from Nick Suss
May 7, 2014, 12:40 p.m.
Part 3: Desolation
After Allison hung up the phone, Jeff kept the phone pressed against his ear for enough time that he could feel beads of sweat collect against his ear and roll down the slick surface of his plastically-protected phone screen. Just as the beads of sweat had, Jeff began to slide down the flat surface of the wall behind him until his entire body sulked into a heap of a human being. His head rested softly on his knees, his chin pressed against his chest and his hands wrapped around his shins. The pressure of waiting for the phone call had gotten to him.
If Brian was a character in a movie, he wouldn’t be the villain. No, Brian is a character you kill off in the first act, but he’s not a villain. Brian had a lot of redeemable qualities that most people would love. He was extremely smart, surprisingly courageous and very musically gifted. He was extremely quirky and had a few obsessions though, but that just endeared him to Jane. For example, despite his love of music, there was only one song Brian would listen to: Desolation Row by Bob Dylan. The lyrics seemed to speak to him, validate his passion for poetry and for the guitar as a storytelling instrument. He listened to that song at least three times a day and recited it as poetry at every chance he got. He loved the song so much that for a Halloween party his senior year of college he dressed up as Einstein disguised as Robin Hood. Nobody understood the joke except for Jane, and he had to give her two hints. Brian met Jeff just a few minutes after Jeff and Jane reconnected. Brian had conveniently been in the restroom during the reunion. Had he been in the room, the encounter likely would have been much more awkward. In fact, while Brian met Jeff that night, Brian didn’t learn about Jeff and Jane’s past until three weeks later. Jane thought it would be a good idea to keep it a secret. Jeff and Brian got along well enough. Brian always called Jeff by the nickname of Casanova. He thought people were too obsessed with killing Jeff with kindness and that life had unfairly punished him. Everybody Brian knew was a character from Desolation Row.
Jane knew that therapy would be a bad idea for her. It was a vicious cycle. She couldn’t stand to be alone in a place she’d never been before for an hour. She’d never been to a psychiatrist’s office. She couldn’t be cured of her anxiety without curing herself of her anxiety. She could have asked Allison to go with her, but in order to spare herself the embarrassment, she decided a better point of attack would be to confront the issue head on by renting her own apartment. She also resolved she would keep no more secrets. Secrets were what got her into this situation in the first place.
It would be inaccurate to say that Jane stopped seeing Brian so she could start seeing Jeff. That would indicate that there was no overlap. But there was. There was quite a bit of overlap.
That first night that Jeff met Brian and rekindled his friendship with Jane, Brian offered to take Jane back to her dorm. Jane said she wanted to have one more drink and Jeff offered to walk her home. Brian naively thought this was a good idea. Jane spent the entire night in Jeff’s arms without so much as a single hint of anxiety. They picked up exactly where they left off. The night started with some reminiscing, followed by some information about what had happened since they last spoke, followed by some light mocking of one another, some more reminiscing, sex, Jane reenacting the scene from Shawshank Redemption where Andy crawls through the sewer, more sex and Jane sharing a twin bed with someone for the first time in years. As far as Allison knew, Jane tried to stay the night at Brian’s place again and was more successful this time. As far as Brian knew, Jane went home as she said she had. As far as Jeff knew, he was the luckiest guy on earth.
Jane continued to juggle Jeff and Brian for the next two years. Only three people knew about Jeff and Jane’s affairs: Jeff, Jane and Jeff’s second stepfather Dale. Dale accidentally walked in on Jeff and Jane in bed together when Dale and Jeff’s mother had come to visit from Chicago. In the trust forged between Jeff and Dale by Dale not telling anyone for over a year, the two of them actually became close. Dale was the best man at Jeff’s wedding. How Brian never found out about the relationship was more of a testament to Jeff’s meticulous nature than to Brian’s ignorance. Jeff had an affair the way J. Edgar Hoover would have had an affair. Jeff joked he should have patented his T.A.G. method that they used in their defense whenever they were confronted. It was that effective. He and Jane spent as much time rehearsing alibis and coming up with excuses as they did having sex. In other words, Jeff and Jane rehearsed alibis and came up with excuses between two and three times every day. Again, as far as Jeff knew, he was the luckiest guy on earth.
Jeff swore he was cursed. There was no way a man could have so much bad luck as he had in the past three months. He was fired from his job with the police department. The only parental figure in his life he had ever liked, his stepfather Dale, died of an extremely-unlikely electrocution. The private detective agency he started wasn’t getting much business. On top of all that, he had to kick his own wife out of their home because he was too good at the job he got fired from. Jeff never believed in irony until he reexamined the recent events in his life. Still reduced to a ball on the ground, Jeff started playing through his regrets in his head. He wished he’d spent less time at the office. He wished he’d have had the sense to love her when he had the chance. Most of all, he wished he hadn’t turned his love into a competition. It would always be that line that ruined him.
Dave and Allison were married just eight weeks after graduation. The eight weeks in between graduation and the wedding were the first eight weeks that Jeff and Jane were outward with their relationship. Jeff had become close with Dave and Allison just as a product of being around, but over that two month span the group of four became a power quartet. They went everywhere as a foursome, and not just because Jane’s condition required them to. Jane was Allison’s maid of honor. Jeff was a groomsman in the wedding party. At the reception, on the dance floor, Jeff proposed to Jane. She accepted.
Jeff and Jane were engaged for a full two years before they tied the knot. The two were married in August of 2013. Jeff had been hired to do his dream job, working as a detective for the police department. Jane was having a difficult time finding a job, but Jane kept herself busy caring for Dave and Allison’s child, William, during the day while both Dave and Allison worked long days. Having a baby around made Jane feel somewhat comfortable, as she was as close to being alone as she could be without twitching. She also felt like she was a good mother. She often pretended that baby William was her own child. He might as well have been, she was around him more than his mother was. After two months of caring for William five days a week, however, Jane grew anxious.
Jeff put his whole life into his work. He knew he only had one chance, and he would get it right. Jane needed to see Jeff more than he was at home. It was just who she was. So she would come to visit him at work. After a week or two of this happening every day, Jeff told her something he wishes he had never said. Honey, my work time is my time. When I’m working, you are not at the front of my mind. I need to spend this time thinking about me. Do you understand?
So you love your work more than me? That’s it?
No, of course not. It’s like when I’m at home and we’re talking and I start to say something about work and you always tell me to leave the office at the office. When I’m at the office, I like to leave home at home. Do you see where I’m coming from?
So you only want to think about me when we’re together?
Yes. I mean no. No. Of course not. I always think about you.
No, fine. I get it. What’s fair is only fair. You have your work time. I have my time to myself too. I get it. I respect that. Fair is fair.
After that day, Jane typed the same nine words on her cell phone in a text message box every day, then deleted them after much contemplation. However, one day in late October, she had the courage to send the message.
Allison – Do you remember the time the door knob broke?
Brian – Is this some kind of joke?
Allison – Of course not. How are you doing?
Brian – Right now I can’t read too good. Don’t send me no more texts, no.
Allison – But what if I send you the messages from Desolation Row?
That exchange rekindled a dormant love that seemed to disintegrate around the seams before it even began. Brian had spent most of his time since graduation working as a waiter over in New York City and trying to become a poet and a folk singer. Naturally, he chose to go by the pseudonym The Blind Commissioner. He never could quit that song. Even though moving to New York meant he was four-hours away from Jane, through talking the two of them never felt closer. The two would spend hours upon hours every day sending basic text messages and connecting on a level they never before had, even while they lived together. For this first time in a long time, Brian was Jane’s number-one priority. After about a month of chatting online and over the phone, Jane decided to drive down to New York City on a Tuesday under the guise of having an interview with a company who would have her work for them from home. Proud of his wife, Jeff offered to accompany her on the trip so she wouldn’t get anxious. Jane quickly responded that Allison and baby William were coming with her and they were going to make a day of it. Jeff thought that was a great idea. Jane should have known better than to blatantly lie to a detective.