Today, 18 years ago, I lost my boyfriend of 5 years. He was 32 with diabetes and had a massive heart attack. I was 21 and wild with a massively broken heart.
On Sunday, he was the best man in his friend Shawn’s wedding. On Wednesday Morning he was dead.
I drank too much champagne at the reception and was drunk. I started to feel sloppy and he wouldn’t take me home. In his defense, neither of us had a car, we took a limo and it was gone by then. But in true Heidi fashion, I left him there. I took my strappy heels off, pulled up my dress and walked barefoot out to Long Pond Road. I put my thumb out for a ride wearing a $400 dress. I took a ride from a stranger, didn’t care, and fell onto my bed to pass out when I got home. I wasn’t a drinker and couldn’t hold my liquor. I also didn’t have a lot of champagne experience.
When I woke, he was breaking basically everything in the place, angry because I’d left him. I snuck out in the same dress I’d passed out in, and didn’t come home that night. As I left he was smashing his guitar into an oil canvas he bought me for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t say a word. I was scared. I just took my keys and left.
I would see him on The Cape the following morning when I was picking up my daughter. She climbed into a cardboard appliance box in the yard, and he carried her around and played, while she talked to him from inside of it. Man, he loved that girl like crazy. He was the only daddy she knew. We met when she was 11 months old. When he came to me for forgiveness, I wouldn’t speak to him except to say it was over. It would be the last time I’d explain holes in the doors or the walls or pick up and throw things away before the baby came home.
He went outside and sat in my car with the passenger side door open for a while. I watched him through a window. He hugged our girl goodbye, and kissed her face a whole bunch before he picked up a duffel bag and handle of vodka and left for The Patriot to ferry him to Martha’s Vineyard where he worked.
It would be the last time either of us saw him alive. Later, when I went to my car, I saw that he’d written a note. In his super neat all caps printed handwriting, he wrote:
“I’m sorry. I will wait for you, forever. Tell me when you’re ready. I love you guys.”
We didn’t have cell phones, we couldn’t have text message arguments. This was a time of landlines and pagers. He paged me 143…a lot. I never replied because there wasn’t a number to call. He was staying in a room on the island.
He died three days later, early on a Wednesday morning, on his way to work. Shawn called me at work to tell me. I thought it was a mean joke the two of them cooked up to get me on the phone.
It wasn’t a joke.
I was never quite the same after that call. I was 21.
I’m certain I left my body.
Those were some fucked up circumstances.
Man, we were fucking crazy. When we were good, we were pretty fucking sexy. We loved each other other like crazy. But when we were bad, we were bad. To say “We had some times” would be an understatement. Today, I wrote him a letter to remember him.
I’ve missed you and haven’t quite been the same since you left. I still remember you like you were here yesterday. I don’t need pictures to see your face. I think about you all the time, especially in September. The cool air and the color of the leaves remind me of loss and of you and your champion sweatshirts over tee-shirts, paint covered jeans and high top Reeboks.
I own a house now, and I think you would hate it because the walls are uneven and made of horsehair plaster. I can remember whenever you finished a job, you’d shut the lights out, plug in a shadeless lamp, and sweep the wall with the light looking for drips or inconsistencies. My walls would make you crazy. Sometimes I stare at the lead paint trim peeling and the gap between the ceiling and moulding and wonder what it would look like if you put your hands on it.
I can remember going to work with you, and the sound it made when you tapped your brush on the inside of a paint can. I loved working with you. I can picture paint spray over baby oil and sweat on your body in the summer. I know how to perfectly care for my brushes and rollers after a project, but sometimes I just fucking throw them away. When I don’t, I imagine you’re proud of me.
I remember when you painted the Nantucket Inn and I spent a weekend there with you. We spent the nights partying with the Irish and Jamaican staff who worked there. I remember walking out to the bluffs with you, after you walked me through the Haas house that you painted in Chilmark. I still can see the entryway, the height of the ceilings, and the view from the edge of the bluff. We went to an Oak Bluff’s bar for beers, I wasn’t even old enough to drink, but you were basically an old man compared to me. I couldn’t get that house out of my head. I’d still love a home with a tiny guest house on the property some day. I remember the pickling you did on the cabinetry on Manomet Point Road in Plymouth, and the crappy little 150 sq ft studio cottage we lived in on Taylor Ave. right down the street. We kept champagne cold in a potty chair of ice and sat on crates one New Year’s Eve.
I miss staying home during the Summer with Alexis and Christopher. I miss planning his birthday parties and how excited you’d be to drive to Connecticut to pick him up. I don’t miss how sad you’d be when we left without Jess. I miss your proud daddy face, though, and how you loved to love those kids. I miss Christopher’s sweetness, his rounded nose and his dirty blonde cow lick.
I still have a brand new paintbrush of yours and an aluminum coffee mug that I took from your island VW work van. On 9/25/1998 I rode the Steamship Authority ferry over to clean out the van. I kept my round-trip ticket stub as a reminder that yours was one-way. I think I was punishing myself by making sure I felt a little bit of sad every day. It stayed inside my mouse pad at work for 17 years.When I left that job, I decided it was time to let the ticket go, too. I couldn’t give my round-trip to you. I took Alexis back once that fall to be near you and say goodbye with her. It rained and hid my tears.
I’m still pissed about you not paying the rent in our State Road condo, not telling me, and leaving me there to deal with the landlord with the kids. I still hate you for us having to stay with Mark and the wicked bitch witch Susan. I should be grateful she helped me get an apartment, but she was a hag and mean. You are so lucky we had Mark looking out for us. He was so good to you, to us. And Miss Alexandra was the sweetest girl. I didn’t keep in touch. I’m really sorry for that. I meant to. I should have tried to stay in touch with Carla and Christopher, but it hurt to see them, and I was afraid it hurt him to see me. I always hoped he’d look for me one day so I could tell him stories of you (maybe not these ones!)
If I’m being honest, your mom is a bitch. I know what a momma’s boy you were but she was awful. People really get ugly when they lose someone. Everyone in your family thought I was holding onto your “stuff”, whatever that was. Marlboro Miles, cassette tapes a leather jacket and some clothes. Baby, you didn’t have shit for “stuff”! I miss being that poor with you! Maybe if I were your mom, I would’ve needed to blame someone too, but she knows I took care of you. Maybe I should’ve given her slack for grieving, too. But I wasn’t capable of that. I had a hard time just existing in the world. Waking up, pretending to be normal and mothering was all I could do. And even that was marginal.
You were the only man to ever understand what a psycho I was when I was PMSing. When you and Mikey (was it Mikey?) were leaving for Woodstock ’94, you said “hey catch!” and threw a bottle of Pamprin to me. I wanted to fucking kill you…but not as much as I did when you came back covered in mud with a blood sugar count over 400. You fucker.
I love remembering how young and untamed I was, and how angry you’d get at me. You loved that I was wild, but hated that I was disobedient! You’d be so angry when I walked outside in my underwear and a tee-shirt to check the mail., or laid in the sun topless in my yard. I never thought anything was wrong with either and always laughed at how mad you’d get, worried someone might look at me.
Remember the time I told the bartender I was 18, after a pitcher of beer and some pool at The Trading Post in Buzzard’s Bay? oops. How about the kid who threw a full beer can at you and hit my face with it? I love that you beat him up on the hood of the car before you asked me if I was okay. I was amazed it wasn’t a broken jaw. (You were always mouthing off to someone and getting us in trouble.) Getting pulled over with you in the car was always a joy, too. You were so bad!
You’ll be happy to know I’ve maintained your strict no littering rule, but you’d be disappointed at how messy my car is. Some days, I wish I had a guy that took it and vacuumed it out they way you always did when I drove the Saab. When I tought Alexis to drive, I quoted you…”Go, or don’t Go. Never hesitate. Hesitation will kill you.” which is what you always said to me when I was pulling out in a 5 speed to make a left through three lanes on Samoset St.
Remember the year Santa brought Alexis a kitten? Yeah, that fucker lived for 16 years. I didn’t get to tell you, but that was an aweful decision. She grew up to be evil. You didn’t tell me cats live that long. I had that cat longer than I had you!
For the record, I have never smashed a plate off the head of another person since that one time I did it to you when you called me crazy. There’s some irony in that, isn’t there? And, maybe you know this, but after you died and I was cleaning out the apartment, there was still shards of glass on top of the cabinets. I laughed between tears when I packed up the few things I owned and left. Remember when I broke my hand breaking your cheek? I’m sorry about your plastic surgery, but really, you never should’ve cheated. We were such ass holes.
I miss making your lunch and tucking love notes inside it for you. I miss notes from you hidden in the house. I miss making sugar free desserts. I do not miss Jello-O! (By the way, Bill Cosby is a rapist, and there are tons of sugar free options today, besides Jell-O. And I think if you were around now, you would’ve lived a little longer and maybe been open to more good-for-you food.) I miss how happy you were to have dinner ready for you when you got home, and making you your disgusting half cream-half coffee-one equal coffee.
I miss sucking at rock & roll trivia, but I still remember that the name of The Who song is Baba O’Riley, not Teenage Wasteland, and that Jethro Tull had an electric flute. I do not miss your drinking, or your temper, or your mullet…thank you for letting me shave that off accidentally. I have never attempted to cut another man’s hair and they all have you to thank.
I miss how cocky you were at everything. I miss you teaching me to shoot pool. I miss teaching you to write in cursive. I miss your stupid air guitar to Van Halen, but I don’t miss your pegged jeans.
I miss how fearless you were and remember hopping the fence at the Melody Tent to see Robert Cray. The weekend at the Newport Folk Festival that we snuck into without tickets, blowing bubbles through the moon roof on the way there, and putting Alexis on the news truck in a pink wig during the Indigo Girls.
I miss Sega Golf and VHS Movies because I couldn’t afford cable, and the way you’d hold me from behind while I did dishes. I do not miss mixing your insulin, your tissue trauma, worrying about your blood sugar, or giving you shots. I do not miss calling ambulances, ER visits, and how you refused to see a doctor. I miss the good days, the good meals, the family time, and how many places we took the kids. I miss bills with both our names on them.
I remember peaceful weeknight evenings with you when we’d make coffee in our cobalt blue mugs, take a few hits off a joint on the porch and snuggle in for the night. I refuse to ever date an Aries, or a diabetic, or a guy without a license. I still have cassette mix tapes that you made for me and few songs from the 90’s don’t make me think of you. Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne (not the 90’s!), Ani Difranco’s Imperfectly, Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, and Pearl Jam’s Black are some of the ones that stand out. I’ve never met a man who held the small of my back quite the way you did when we walked into a room, like I was property. I think you thought I was.
I miss how much you loved Alexis, how much you loved me.
I love how many photos you took of us because if you hadn’t there might not be any of me. I remember 35mm film and having to send it off to be developed. I ordered 3″x5″s because they were cheaper. We’d get pictures in the mail and get excited over coffee at the ones that actually came out. No one prints pictures anymore.
Everyone knew you lived to live and that you were here on your terms, even if it meant a short life. I wish I could have had a little longer with you. I wish the children did, too.I’m angry at you for not taking care of yourself. I’m angry at myself for not telling you how fucking much I did still love you before you got on that boat. You still knew though, right?
I miss how you were such a good, all night hold me, snuggler.
You never let go.You would say “If I die in my sleep, I love you.” and as you kissed my neck I would laugh and make you promise you wouldn’t die next to me. “Do not die in our bed, I mean it, say you promise!“. And you would say it.
And you would keep that promise.
I want to say thank you for sparing me that, but I’m not sure I’m thankful. I wish I got to hold you, the same way I did so many times on the floors of our apartments or in the grass by the harbor.
I have not been right since you left. I got pretty serious, and scared, and have spent decades worst-case-scenario planning. I say whatever I feel, so as to never miss an opportunity. I only keep close people I really love. I say or think “If I die…” a lot.
I’m making changes though and want to love life a little like you did (Minus the jail, booze, dying young part.) Certainly not in the reckless-ride-on-top-of- a-truck-on-the-highway -going-the-wrong-way, kind of way that you did! I’m going to take care of myself a little better, but I’m going to try to relax a little. Today, thinking about you, and about how you sort of breezed through and didn’t worry much about anything has helped me a little bit.
I really miss you, Chris Jacobs. Thank you for the time I had with you. All the good. All the bad. You left us way to soon, but on your own damn terms. You helped us live while you were here. Still loving on you 18 years later you crazy fuck!
PS I still find rocks that are shaped like hearts and wonder if you leave them for me sometimes.