Archive for May 12th, 2011

12th May
written by amber

Jessie Hates Jonah

I loved Jonah Simpson from grade three until grade 11. I loved him ever since we got married at a birthday party.

I was new to town, invited more out of kindness or parental pressure than because the birthday girl wanted me there. Her mother had arranged lots of games and one of them was a wedding game. Roles were assigned randomly and I drew the card that made me the bride; Dash Doerkson got to be the groom. I’d been in town long enough to know he was one of the popular kids, but I discovered that day he didn’t have to be nice to be popular.

“I’m not marrying her!” he protested. Birthday girl’s mother was so shocked that someone dared to upset her activity plan, she did nothing. The kids all started to laugh. It was the worst moment of my life. Then I was rescued by Jonah Simpson. He said, “I’ll marry her.”

Birthday girl’s mother seized on this before any more upsetting disruptions to her plans could occur, issuing me a veil and Jonah a plastic corsage, confetti to everyone else then performing the ceremony herself. The wedding game ended with a round dance that, even at age nine, we all found childish, but I endured the dance, feeling a strange emotion as Jonah squired me around the room. Was it love?

At school the next week, Jonah acted as he always did, hanging out with the group of boys he always played with, ignoring girls, or teasing them. At first I was happy he wasn’t teasing me, but before long I found myself wishing for any sort of attention from him. The next year we were in different schools and the year after that, I’d made myself a friend who weaselled the juicy details of my crush on Jonah out of me. We made a pact to each phone the boy the other liked. I called Dash Doerkson and, in a breathy rush, blurted “Arlene loves you.” Arlene phoned Jonah, drawling like a young Mae West, “Jessie looooves you!”

For years after that, he probably ignored me. I wouldn’t know because my humiliation was so complete, I avoided him entirely. Was I shy because I’d been embarrassed, because our family had moved during my ‘formative years,’ or would I have been shy under any circumstances? When I started high school, I was almost pathologically reclusive. My parents and my home room teacher intervened, and forced me to take a drama class. I could express myself to adults, I was shy only around my peers. Drama class was wonderful for me.  In grade 11, Jonah joined the class. To my relief, he didn’t seem to recall our checkered past – the marriage, the rejection.

We were both in the class play and we did a couple of improvs together and I thought we had a meeting of minds. He had a reputation for getting in trouble with his group of friends, the Wildebeests, breaking windows of abandoned buildings, organizing house parties that got out of hand, but in drama class an intelligence showed through and the same kindness which had lead him to rescue me seven years before.

So I phoned to ask him to come with me to the Ladies’ Choice dance. He said, “Who is this?” and then he laughed. Then he said, “I already have a date.”

I was so angry, I was determined not to let his rudeness drive me away from drama class, but to my relief, he wasn’t at the next class. He’d been suspended from school for bringing beer to the dance. When he came back, he was restricted to core subjects, no fun classes. I managed to get through the rest of high school without encountering him again, but I sometimes wondered if the things I did – overcoming my shyness, going to college to take set design, coming back to my home town to work in the municipal recreation department – were done not in spite of Jonah but to spite him. Which is so mature, isn’t it?

Last week, my girlfriends told me about a guy they wanted me to meet. “His friends are bringing him to the bar for the first time since his accident. He’s in a wheelchair, but he used to be really fit and once he gets used to the wheelchair, he can do basketball and stuff like that. But he’s kind of depressed.” The girls are always trying to fix me up. They all have boyfriends and they can’t understand that I’m pretty happy on my own. But I agreed to come and meet this guy, this Joe, wheelchair and all.

I met him and I liked him. We seemed to have a meeting of minds. Then we compared notes on our backgrounds, found out we’d gone to the same high school and I realized who he was. The beard, the facial scars, the wheelchair had disguised the fact that this was Jonah Simpson. Jonah became Joe, but I’ve always been Jessie and I don’t think I’ve changed that much. He didn’t recognize me because I’ve always been invisible to him, or beneath his notice. I got out of there in a hurry. Just because he’s in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I have to forgive him.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted by Amber every day on her website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012.  Stories must be a minimum of 200 words.  Please assist Amber by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

Today I wrote this story at a local coffeeshop, the Old Grind.  This is the second  in a series of linked stories.  Watch for more about Jonah and Jessie.