Archive for July, 2012

Ok Folks, by popular demand, here’s the story of those missing years. Why Elaine and Jack split up and a little more besides.

The School Reunion – The Final Directors Cut 🙂

You know when you get butterflies in your stomach.  When you get nervous, looking forward to something but worried about it at the same time.  Well that’s how I found myself, standing outside the Hotel that Friday night in August.  A warm night but I stood there trying to figure out if I should leave my jacket on or take it off.  Worried about how I looked, Jesus, where did my hair go?………where did that fucking belly come from?

Gabe had just dropped me off for a school re-union, I hadn’t seen most of these people in 25 years, Christ 25 years, where had the time gone?  I stood there wishing I had a cigarette and finally I said,  “Pull yourself together man….For fucks sake, you’re a master of the universe”. I was normally level-headed, calm and cool but here tonight…I was absolutely fucking terrified.

I walked into the hotel lobby and saw a sign for the Maple room.  That’s where the fun and frolics would take place.  It was a typical function room, dimly lit and for the night that was in it, someone had hooked up their Ipod to the stereo system with a playlist made up of what seemed like every song ever released in the 80’s.  Peter, John, Martina and Joyce where facing towards the door talking to some others I couldn’t see, holding hands and drying eyes.  Various tables around the room where occupied by two or three people, nervous too I guess, not joining in the conversations.  Early enough in the evening I thought to myself, wait till the sipped beers and soda waters start turning to Gin and Tonics, Vodka and WkD’s.  I walked over to Peter just in time to catch him say “Yeah, Jack the bollix, funny how he’s never around when it’s his turn to buy a drink” Martina, ever prim and proper kicked him in the foot while I smiled.  I listened in to the conversation all the while looking at the door, waiting for Elaine.  Elaine, who I hadn’t seen in 16 years.

I went from table to table and laughed at stories regaled, stories I had never heard before and some which were all still way too close to the surface for comfort, all the while I kept an eye on the door, waiting for Elaine.

Jesus, remembering some of the things we did back then, how we weren’t killed or how at least we didn’t end up in a cell for a few hours I’ll never know.

The first holiday we went on, where we crashed the boat we’d hired and were left stranded for the night, each of us taking drunken turns at “keeping watch” and making sure the boat didn’t sink because of the Titanic sized hole in the side.

The time we “accidentally” took the hallucinogenic’s and 3 of us woke up the next day in the back of a truck, in Scotland.

When we borrowed my dad’s car, forgot to put on the hand brake and it rolled off the pier.

When in Spain, Joey drank a bottle of Johnny Walker and decided he could jump from our apartment block to the one beside it.  I was never able to look Joey’s mother in the face again.  At her funeral he cried because in a wheelchair, he couldn’t carry her coffin.

The time we got into a fight and Mick got stabbed with an umbrella, (yes, an umbrella, Jesus, you couldn’t make it up).  How in the hospital that night, while we waited to see if he was going to be ok, we tried so desperately to get three of the nurses to go for a drink with us, (Mick was ok of course and perfectly understood our over-riding need to chat up nurse’s).

Stories were told too of some of the people who hadn’t made it, I didn’t listen to those stories though and I gravitated towards the tables where people laughed, all the while watching the door for Elaine.

Probably about two hours in, as I had predicted, the carefully sipped beers and soda waters had given way to the real poisons of choice….the Gin, Whiskey and Vodka started to flow.  The room started to fill and happy memories and old gripes where shared and sorted, every so often you could catch a frown, a grimace or an eye wiped but alcohol has a funny way of easing conversation.  Pretty soon you had to try quite hard to hear that 80’s playlist humming away.

I strained my ears and just about made out Cindi singing about how she was going “to catch me if I fall”.  I looked towards the door and there she was.  Elaine.  As I walked towards her, she flicked her fringe back the way she always did, I caught my breath, the smile, the sparkle in the eye, the tilted grin, the wiggle of the nose, the way she nervously parted her lips, just ever so slightly to grab a deep breath for courage, everything I remembered.  I smiled and said “Jesus you look fantastic, you haven’t changed a bit, do you have a portrait in your attic?”  She laughed and my heart jumped, just like it always did whenever I was around her.

Watching her I remembered London, our little flat, how happy we were and then I remembered the last time I’d seen her.

*********

We moved to London after college.  Much to her dads annoyance it must be said.  We told her parents that she was moving in with Martina and I was moving in with Peter.  Her mother knew of course but never let on. London was great back in those days, full of wonder and excitement.  The IRA treat was coming to an end and the Fucking Paddy and Bleeding Mick attitude was on the wane.  We found a great little flat near Martina and Peter and got down to the serious business of enjoying our lives.

I was working in an Architects office and Elaine was working as a copywriter in an advertising firm.  We didn’t think life could be anymore idyllic and really it couldn’t have been.  We socialised, we drank cheap wine, we went to football matches, myself and Peter took up golf and blagged our way onto courses we shouldn’t even have been allowed to caddy on.  Elaine got a promotion and to be honest, we had more money and more happiness than we really knew what to do with.

I had been really busy in work and was putting in every hour available to get a project finished. I got home one Sunday afternoon and found Elaine sitting on the sofa smiling from ear to ear.  “What has you so pleased?” I asked.  She held up what looked like a long white stick and smiled again.  “What’s that/” I looked quizzically.  “Her, take a look” she said.  I took it and stared at it.  It took me a few minutes to realise what it was, it took me a few more minutes to come to the realisation that there was a blue line near the top.

“Well?” she asked, beaming once again from ear to ear.  I sat down and stared at her.  “Well?”, she asked again.  “Well…..I don’t know” I managed to spurt.  “Aren’t you happy?” she asked, the smile faltering.  “How?” I said, “We are always so careful”.  “Nothing is 100%” she said, “you know that, are you in shock?” she asked, beaming again.

I didn’t know what to say, I sat there staring at the floor, millions of thoughts flying around in my head.  After a while I looked up at her and said, “but what about all of our plans?”  She stood up, came over to me and put her arms around my neck, kissed me and said, “We can make new plans, Jeez wozzy boy, I didn’t think you were such a chicken, we have spoken about having kids, it’s just happened a bit earlier than we expected”

“A lot earlier than we expected” I said, “What about travelling, what about getting more established in our careers, what about your parents, your dad will go fucking crazy”.

“Ah dad will be ok, he will expect us to get married of course, but hey Mr you already said you’d make an honest woman of me, now you’ll just have to do it sooner”

I stood up and went to the window.  Elaine came up behind me, put her arms around my waist and kissed the back of my neck.  “Honey, I know it’s a shock, but it’s a good shock, we’ll get through it, I think we’re ready for this”.  I swung around, “ Ready, ready?” my voice was rising and Elaine stepped back.  “I’m not ready, neither are you Elaine, Jesus we’re not ready at all”

I went into the bathroom and splashed some water on my face.  Elaine knocked on the door and when I opened it she stood there with a cup of coffee in her hand for me.  I looked at the coffee and said “I need something more than that, I need to go out for a drink”.  “I’ll just have water” she winked. “No”, I said “I need to go for a drink on my own”.  I picked up my coat and I caught her reflection in the mirror, I knew I had hurt her but being the prick that I was, I just stormed by her and banged the door on my way out.

I came back later that evening and met Martina on the stairs to our flat. “She’s asleep in bed Jack, Jesus you’re being an arsehole, don’t go into her, sleep on the sofa, I left a duvet on it for you, you better sort this out in the morning Jack, I’ve never seen her so upset”, she brushed passed me and I said, “Martina, its just that I’m not ready for this, Jesus we’re still kids ourselves”. “Well your old enough to make a baby Jack, cop on and deal with it”. “I can’t”, I replied.

When I woke up the next morning, Elaine had already left. I showered and shaved and hopped on my bike, when I got to work I rang her office to be told she’d called in sick.  I rang Martina but she wasn’t in either.  Peter called at around 12.30.  “Martina has brought Elaine to a clinic” he said.  “What?” I roared, “What clinic?”.  Peter gave me the name, it had been circled in the yellow pages by Martina that morning.  Elaine had been at their flat at 6.30.  I raced downstairs to the garage and jumped on my bike but the damn thing wouldn’t start.  I gave up after 10 minutes and ran outside to grab a taxi.

I arrived at the clinic just as Martina was pulling out of the carpark, Elaine was sitting in the passenger seat and crying. As I stood at the gate, Martina rolled down her window, “You really are a prick Jack” she said, “leave her alone”

I walked across the road to a pub and sat at the bar for the rest of the day.  At closing time I rang Peter and asked him to come get me.

It was the next morning when I realised Elaine’s things were gone from the wardrobe, the chest drawers were empty, even her shoes were gone.  I went into the kitchen and found a note propped up against the kettle.  “Goodbye Jack, I will always love you” was all it said.

I rang Martina, but she wouldn’t tell me where Elaine was, eventually I got it out of Peter that she had gone back to Dublin.

A couple of months later, I got a chance to move to New York.  The company I worked for opened an office there and there was nothing left in London for me anymore. Martina didn’t want to know me and it was causing problems between her and Peter if he saw me.  It was the best solution.

***********

The others came to meet her and she was engulfed in hugs and kisses.

“Where’s Jack” she said to Peter.  “Jesus” he said, “you don’t know?”  “How could she”, said Martina, “she only flew in tonight.

“I’ve just come straight from the Airport” said Elaine, “My flight was late…what don’t I know?”

Martina took Elaine’s hand and said, “Jack died last night, he was at a bank machine and was mugged”….Peter burst in, “so fucking stupid, so fucking fucking stupid, they’ll probably never catch the bastard, camera wasn’t working”, he said with cracking voice and through the lump in his throat….Martina put her hand on his arm and apologised for his outburst….”there was nothing anyone could do….”

I walked up to Elaine and although I knew she couldn’t see me, I could see my own reflection in the tear that had formed in the corner of her eye.  The tear welled up, bursting with a million memories, happy and sad.

Out of the corner of my own eye I saw Gabe appear.

Gabriel, I should probably call him, he is anArchangel after all.  He beckoned me over, smiled and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Thank you for letting me be here” I said. “Hey” he replied, “least we could do for the king of the school disco” and he squeezed my shoulder.  “Very pretty lady there Jack, I understand why you wanted to be here”. I smiled, there was nothing else I could do.

“Are you ready?” he asked.  “As I’ll ever be”, I said.

I turned back towards Elaine and she and the room around her began to shimmer.  She looked straight into my eyes and I knew she could see me, she raised her hand and waved with her little finger, just like all those years ago.  Through the tears, hers and mine, she smiled and whispered “Good-bye Jack, I will always love you”

***************

Elaine stood in the lobby, eyes closed remembering, remembering that last day together in London and all the days before it……..Martina came towards her and said “You never got to tell him”. “No” answered Elaine as her phone rang, she shook herself, looked at the screen, wiped her eyes and pressed talk.

“Hi mom, how are you, did you get to the re-union ok, did you meet this mystery man?….c’mon, give me all the goz”… Elaine could hear the smile in her Daughters voice, “Yes my daaahling Jackie” she said, “here safe and sound”.

“And what about this guy, did you see him?” asked Jackie. “Yes and no hon” replied Elaine, “Wow”, said Jackie “playing it all cool eh mom” she laughed.  Elaine let out a little sob and said “Listen hon, when I get back…….I…….we need to talk……..there are some things I need to tell you……about your……..dad.”

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