Jan, the audacity
I woke up groggy, with my sister and my friend Caleb at my bedside. The last thing I remembered, I was drunk, climbing Jan’s fire escape to break into her house. She’d forgotten her keys at some dive on East Colfax, and since we’d been kicked out of the place for causing a drunken scene, it didn’t seem worth going back to look for them.
Caleb and my sister looked at each other.
Caleb, who must have driven in from Colorado Springs, took a deep breath. “She called to say you were here, but we haven’t heard from her since.”
“How long have I been out?”
“Just two days. They got you on a bunch of painkillers. You fucked your back up, proper. They’re not sure if you’re going to walk again.” Tears started to stream down my sister’s face.
I chuckled, bitterly, and said, “It’s OK, sis. I was always emotionally crippled, so maybe it’s all right.”
When Caleb came back the next day, the last he could get off work, I had him call her and hold up the phone. It went straight to message.
I’d met Jan at the gallery where she worked as a front desk girl. I came in during the middle of the day, drunk, desperate for a bathroom. Instead of asking for the bathroom, I found I was dumbstruck. I asked if anyone had ever told her she looked like a character from an Argentine soap opera. She looked at me like a crazy person, but in a good way. I killed time until she got off work and then we drank the rest of the night away. It was a good start. Then, seven months later, I fell off a fire escape.
I didn’t ask her any questions about where she’d gone the night of the fall, or where she’d been since. I didn’t want to know. I was banged up enough. She came to visit a couple more times, but kept her distance. It was left to my imagination to fill in the blanks of what happened. In my version, the night of the accident, she calls the ambulance but doesn’t come to hospital; has to think about where to go and winds up at her ex-boyfriend’s. He sees her through the night, and in the morning they’re in love again.
I held on to this story for the duration of my recovery. I still have no idea if it’s true. I knew about the guy while Jan and I were dating. Sounded like an asshole, sure, but you could tell there was still a bit of her that was with him. I couldn’t hate the guy. I focused my attention on Jan. I imagined ruining her life somehow. Posting fliers around her neighborhood, with her picture and something to the effect of “Jan broke a man’s back, then two-timed him.” Or maybe I’d attend her eventual wedding and when the minister asks for objections, I’d stand up and yell, “The bride is either a weak woman or a evil fucking banshee!” I’ve never been especially vindictive, but in this situation, I wanted revenge.
If I’m honest, holding onto these bitter thoughts made me stronger, more focused on regaining use of my legs. But I sure would’ve preferred to have had that woman by my side. And looking back, I still can’t believe it.
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