Later Mom gives Kara a ride to her therapy appointment with Marsha and I take a shower and a nap.
When I awaken it’s dusk, my favorite time of day. I open my eyes to the gloaming time and find not shadows on the wall but Jimmy sitting in a chair beside my bed. I bolt upright.
“What are you doing here?” I move the covers up to hide the fact that I’m not wearing a bra under my tank top.
“I’ve missed you, Jess,” he says, and I can smell him from here, that intoxicating scent of his that reminds me of clean sheets and soap. His long eyelashes droop lazily over his cheeks as he reaches his hands out to me. “I’m so sorry about what I said. I was really mad.”
I think I must be dreaming. I look around for a sign of a dream; a ten foot spider dropping in for the kill, a gnome in the corner, a sudden nightfall outside, but everything is normal except that Jimmy, my ex-boyfriend, is sitting in my bedroom. His hand hangs there limply waiting to touch one of my body parts so I move over to him and he pulls my wrist and scoots me onto his knees. Being in that warm safe place makes me remember the good things about Jimmy and I curl up like some lap dog and just breathe in his scent. Somehow in the past two days I had managed to shelve him on the far corner of my mind and forget him, our suspension, and everything that had happened between us. He was a crisis I wasn’t able to deal with. I’m convinced, sitting here now, that if he hadn’t shown up in my room that I would have never thought of him again. I would have not let myself. I want to cry with relief of being with him but I
won’t cry anymore, I’m tired of tears and drama. I just want to live my life.
“You must have been a mess,” Jimmy says, pulling away and looking me in the face. Actually I’m tanned and freshly scrubbed from my shower. I probably look better than usual, I realize.
“Not really,” I say truthfully. “I’ve been keeping myself busy. How about you?”
His face falls, he’s disappointed a little, I can tell. Maybe he’s disappointed I didn’t try to kill myself over him. But at least he doesn’t lie.
“It’s been pretty bad,” he admits. “I’ve got the Gestapo on my case, and then, I felt really bad about what I said to you, those horrible words. . . .” He hugs me, and there’s something in his voice that is soothing him more than me. He’s here to make himself feel better for being such a dick, a thought comes into my mind. It seems like it’s coming from outside of me, like a small voice only I can hear. I pay attention to the thought and watch Jimmy carefully, wondering if The Granddaughter is sending me the message, but I can’t really imagine her using the word “dick.” Jimmy strokes my arm and a chill runs through me. I can see he’s trying to heat me up. He knows how to chuck his fingers under my chin, how to get me revved up, and damn him, he’s doing all those things now. And it’s working. His mouth is hot and fevered against mine and I feel myself pulling toward him, as if we are the earth and moon stuck in a weird rhythmic gravitational dance across the galaxy, our bodies molten as we merge across my bed. We are all hands and all tongues and all everything, one together. And that little voice warning me about Jimmy’s intentions fades away like a shooting star, with nothing left in its wake, and as the sun disappears slowly outside the window we explode together like new planets born to the universe.
I open my eyes just after midnight and I sit straight up. What the hell? I dreamed I had sex with Jimmy! I touch the pillow beside me; my bed is empty. It seemed so real . . . it even felt real. My window is open, just as it is whenever Jimmy sneaks into my room. My heart thumps wildly . . . I can smell him on my sheets. He was here. It did happen. And then I feel it in my body, know it in my core. This was no dream.
I curl up in fetal position with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Shit, what if I’m pregnant? We didn’t even use protection! I can’t believe what I’ve done. I was back on track, I was making big changes to accommodate the future The Granddaughter was talking about. I was even gardening to instill some of the lessons of the future in my unborn child who would save the world! What, a few hot kisses and a couple low strokes and I give it all up? I’m such a slut! I cry until I hear The Granddaughter whisper into the room. She shimmers a dull grayish-blue before me.
“I’m so sorry . . .” I don’t know what else to say. Again, as with her last visit, she seems less a real part of this place. Perhaps she’s fading, like those photographs in movies about time travel when the stupid person in charge of saving the future does some irreversible harm and all their loved ones fade away in their photographs so that the stupid person knows they’ve screwed up. I’m the stupid person and The Granddaughter now won’t exist.
“You have no need to apologize,” The Granddaughter says in her lilting voice.
“But I could be pregnant with Jimmy Becker’s child!” I whisper, at least not stupid enough to wake up my parents. I feel like I can’t breathe. Is that a symptom of pregnancy? I don’t even know. The Granddaughter stares hard at my belly, and I can feel her gaze traveling through me into my womb. I put my hands around my middle, uncomfortable with the sensation.
“You are not pregnant at this time,” The Granddaughter says simply.
I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear that. I start crying all over again. Ever since The Granddaughter told me about my future unborn child who would guide the populace as a new kind of messiah, I have felt a need to hold on, to be part of this world. I have equated Jimmy with the death of civilization, and here I am, literally screwing Death. And at the same time, something inside of me died tonight too. I didn’t think virginity was any big thing. I’m not really religious, and it seems somehow unnatural to hold onto such a strange concept as virginity. I was only not having sex out of respect for Michael. But now that I gave it up and I’m no longer a virgin. I feel as if I lost something reallyimportant, and worse yet, I gave it away so willingly. To Jimmy Becker, someone who maybe doesn’t really care about me anyway, who was only at my house to make himself feel better about telling me I wasn’t worth the trouble I caused. I sit up and try to stop the tears, remembering how only a few hours ago I had told myself that I was done crying and sick of the drama. I resolve to remember that and I dry my tears, though I’m embarrassed that The Granddaughter can read all of these crazy emotions inside of me.
“You are only human,” The Granddaughter says. “Human behavior is more a matter of choices than actions. If you do not wish to continue to participate in this behavior with Jimmy Becker, choose not to.”
I can almost feel his warm mouth as she says this and a tiny truth leaks out . . . I did it because I wanted to just do it. Months have been building to that moment, not minutes. As sorry as I am, it was like something I just had to get out of my system. In a way I feel as though I have purged Jimmy from myself. I feel freer of him than I did when I woke up this morning, when he was such a heavy spot on my heart that I could not even admit it. I chose to take Jimmy back in the most intimate way, yet weirdly, I know in my heart that he is no longer my boyfriend. I really am a slut.
“I’m so confused about my life right now,” I say out loud.
“You have not changed things in an important way. Do not let yourself worry. I have come to tell you I am pleased about your progress in your new garden. The Earth Guardians of our time will be glad to hear of it.”
This is the first time The Granddaughter has acknowledged that she is reporting her visits to me to her Powers That Be, whatever that may look like from her end.
“Uh — could you not mention this little episode tonight to them?” I ask meekly. Her chevron smile causes her to shimmer more brightly.
“It will be our secret,” she agrees.
“Um — and I wanted to ask you something, are you leaving me? I feel your . . . presence . . . isn’t as strong anymore.” I don’t know if that’s an offensive question to ask, like asking someone if they’ve gained weight or something.
“You have grown in your ability to perceive,” she tells me. “My mission with you is nearly complete, and the combined energies that is has taken for me to join you on this plane are moving to other sectors. Your perception is accurate. I am fading from this astral plane. But you will see me again. This is not our last meeting.”
“Good,” I say, glad that she isn’t gone from my life yet. In a way she has replaced Michael. Michael would have been really upset that I had sex, and yet The Granddaughter wasn’t nearly as disappointed in me as I would have expected.
“Be at peace, Jessie. I will visit again soon,” The Granddaughter says as she shimmers away. I snap on the light, deciding to take a shower and maybe begin recording this stuff in my empty journal since there’s no way I could go back to sleep now. It’s probably time to start writing this crazy crap down anyway, either to show a shrink later when I really go off the deep end or to remind myself of how lost I nearly became in my relationship with Jimmy Becker.
It’s 11:11 in the morning. I stretch and look over at my white painted desk in the corner. The journal I spent half the night working on bulges strangely. I used up a bottle of glue decorating it with rhinestones, broken jewelry, and photo and magazine collages, and a picture I drew of The Granddaughter. Inside I cut and pasted my so-called life with Jimmy Becker. I had started out just making a photo tribute to our relationship, but then added quotes and notes to the pictures of us at the Santa Monica pier, at a big party when we first started dating, at a Green Day concert, at one of his football games at homecoming. Our life in a brightly bound book. That’s all I have left of him, but somehow, it’s enough.
I get up and wander downstairs and end up with a cup of coffee in the corner chair looking out into our backyard. From here I can see the new garden and I think I want to start a gardening journal too, to keep track of what I plant and what grows and especially, what doesn’t. Mom tried to warn me that not everything you plant will grow so basically, don’t get too attached until you know a plant will make it. Don’t count your corn until it’s shucked, she said.
“Morning,” I hear Dad say. I smile up at him. He stands by the hassock and moves my slippered feet over so he can sit down. He has his own cup of coffee.
“Did you just wake up too?” I ask him.
“Yeah. Your mom and brother are the early birds. I hate mornings, but when I’m on the job, I have to be on the set before the roosters crow. I’ve gotta sleep when I can.”
We sip our coffee and look out the plate glass window at the typical sunny day. He observes the yard and the new garden. “Like what you’ve done with the place.”
“Thanks. It’s been fun, in fact, I need to go out and water.”
I suddenly can’t wait to get out there to give all of those baby plants their morning shower. I sip faster, planning to grab a Pop Tart from the kitchen and run. As soon as my feet hit the tile Dad clears his throat.
“I saw something unusual last night.”
“Yeah. About 10:30 last night, I was locking up the house, and there was a man on our roof.”
I freeze, knowing where this is going.
“Good thing I didn’t pull out my rifle and shoot him. My imaginary rifle, since I don’t have one. And good thing the motion sensor light went on so I could see who it was before I called the cops. It was Jimmy Becker. Any clue why he was climbing out of your window last night?”
I sink further into the chair, uncomfortable at having to talk to Dad about why there was a boy in my room.
“We were saying goodbye to each other. We broke up a few days ago, you know, and it was bad. He came to apologize.”
“Can’t he use the front door like normal people?”
“He didn’t think I’d see him.” I don’t add that he always climbed up the trellis to get into my bedroom, that my family only ever saw him about a third of the time he was actually in our house.
“That’s not okay with me.” Dad’s normally the cool one, the ex-surf rat who is the anything-goes kind of guy, but I can hear in his voice that he’s mad. “This is my house, Jess. I work hard to make it here in LA in a business that can eat you alive. And I’m not working this hard to have my teenaged daughter use it for God-knows-what with her boyfriend. Your room is off-limits to boys, Jess. From this second on. And if I catch Jimmy sneaking in there again I will call the cops and report him for trespassing.”
“Okay,” I say in a small voice. “I’m sorry.”
“That’s not all. You’ve been getting away with murder, in my opinion. First of all, you’re suspended. So that means you’re under house arrest as well. I saw you hanging out with your friend yesterday like it was summer, not a school day. No more friends over, no phone, nothing but homework and chores until your suspension is over. And normal sleeping hours. I saw your light on at four a.m. when I got up to piss. What the hell is that?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“That’s because you slept half the day yesterday. If you need a nap, take a half hour nap and then set your alarm clock and get up. That’s it.”
“But Michael told mom . . .”
“As far as I know, Michael is no longer part of your life,” Dad corrects me. “If you want to see Michael again we can arrange it, but from what I can see, you need to move on, Jess. You were right. Stop labeling yourself the suicide girl and get on with your life. I, for one, am not going to tiptoe around you any more like you’re gonna break. You’re either in or you’re out, the way I see it.”
Dad’s voice is cracking with emotion and his eyes are damp. My stomach knots with what I’ve done to him, to make him have to act that way around me like he thinks I’ll run to the bathroom with a razor blade again and slit my own wrists. Tears leak out of my eyes but I don’t say anything. I can tell Dad has something more on his mind and I want to leave before he can say it, I just can’t handle more of this lecture. I lean forward to stand but he holds me back with his arm and looks away, his expression pained.
“I wasn’t going to say anything, but . . . I heard you,” Dad says in a tight voice. “I heard you and Jimmy, when I came to call you for dinner, and in my own goddamned house I didn’t have the balls to break in there and tell that asshole get the hell off my daughter! That’s what we’ve become, a house where everyone is afraid to say anything to anyone because you might do something that would destroy us all! I’ve had it, Jess! I’m done with that! You are my daughter, this is my house, and these are my rules and you’d better never let anything like this happen again!”
I’m so mortified that I can’t move, to know that my own Dad heard me having sex in his house. What the hell was I thinking, letting that happen? I’m so angry at myself and Jimmy, too, for coming into my room like that. My entire insides feel like they’re twisting inside out.
“I’m sorry, I swear to you Dad, it was the first time, I don’t know why . . . why I did that . . . I wish I hadn’t. I’m really, really sorry.”
“Do we need to–you know, take you to a doctor?” Dad asks. We are both flinching at this question.
“I’m . . . safe, I know for sure.” I want to say nothing really happened but I’m not going to lie anymore.
“Okay,” Dad sounds as relieved as I felt when The Granddaughter assured me that I wasn’t pregnant. It dawns on me that I’m trusting a time traveler with X-ray vision as to whether or not I’m going to have my ex-boyfriend’s baby, but I decide that I’ve trusted her this far and if I start to doubt her that I may truly end up in the mental ward again.
“Are you really broken up this time? Because I forbid you to see him anymore, Jess. Your mom thinks he walks on water but I can see him for the horny jock that he is. That boy is nothing but trouble. You’re too good for him, Jess. You have too much to offer to get caught up with that kind of shallow person. I knew a million of them in high school.”
These words surprise me, and I’m grateful for them. I put down my coffee cup and reach over and hug Dad. We hold each other and cry a little and then sit back sniffling.
“I’m really done with Jimmy, Dad. And I’m sorry — sorry I disrespected you. I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t planned.”
“I can’t talk about it any more. It’s too damn hard. You know where I stand.” Dad sips his coffee and I lean up to go.
“I’ve missed you, Jess. The real you. Please come back to me,” Dad says unexpectedly.
“I’m right here,” I tell him. He pats me on the knee as I get up, my emotions a wreak.
“Good. And one more thing . . . if you don’t get on top of that stinking pile of laundry in your room, you’ll be grounded until your senior graduation.”
“I hear you,” I say, smiling and wiping the rest of my tears. Normally him saying something like that would piss me off and I’d be rebellious about it, but he’s right . . . that pile does stink, and besides, wouldn’t it be the coolest thing to go back to school Monday wearing clean clothes for once?