One Last Caress

Five years ago around this time was the last time I saw my best friend Jon alive.  Earlier this year, the realization that I had turned 29 [the age he was when he died] hit me so hard I almost didn’t know what to do with myself.  However, I always know that Jon would want me to be hold my chin up, even though shedding tears over the fact that he is no longer with me would be completely acceptable.  Posting all these entries that document some of our time together [there are a couple of years worth of journal entries that sadly vanished] stirs up a variety of emotions.  Mostly it is happiness and reliving those moments with fondness, not to mention feeling blessed for having such an influential individual in my life, if even for a brief moment.

While the wound that his death left upon me has slowly healed over the years, often my thoughts wander, especially to this time in particular.  The questions come and linger without answer.  What if I had said yes to his proposal?  Would my life in general be vastly different if Jon and I had been together?  Would I be the same person, or would I have evolved into someone much stronger and more confident than I currently feel?

Getting stuck on such notions is easier when I flying solo, so to speak, on account I feel as though there is an endless void constantly engulfing me.  There were attempts to fill it with various things, none of which were ever good to me, and it finally came to a point where I had to pull myself up by the boot straps.  After all, part of the motivation to continue carrying on crucial elements that make me who I am is due to the fact that I had an excellent teacher.  Indeed Jon bequeathed me with a wealth of knowledge pertaining to circus and sideshow, but I also happened to absorb much of his attitude, and I honestly don’t believe I would want myself to be any other way.  Being a Carny has always meant more than I can explain, and I made my vow to be with it to the end long ago enough that I know for certain it is one promise I will never break.

The following entry was written March 10, 2006 – I had been living in Philadelphia for about a month and was in constant contact with Jon.  This would be the last time we hung out in one of favorite spots, the often magical land of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

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It may still technically be Winter, but as far as Mother Nature was concerned on this particular afternoon, it was about time for a warmer temperature and a gorgeous day that just begged to be enjoyed.  Since I am not one to waste beautiful afternoons, I had to go outside.

My plan for the day was to explore the Hostile City, as I had to vacate the house for a few hours due to the need to fumigate.  No sooner did I roll out of bed than my phone was ringing.  Well, actually, that was what woke me up.  Squinting down at the unidentifiable number, I figured if it was important, they would leave me a message.  Headed upstairs to shower and dress.

Upon checking my messages, I was delighted to hear Jon’s voice requesting my presence in Cherry Hill.  Ah yes, that magical piece of New Jersey that holds so many memories.

Enjoyed the four hour adventure of driving around, my head turning left and right to take in the sights.  It’s amazing how much the neighborhoods vary from one to the next, where tightly packed rows of brick houses become replaced by sprawling parks.  Picked up a pint of whiskey – I am rather amused that liquor is sold separately than beer here – returned home, freshened up, grabbed something to eat and chilled out for a while, my stomach bubbling with nervousness.  As much as I had enjoyed my drive through the city, I had been pondering the reason Jon had wanted to see me. While I am always certainly grateful for any time I get to spend with him, there had been a tone in his voice that suggested there was something on his mind.

The evening was warm, so I rolled out into the city with the windows down and Los Straitjackets on high volume, which is not the usual music you’ll hear pouring out of an Oldsmobile in these parts.  Driving over the bridge was something I had done a few times already, but this was the first journey across the border at night, and I was captivated by all the twinkling lights of the city as it faded into the horizon behind me.  Then I was back in the Garden State on my way to meet up with my best friend, the love of my life, and it feels weird considering the fact I was doing the exact opposite just a few months ago.  Before I know it, the movie theater comes into view and I become aware of the smile twitching across my lips.  Navigating through the parking spaces, it took a couple of minutes to find his Mercury sitting in a remote area of the lot.  Once it was no longer in motion, I all but jumped out and instantly found myself in his arms – cue the Hollywood Moment, limbs awkwardly tangled since I had been unprepared.  He smelled amazing and for some reason I noticed that he looked particularly well-groomed that evening, which always makes me swoon since I somehow forget how handsome he is.

Not that he was in any of his fancy Carny attire or anything like that; something about the combination of worn out clothes with hair that was as polished as his shoes made my heart swoon.  The smile that lit up his face was infectious and we must have stood there grinning like idiots for a few minutes without saying much of anything at all.  Then we climbed into the back seat of his Mercury, where shots of whiskey were consumed, a blunt was lit and he politely asked if I wanted to hit the drags.  Which led to an inebriated text message sent to James, followed by him calling me while I had been in the middle of something.  With half the blunt and the booze were half gone, we sat there in silence for several minutes, just enjoying the pleasure of each other’s company.  Having entered the proper movie-viewing state, we made our way into the theater, oblivious to the wastes of flesh around us.

This one kid, who obviously purchased his entire outfit [and probably even the lack of personality] from Hot Topic, decided to hurl some words our way.  When will kids learn that you do not want to fuck with Carnies?  Jon was quick to turn around with a rather harsh expression on his face, then proceeded to calmly talk to the annoying teenager and his little groupies.  He made one of the girls cry, and she ran into the bathroom, though I wasn’t really paying attention so don’t know what was said to upset her so much.  The distraction caused him to purchase tickets to the 10:20 showing, as opposed to the one at 9:10.  Having to wait an hour, we walked over to the Silver Diner where we had a quick bite to eat and shared fond memories about our adventure at the mall across the street.  Between waiting for the order, eating and talking about random things, that hour sure went by fast.

Returning to the theater for The Hills Have Eyes, we had to take a moment to find seats that weren’t surrounded by too many people.  Though I was hoping for more mutants, or at least more scenes with them, I enjoyed the movie even if a few scenes were disturbing.  Maybe it was the substances in my body, but it seemed the plot had moved rather quickly.

Then it was back to the Mercury, as Jon had insisted there was something he wanted to talk to me about.  That nervousness crept back into my stomach.  Holding my hands in his, and after a long awkward silence, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and I knew that he had serious words for me.

Jon completely opened up to me, admitting he had spent too much time hiding his feelings in drugs and alcohol, too afraid to allow himself to be completely vulnerable for fear he would lose me.  By now it is no secret that he has harbored a desire for me all these years, particularly since we have been engaging in intimate activities on a regular basis.  Truth be told, we tried to have a relationship on more than one occasion, but a number of things prevented that from being possible in the past.  My happiness was more important than his own desires, but he was passionate about wanting to have a future with me no matter what it could cost.

Over the years, I have watched him struggle with addiction and internal demons, but despite all of the obstacles that were presented to us, we are still as close as ever.  He assures me that it is something he is slowly getting under control, though recovery was a long process and he preferred to have me by his side rather than attempting it alone.  In an effort to show me how serious he was about building a future together, he said he had sold the Shore house and set the money aside “for us”.  This was plenty of information to absorb, and then he presents me with a proposal of marriage and a pretty little ring.  At that moment I was so beside myself that I couldn’t manage a response, though he didn’t wait for one before pulling me in for a passionate kiss.

“You don’t have to say anything, I can see it written all over your face,” he said with a smile.  “You deserve this and so much more, and I want to be the one who crawls to the end of the earth to make that happen.”

“Why?”  [That was the best I could come with as intoxicants collided with overwhelming emotions.]

His hands slid oh so gently across my cheeks as he brought my face towards his, a serious expression glinting in his eyes as he seemed to stare right through me.  “You have been so much more than a loyal friend to me all of these years Angel, that I can’t see my life going much further without you in it.”

We lapsed into silence following another kiss, and then Jon held me for what seemed like hours.  Eventually he announced that he had to get the Chevy back –  though he loved driving the Mercury, his work on it had been finished for quite a while and the trade would need to be completed.  Promising that he would keep in touch as much as he could, Jon reminded me that it would only be a matter of time before we were together again…for good.  Everything about him was absorbed in those moments where I was lost among his leather jacket, its scent mingling with his cologne and the smoke rising from a joint held loosely in his tattooed fingers.  We could have slept there and I would have been perfectly content.

That is pretty much the way the night ended, after parting with one last sweet kiss.  Did not dare to look back as I drove away, as I wanted to remember the smile on his face when he told me how much he loved me.

Right now I want to climb up on the rooftop and shout at the top of my longs that I love you Aaron, and being able to have you as my partner in crime for the rest of my life is the best gift you could have ever given me.

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