I met Julie in a bar one night a couple months after I got out of the Air Force. I was in my early twenties; she was nineteen, but highly mature for her age. That’s because she had to play both mother and sister to her two younger brothers, as well as daughter to her father. Her mother left when Julie was twelve. There might have been some talk about mental problems, but I didn’t press the matter.
Even though Julie and I lasted only eight months, during that time, we were almost like a married couple. I stayed over her house a few times, while she stayed over my parents and my house several times. I had decided to live at home, mostly for the cheap rent, instead of going out and trying to find an apartment I could afford. Besides, at the time, I was trying to become a writer, which was a little rough when you’re living with even a couple of guys who want to party 24/7.
Anyway, getting back to Julie. Like I said, we were like a married couple, even in our sex life. Maybe that’s why I had developed such deep, deep feelings for her. Or maybe it was because she was my first real relationship after I got out of the Air Force. All I know is once we broke up, I hurt like hell, especially since she was the one who broke us up.
The night she ended it, she kept suggesting I go out with other women as well. I kept telling her I didn’t want to date anyone else, but she refused to give in. Then a week later, when I got her note in the mail, I discovered what I had suspected all along. It had to do with the mother daughter thing. She was afraid I was tearing her away from her father and brothers. Of course, I would never have even thought of doing that.
The ironic part about the whole thing was, a week after she broke up with me, I found out from one of her friends, whom I had run into at the same bar where Julie and I had met, that her father, who hardly ever went anywhere, had gone to an office party where he met a woman who would become his significant other.
After learning about her father and his girlfriend, I thought I might be able to worm my way back into Julie’s good graces, but it was not to be. Every time I tried calling, one of her two brothers would run interference. Even the couple of times I drove up to her house, which was 40 miles away, one of her brothers once again ran interference.
And so I had to continue with the rest of my life without Julie, but it was really hard. She had become like a song I couldn’t get out of my head—a song that kept repeating itself over and over literally for years. Yeah, there were other women in my life, but none of them managed to worm their way into my heart and soul the way Julie had.
Eventually, I did find someone I wanted to marry. Kathy had already been divorced once, so she knew the ropes. I guess I was still a bit naïve. We lasted only five years. After having become a successful author, I found myself on the road a lot. Frustrated that I was hardly ever there, Kathy strayed. Once I found out, I was the one who called for the divorce. Even though she took half my savings and the house, I still had my writing and my memories of Julie. Yes, she was still in my head, and had been all the time I was with Kathy.
On a whim, one day, I took a ride up to her house, the same one she had been living in with her father and brothers. I caught her just as she was leaving to go visit her father, who was married to the woman he had met that time at the party. But of course, he wasn’t the only one who was married. Julie had just come out of her house, followed by her two small sons, one seven, the other four.
She still looked pretty good; still had a slender figure, even after two kids. And that’s when I found out she had married a local fireman. It shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. Of course, I didn’t let her know. We continued to talk pleasantly for a little longer while standing in her driveway, then I watched her drive away, all the while fighting back the tears that were filling my eyes.
That was fifty years ago. Over the years, I’ve had several ups and downs with my writing, as well as in the romance department. But now, as I sit here in hospice waiting for the end to come, all I keep thinking about is Julie, wondering where she is, if she’s happy; wondering what her kids did with their lives?
I’m alone in the hospice’s reading room with a book on my lap when I spot a figure that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. Squinting, I look closely and feel the shock in my chest. It’s Julie! “Julie?” I call to her. She half turns, holding out one of her hands to me. “You want me to come with you?” I ask. She nods. That’s when I get up and go to her.
Once our hands touch, I feel a warmth that spreads throughout my body. I’m suddenly overwhelmed with happiness. “I’ve been waiting for you for so long,” I tell her, as tears of joy fill my eyes. She just smiles, but doesn’t say anything. Then just as we’re about to float away, I turn and look back at the chair I had been sitting on. I see myself looking so peaceful sitting there with my head tilted back and my eyes closed.