Jackson’s apartment / Thursday night January 4th, 1979
Deanna sat on Jackson’s lumpy, furnished apartment couch in typical evening wear and study position. Winter weather knee socks, her flannel boxers and one of his t-shirts, her feet on his thigh. For once she didn’t have a book in her hand, and for once she’d escaped her parents’ winter vacation. And she regretted both. Since high school all she’d ever wanted was Christmas break with him. Hot chocolate and leftover pumpkin pie and deep in the quilts giggly sex. The Niners hadn’t made the playoffs, two teams that made Jackson throw tennis shoes at the TV were in the Super Bowl and she was trapped with nothing to say until Monday and the only way out was a trip to Boston with Amanda.
“Jax? I’m not sure I want to go this time.”
“Call her and bail, D. She’ll survive.”
“Sure you can. You oughta go someplace, even with Amanda, ‘cause you’re not much good around here.” He stood up without bothering to move her feet.
“Thanks. A lot.” She rubbed her ankle where it had banged the coffee table. She wanted to stay home. She wanted, for the first time in over two months, to grab the front of his shirt, pull him over on the couch and say Love me, Jax, like you promised. Three more days is all I have with you for awhile. But she couldn’t. Because she’d already shut him off and the minute “Cambridge” was out of her mouth as why everyone had been out of her life for a year, and he knew he was going out of her life for three more she’d find herself freezing in the breezeway on the other side of his door.
There was no competition, nothing was “at stake” when Deanna flew in uncomfortable silence to Boston with Amanda to a clinic for presentation professionals being taught by successful men and women from broadcast, politics and the private sector. There were even some theatrical people from the Actor’s Studio, East and West. Before she’d been sure about Cambridge she would have loved it. All she could do was get through it.
Halfway through the first morning session, on the back row where Deanna had parked them, Amanda snapped the lid on her lukewarm rust-water hotel coffee and sailed it fifteen feet to a gray plastic trash bin. She turned to Deanna without waiting to see that she’d nailed it. No rim, no bin, nothing but air.
“Are you going to tell anyone what’s on your mind, Deanna, or have you already told Jackson and he’s keeping your secret?”
“I don’t have a secret,” Deanna lied. “I’m just tired.”
“You should have gone on winter vacation with your parents and gotten some rest.”
“They do always seem to end in disaster.” Amanda changed the cross of her legs and the hand the session pamphlet was curled in and went one-eighty. “If you don’t really love Jackson, you should tell him. I believe that you should have told him a long time ago. If you want something else you shouldn’t use him for an emotional and sexual crutch. He deserves better than that.”
“I do love him. You don’t understand. He doesn’t understand. He never has. None of you do. You all see it your own way, and it’s not like that. At all.”
“You’ve never bothered to tell any of us what we should understand.”
“I tell him everything.”
“You tell him a lot of nothing, Deanna. You talk at him. You study, you write grocery lists, send him on errands. You talk about your day, maybe his day. You tell him you love him, you make love. You never tell him how you feel, what you’re dreaming, who you are, who you want to be. Who you want him to be or what he wants to be. How you could be together. The saddest is you both have this wonderful opportunity that most people will never even get a glimpse of, and it’s so superficial it makes me sick. You’re two cute, smart kids fucking, and it’s disgusting to watch you both wasting something that could be grand.”
Deanna, emotionally padlocked, tried to seethe, couldn’t find it and twisted her morning program in half. “How do you know what I tell him and what I don’t? How do you know how I feel about anything?”
“Because I was young once, and madly in love.” She rubbed her hands together, took her mind to a place far away and brought it back. “I gave him all of me. Everything. He was my world. I was so happy I thought I could fly. When it ended I didn’t believe I could ever pick up the pieces of myself and be whole again. I know how it feels to love with everything I have. And knowing how much of me there was is how I rebuilt myself. Love is what we are. Who we are.”
Deanna had heard a world of tirades come out of Amanda’s mouth, but never anything as unexpected as Amanda on Love with a capital L.
“Deanna, I know you can’t, or won’t, give all of yourself to anything or anyone. If that’s what you want understood, find the words. If you wish you could give all of yourself but can’t find a way, you need to find those words. Until you find the words to let everyone know what you need, you’re going to be a very lonely and unhappy young woman. Believe me, abstinence as a higher ground lifestyle or the alcohol and casual sex route at your age both get old, quick. If Jackson isn’t the one for you, surely there’s one out there with your name on him, just waiting.”
Deanna unconsciously bit her lower lip until she tasted blood, heard her pulse pounding in her ears. Shit. She was going to have to tell them both on Monday that she was leaving. Why all this deep love stuff, now? Love and Jackson were going in the same box with Amanda’s fucking D.C. Collings voice of feminism presentations. Amanda could just shut the hell up and leave her alone.
It had been easier to wall it all out when she believed Amanda didn’t understand, but it looked like she did. Deanna loved Jackson with her whole being, but she couldn’t let herself go. No matter what she said it wasn’t really Jax. It was her. She was the one who was always scared when anything or anyone started to climb her fences. She’d had her dreams stolen once, goddammit, and she was still scared. And mad. And nobody got it.