled into her after-lunch classroom and winked at him once again.

Ray drifted down the hallway, in search of that part of his brain which would tell him where HIS next class was located.

***

Prom night arrived. Ray drove up to Japonica Lane for the first time as a legitimate interloper. Her house stood near the end of the cul-de-sac on the left side. She met him at the door in her gorgeous yellow dress, her long hair incredibly styled with a couple slender curls parading behind her cheeks and the rest of her hair in an elaborate mix of ties and swirls. He’d never experienced beauty on this level. Ray knew overwhelming love for the first time in his life.

Yes, he’d been gaga crazy for Dawna and Rachel, and Tamara, but Elizabeth had established residence in his heart over nearly a year of interaction and flirting and intellectual sparring. Ray loved her on levels he’d never known existed.

“Are you ready, me lady, to trip the light fantastic?”

“Absolutely dear sir, as long as you don’t trip me on the dance-floor!” she teased.

One of the great things about being with Elizabeth was that he could be himself. Yes, she was a big time flirt. Yes, she was intellectually intimidating at times, but she never lorded these attributes over him, or anyone else for that matter. She simply lived in her skin and allowed those around her to do the same.

At the dance, the music was loud and Ray felt immediately intimidated. Flashbacks to his one dance with Dawna and how awkward they both were flooded his heart. They each were stiff and frightened. Ray feared he would be the same now, nearly six years later.

Elizabeth immediately tamped down his fears by becoming her usual social butterfly self. They went around and spoke with people each of them knew. This established a comfortable rapport between her and Ray. Earth, Wind and Fire whisked through the speakers with their new song, “September.”

“Ready to dance?” she asked without segue.

“I…I guess,” Ray stammered.

“Don’t worry. This is easy. It’s a swing. All you have to do is remember 1,2, rock step,” she instructed.

Ray had no clue what that meant. “Uh, ok.”

“Here’s how we get into dance position,” she shouted over the music. “Give me your left hand! Ok, now put your right hand on my waist right here on my back,” she instructed by placing his hand just above her left hip.

Ray noticed how tightly her yellow gown hugged her hips. Something within him screamed to slide his hand down a few inches… “Ok, got it,” Ray stated with disguised fear.

“You begin with your left foot. We dance in place to begin with. Your left foot we step forward just a little bit. That’s “1.” You lift your right foot and set it down, that’s “2.” You bring your left foot back just behind your right heel. That’s “rock.” You lift your right foot and set it back down again. That’s “step.” 1,2, rock step. 1,2, rock step.

Ray felt stiff as a board. He felt like Frankenstein, unable to unlock his knees. But he tried the 1, 2, rock step. To his amazement, she matched him. His left hand was holding her right hand. His right hand was just above that beautiful curve in her gown. He felt his knees begin to relax. Now all he needed to do was find the beat of the music.

By the end of the song, Ray had actually managed to find the rhythm and become slightly competent.

“You’re a good listener!” Elizabeth exclaimed as the music died down.

“Hopefully, I’ll get to be a good dancer at some point,” Ray replied.

“Don’t worry about it. Look at all the people too scared to get out here and dance!” She smiled up at him. “You’re already better than them and that was your first dance!”

Over the course of the evening, they talked and danced a few more times. They fell into a comfortable rhythm. They held hands a lot. This was pure heaven for Ray. He remembered how thrilling it was to walk around holding hands with Rachel five years ago. This was far better!

Near the end of the evening, Ray felt compelled to pop the question. He knew this was what he needed to do. He knew he would kick himself if he did not at least try. Elizabeth was the girl for him. Every fiber in his body told him this was right. There would be no better time than this dance to ask.

“Uh, Beth,” Ray began.

“Yes?” she crooned, batting her eyes up at him.

She must have noted his tone, his non-use of his pet names for her, and his nervousness. “Would you go with me?” As soon as he said it, he wondered at how goofy it sounded on one hand and how serious on the other. Shouldn’t it be “go steady with me?” But this was the vernacular of the day, and he was sure he’d said it right.

Her eyes lit up and she appeared to reach another level of glee. “Yes. Yes, I will go with you!” She hugged him and from that minute forward, for the rest of the evening, everything became a muddled blur.

When they arrived back at her house, he walked her to the door. He knew he needed to kiss her. Not that he didn’t want to, but it was imperative that he actually work up the nerve to kiss her. As he bent over to press his lips to hers, he noted at how short she was compared to him. Not that this mattered in any way to him other than he did not want this kiss to be awkward. Their lips finally met.

Hers were so soft. The connection electrified him. The power jolt nearly knocked him away as he struggled to maintain the kiss, to linger just a bit, so as to extend it forever in his heart and mind.

“I’ll come up tomorrow if you like,” Ray stated, working hard to keep himself steady. His knees felt like they would buckle.

“That would be nice,” she said as she slipped in the door.

“See you tomorrow, Bethry,” he smiled as he stepped back.

“Goodnight.”

***

Ray was nervous. He’d actually asked Elizabeth to go with him, she’d actually said yes, and he was going to head up the mountain. To bolster his confidence, he asked their mutual friend,Teresa, to go up with him. It turned out that Mark Turney lived next door to Elizabeth and Teresa had a crush on him. This would be a great way to introduce Teresa and Mark and help Ray overcome his fear.

When they pulled up to Elizabeth’s house, there were cars in her driveway, so Ray parked across the street in an empty lot. Ray and Teresa strolled across the street. They found Beth sitting on Mark’s lap on his front porch.

Ray was stunned. Mark had his arms around her and she simply sat there as he and Teresa approached. She greeted them as did Mark. Elizabeth did not move from Mark’s lap, nor did Mark release his arms from around Ray’s girlfriend. Teresa, being a chatterbox by nature, immediately struck up a conversation. Mark and Elizabeth interacted in the conversation. There was joviality, laughter, and a steady stream of words. Teresa kept the conversation going and going and going.

After the conversation had droned on for ten minutes, Elizabeth noted Ray had not spoken as yet. He and Teresa remained in the yard looking up at Mark and Elizabeth on the porch. “You haven’t said a word Ray! Say something!” Elizabeth exhorted.

Everything within Ray’s world had crumbled at this point. This was not the way it was supposed to be. His girlfriend on another guy’s lap. Not only another guy, an extremely attractive, intelligent guy home from his first year in college. Everything hurt inside. His heart. His mind. His soul. He could not find anything to say. Anger flushed through him and yanked a word from his mouth. “Something.”

Ray turned on his heel and headed back to the car. Teresa stumbled verbally as, right after Ray had spoken, she’d attempted to get the conversation going again.

“Well, uh, I told Ray I had to get back home pretty quick, so I, uh, I gotta run!” Teresa said as she backpedaled toward the car whose engine just roared to life. “See you at school tomorrow!”

“I’m so sorry, Ray,” Teresa said, trying to console him as he drove down the mountain.

“That was not right, was it? I mean, she’s my girlfriend and she did not even come down and hug me and she just kept sitting on his lap like it was not something that would bother me. Am I crazy?” Ray blurted through tears streaming his cheeks.

“No. No, that was not good. She should not have done that,” Teresa agreed.

He dropped Teresa off. It was dusk. Ray decided to drive up to the top of one of his favorite mountains. When he reached the top, he turned off the engine and cried for a couple hours, attempting to work through what had just happened.

The moon rose above an adjacent mountain. The view over the ledge where he’d parked took on a surreal appearance. He started up the engine. All it would take would be a short acceleration. He and the car would fall gloriously to a demolished end at the bottom of the rocky mountainside. He did not want to live. It seemed that he would never find anyone who would love him.

He searched and searched and could not find a reason to keep living. He shifted the car into drive. He placed his left foot on the brake, his right on the gas pedal. All it would take…

Why should I live? What hope do I have? I want one piece of hope. One reason…

Miranda.

He’d just met her through a mutual friend a few days ago. She actually flirted with him. He would ask her out. “If she says no, he’ll come back to this spot and floor it without stopping…”

 

Broken Heart

Dreary become the days of solitude and loneliness
Beacon searching no longer a thing
Sad songs resonate with a wounded heart
Tears released as the songstress sings
Too much sadness, too little joy
Heart too mangled as an abused little toy
No respite for a deep-feeling soul
All that remains is that abysmal hole
The one in his heart open, inflamed
The one left to fester, unexplained
Hope, a faint, far distant memory
Hope, a fading, far distant memory
Hope, a dying, far distant memory

Dreary then, the days of solitude and misery…

 

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