Jode woke up thinking about Mark for the first time in years. There was pain in the memory. She didn’t have anywhere to be that morning. She took her time, lingering over getting ready as she cast her mind back. She didn’t play any music, she didn’t turn on the television, she didn’t do anything that would dull the edge of her nostalgia. It became important to her that she experienced this heartache. It was high time for a little honest introspection.
Mark was a boy Jode had dated just after graduating high school. He had been sweet to her, but at that time in Jode’s life, she was looking for something more exciting. Jode realized that Mark was probably the last vestige of her innocent youth. Just after breaking up with Mark, Jode began her decent off the deep end. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll had been her mantra for the last four years. In the beginning, it was exactly what she had wanted. The boys were everything that sweet, caring Mark had not been. The drugs and parties made her feel like she was living life on the edge.
But over time, Jode began to see through the veil of her outward excitement. She hid it from herself as best she could. But deep down, she understood that she wasn’t happy. In times of clarity, usually described as “the morning after,” she realized that she was being used; used by the boys, used by the drugs, used by the crowd, used by the booze, used by everything and everybody she surrounded herself with. Now, she was in another “morning after,” and she decided again that it wasn’t worth it anymore.
The difference this morning is that she remembered Mark. Jode realized that the last time she had been treated right was when she was with Mark. But she had thrown that away to chase after rubbish. When she saw how much she had left behind to pursue things that had debased and degraded her, Jode sunk into a wooden kitchen chair and cried softly. She had gone from waking up sad to crying in despondency in the short space of an hour. She thought of drink, she thought of the bright lights of clubs, she thought of a stranger’s embrace, but none of the things that she usually hid herself behind were readily available to her that day. There was nothing to do but face herself.
Jode cleaned herself up, she had to get out. She soon found herself wandering the streets. The tears were gone, but inside she began to long for the real thing of her past instead of the hollow stand-ins of the present. She found herself in the part of town where she used to hang out. There was the movie theater where she’d had her first date. There was the diner she’d worked at through high school. There was the coffee shop where she met Mark. Jode stood across the street and looked at the old, wooden door, wishing she could somehow take so much back. As she looked, the door opened and Mark walked out.
He didn’t see her, but leaned up against the side of the building with a paper cup and gazed into the distance down the street. He looked so much older than Jode remembered. It wasn’t just that he had matured from a boy into a man, but it seemed that the years had worn lines in him as well. There was a sadness about his posture that echoed in her own heart. Somehow, she knew that she had a part in the change she saw in him. If it was possible, her heart broke even more.
He turned to look at her as she crossed the street. Instant recognition was in his eyes. They stood together on the street and tried to paint a good picture of what had happened to them since they’d parted. Finally, Jode said what she knew she had to.
“I came here hoping to see you.”
Mark smiled. “I come here every Saturday hoping to see you. Do you want to go inside?”