The Day I Stopped


Photo by Nat Kingry

When the perfume of death is all that surrounds, can Jessie make it through the fog?

“Jon is nice. Like, really nice… He’s helped me a lot. I actually met him here as I was leaving one day. You would like him,” Jessie whispered, not wanting anyone else to overhear her, “You really would, Angus.” She was propped up against a smooth, white stone, fiddling with a bouquet of fresh red roses as she traced the letters D-E-C while a cool, May breeze ruffled her brunette hair. “He-he’s helped me a lot. A lot more than anyone has really… Except for you! No one could ever surpass you, Angus!” she panicked, gripping onto the stone. A few heads turned in her direction, but no one ran to her aid. She watched as each one turned back to their loved ones, then snapped her head back to Angus.


“I’m sorry! So sorry! I wasn’t thinking! I-”


“Jessie.” The voice was soft and gentle, but it certainly was not Angus’.


“Yes, Jon?” She turned her cerulean eyes up to look at him, but not wanting to meet his gaze.


“I think it’s time to go.”


“But-!” she tried to argue.


“You’ve been here for three hours.”


“Just two!”


“It’s time to go.” He extended his hand out to her and offered her a small smile. “He’ll be okay for the night.”


Knowing that she would not win against him, she sighed and took his hand, carefully standing up and smoothing out her long, black dress once she was planted firmly on both of her feet. Linking arms, they marched down the hill. And though no words were shared between them, an abundance of glances were shared between the two and Angus.


* * *

“Jessie, you have to calm-”


“Don’t tell me what to do!”


“Take deep breaths.”


“No! It’s his mother’s fault!”


“Jessie!” Jon scolded, “You know that’s not-”


“But it is true!” she cried, ripping out her hair and franticly pacing around her apartment, “If she had just given him the medication sooner-!”


“Listen to me!” Jon had never raised his voice before and it frightened her. She cowered away, but he snatched her by the shoulders and pulled her close. Terrified of what might happen, Jessie slammed her fist on his chest, begging to be released.


“Jess,” he cooed his anger passed, “just calm down.”


“I can’t!” Rivers gushed down her cheeks, carving valleys as they drove along their destructive path.


“Yes you can,” His voice regained its cool and calming nature. “Just breathe. Come on, Jess. Breathe with me. Just like we practiced.”


The summer tides rolled in and the rivers flooded, spewing over the banks they had created just moments ago, but the pounding began to slow, then suddenly stopped, and she fell upon his chest.


“I’m sorry,” she whispered, hugging his middle tightly.


“There’s nothing to be sorry for, Jess. Nothing at all.”


* * *


“Jon ended up staying at our apartment for the rest of that week. It’s like he knew I needed someone there.” Jessie was propped up against the granite, absentmindedly eating a small cup of cinnamon gelato, with an extra by her side. “It’s just… I don’t know,” she sighed, setting the desert aside on top of a small pile of orange and yellow leaves, “It’s great to have him around but he’s just so…invasive. I just want to sit in my room and listen to those mixes you made me for my birthday, but he’s always barging in! ‘Jessie, it’s noon. You need to eat something’. ‘Jessie, you should really go outside. Get some fresh air’. ‘Jessie, you should do this. Jessie, you should do that. Go here. Go there’,” she mocked, using a voice far too low to be Jon’s and making dramatic gestures. “I just don’t see why he can’t leave me alone. Leave us alone…” Silent tears fell from her eyes as her body curled into the fetal position.


“Oh Angus, I wish you were here…”


* * *

Jessie, after four months of busy schedules and planning, finally made her way back to the graveyard where her beloved laid. “Hey, handsome,” she giggled, sitting in her usual spot facing the engraved stone even though there was a thick layer of powdery snow upon the ground, “Sorry I haven’t visited you in awhile. Things have been pretty hectic back home. I’m, uh, kind of getting things back in order. Turning my life back around and everything… Back to where it was going before this,” She gestured towards the tombstone.


“I just… I wish that you wouldn’t have gotten sick, you know? I really wish that you were here. With me. Going and exploring the world together like we always said we would… Finally finishing college together. I know how much you wanted to be a teacher.” Tears were rolling down her rosy cheeks, framing her slight smile. “Jon promised to help me fulfill those dreams, though. He’ll never be you, but he is a good friend…” She sighed as she stood and placed a single red rose on top of his grave.


And in that moment, she knew that she had loved Angus, still loved him, and would continue to love him, but she also knew that she would be okay. After months of coping and rebuilding, she knew that she finally had the strength to make it. She had Jon there to support her and help her through the rough patches, just as he had been doing all along. Her life might not have turned out as perfect as she had originally planned for it to be, but life was still perfect, still whole, in its own little way.


“Come on, Jess!” Jon chuckled as his ice caked boots skid across the powdery path where the van was parked. He didn’t want to rush her visit, but he also didn’t want to be late for their flight. “It’s freezing out here!”


Jessie had not even noticed.


She giggled to herself as her gaze shifted from her spunky friend back to the smooth, white marble of her beloved. Resting her hand upon the cold stone for the last time, she tilted her head up to the sky and let the flasks softly brush against her eyelashes and safely land upon her cheeks.


“I love you.”


Looking back to the van, she slowly began shuffling her way down the hill, back to her new life. Catching a glimpse of her finally rejoining the world, Jon crawled out of the driver’s seat and opened the passenger side door for her. She smiled and muttered her gratitude, and, as she hopped inside, she could not help but feel a small tug on her heart as an all-too-familiar voice whispered back, “I love you too”.