Julia is waiting for me. I have moved through this day like an automaton that was programmed long ago. I go through the motions. Review cost, schedule manhours on jobs, inventory supplies left from the school year. It is a matter of making a list at 8 a.m. and putting checks next to each task until 4:30 p.m.. That is how I get through this day. When I walk across the campus to my house, I know exactly what I will find.
Julia will be upstairs, stretched out on the bed, her face cradled in my pillow, the pillow cradled in her arms. She will be wearing something dusty rose or mauve or beige that covers her torso, leaving bare her shoulders, arms and half of her legs. Her eyes will be open. Always, open. She will be facing the window and the light will shower upon her, bathing her in illumination.
We have done this dance.
I read an author, Lee Child, who wrote about one of his characters that he subscribed to the “One Bullet” school of thought. This theory contends that each of us gets just one, one great love, that pierces us to the core; it is a love from which we are forever and irreparably changed. I subscribe to this belief. I live it. I met Julia when I was fifteen and she was turning fourteen. She was it for me. I had the common sense to let her come to me rather than scaring her off. I had hunted with my father, how was this any different? When the bottom fell out of her world in high school, I was there for her. She turned to me like a flower turns to rain.
And even when that time together came to an end, I was not disconsolate. I knew she was it for me. We found each other again after college. She had her lovers, I had mine, but they were not the one, the great one. When two cars race, the observers never know who will blink first. The racers do. The person who cuts the wheel to save himself is the person who has the most to lose. We were those racers. When it came time for me to ask her to marry me, I froze. I thought I had too much to lose if she said, “No.” She asked me. I never answered. I packed my belongings and moved across the country, running scared as scared can be.
Julia picked up, brushed off her knees, and moved on.
I was devastated by my own betrayal of myself. Fear is a compelling reason to run. But after years of a deep sense that I was not whole, I returned.
I returned to Whately Prep with a mere kernel of a hope that Julia would still want me.
The malicious acts of violence over the past few days clouds our emotions. It crossed my mind at one point that Julia might consider that I have been orchestrating events. After all, I seem to be the one benefiting most. Conveniently, the woman I love is seeking my help and reassurance.
When Julia called me at noon and said she’d meet me at my house at five, I agreed without hesitation. My prior plans to have dinner with local friends, be damned.
I notice I am slightly breathy when I arrive at the front doors to my home. I lift the latch on the left, the key on the right is purely decorative. I step inside, seeing dust motes dance on beams of light that enter through the transom over the door. The long central hallway makes a sharp right and the stairs ascend to the second level. My hand slides up the bannister -- the bannister has worn smooth, almost silky after all these years. With my hand on my bedroom door, I pause just a moment, then enter.