The name “Kara” and a phone number was all that was in the facebook message but I knew who it was and what it meant. It’s been twenty-five years since I saw her. She was a dark haired young woman with a tendency towards being a princess: that kind of woman who is a little on the high maintenance side. But she also hooked up with Greg, who wasn’t really into maintaining anything but a habit. Kara also rode it to the ground, crashed in flames holding on, and I respected her for that. She gave Greg every chance in the world to reform, gave him a place to live, gave him money, and gave him her heart. Whatever faults I found in the woman I couldn’t say she gave up on love.
“Mike who?” asked the man on the other end of the line, and he wasn’t happy some stranger was asking for his wife. I heard them talking about it and he was even less happy with what she told him.
It was odd hearing her voice and even more odd she knew who I was. It embarrassed the hell out of me for her to say she had taken a class at the Y with me and I didn’t recognize her. Three children, a job sitting down most of the day, and a husband making a hundred grand a year had not been kind to her body. She had spent far too much time not exercising, not getting out enough, not doing anything she didn’t have to do, and in her words, she let herself go because she could. The last child had left for college just this year and she was trying to reclaim her 1980’s form. We both laughed about the effort it took to stay in shape, and in that laugh I heard the young woman again. The conversation slowed and stopped and I waited. I had no intentions of leading.
“Mike will you not write about him again?” She blurted out and I knew why she said it. I told her I wouldn’t and she thanked me for it, but again, there was a dead silence.
“It’s stupid for me to ask if he’s okay isn’t it?” And I agreed with her it was. I had this conversation with a friend of mine debating on whether or not to have her dog put down. Let’s call it what it is. Someone asked me if they ought to kill their dog and I said it was the right thing to do. Someone asked me if she ought to forget about helping someone she once loved and I told her it was the right thing to do.
She thanked me again, and as she hung up I realized she was one of those people who hung on to lost loves, even after it was long since gone. Some people hang onto souvenirs from the beach, some hang onto old clothes they cannot wear anymore, and some people hang onto love. After twenty-five years she hadn’t let go, couldn’t let go, even though she had three children with another man. Fifteen minutes later I stared at the phone and even as the thought occurred to me to call someone I loved, the phone rang.
“Mike?” the husband asked, “this is Jim Wilder.”
Oh my dog she did not marry Jim Wilder, a man misnamed if anyone was. He was one of those guys who never drank too much, never tried anything wild at all, never left his parents’ house until he got married, made straight A’s all his life and had the personality of a lukewarm glass of milk. But it made sense. He was everything Greg was not and never would be. Jim didn’t like me because I sold pot to his roommate back in the day and he thought that made me a drug dealer. I remembered how unimpressive he was and that was about all I remembered about Jim. I braced myself for some sort of threat, or boring never-speak-to-my-wife-again speech. I hoped Jim hadn’t grown up to be a lawyer. Would he try to get Greg tossed in jail, ask me to help poison him, or offer me money to take Greg to some other state?
“Do you think there is any way for us to help Greg at all?” Jim asked.
It made sense now, more so than ever why Kara had married him. The princess had issued an edict for a quest, and Jim went all in on it. He wasn’t happy with it, he still didn’t like me, likely hated Greg with a passion, but he loved his wife, and this meant something to her. He asked me if I would help transport Greg to a local drug and alcohol treatment facility, and I knew what it would cost to get Greg in, and treat him, and I knew what it was costing Jim to ask me to help at all. And I didn’t think it would work. I didn’t hold any hope at all.
So why was I driving back to Exit 16 with a sheet in the front seat of my truck, and a plan to talk Greg into going to a truck stop and getting a shower before I took him to get dried out? Kara is not my Princess, this is not my Quest, and I have nothing to do with this at all, yet here I am, driving down the road trying to figure out what to do with someone damn near fifty years old and who hasn’t been sober since Reagan was president. This is not a Quest. This is a fool’s errand. This is a stupid waste of time and I know it. My best bet is to call Jim and tell him I couldn’t find Greg at all, and that I’ll look again tomorrow and never mention it to the man again. We’ll all be friends, all be happy, and as long as they never look for him, who will know, right?
I see him sitting there with the sign and start to pull over. This isn’t about Greg, or Jim, or Kara, or the Quest, or anything else. Some people hang onto old jewelry, some people hang on to old books, and some people never let go of love. How much to you believe in love? How far would you go for it, what would you do for it, and if someone asked you, in the name of a love they could not release, what would you help them do? Before we hung up Jim asked me about a woman I once dated, asked me about my sister he knew, and asked me about my dogs and my writing. “I never saw that in you.” Jim told me when he said I was a good writer. All the things of my life that are important Jim asked about because he’s interested in the people who matter to the woman he loves. I’m in my truck looking for a drunk because a man loves a woman who loved a man long ago, and in the face of love, you cannot deny it, if you believe in it. The man stands up and it isn’t Greg, but he’s holding the same sign.
Kara, I could not do anything else but write this. This isn’t about the Princess or the Quest or the man who loves you or the love you cannot let go, but this is suddenly about me. I want to be the man who will drive out to an Interstate Exit because the woman I love can’t let go. I want to be the man who can’t let go. I want to be the person who will go simply because love doesn’t let go. Love and simple compassion, Kara, is more than worthy of my respect. I have to write about it because there simply isn’t anything else.