We cried a lot and I doubt that comes as any surprise to anyone at all. It's a sad thing and for all the years Joanie spent watching others get this little piece of happiness, to have it snatched from her seemed especially cruel. I say we cried and we did but Joanie didn't crumble the way I expected her to. She got up that next day and she looked tired and she still cried but she let Judy dispose of the towel. To this day, I don't know what Judy did with the towel or what was on it but it was gone and Joanie was alright with that. I'm not going to say things were fine for her because they weren't. She didn't throw herself into anything else, like settling into the house or decorating and she didn't really try to pretend it didn't happen by gushing over Sherry's bump or nursery plans or anything. But she wasn't hysterical either and I had sort of expected her to be. She seemed a little lost and she was quiet and she cried more than usual and she hugged me more than usual too but then I wasn't about to complain about that. I needed her more right then. I could get through anything at all as long as I had my Joanie. I'm an old man now and I'll admit fear where maybe I wouldn't've before. Life is scary but it gets a whole lot less scary when you got someone by your side who loves you.
We got mostly through a week. Judy came over a few times and cooked for us which was nice because neither of us felt much like cooking or even eating. I'd take the chance to get out on the bike when she came over. As much as I needed my Joanie, I had things to get right in my own head too and nothing clears your head like riding down an old country road with the engine right between your knees. I don't know why that is and maybe it isn't for everyone but it worked for me and I was grateful that Joanie had given me that escape. I always brought something back for her from my rides. Sometimes going down those country roads I'd find a little stand selling some strawberries or something like that and other times I'd stop somewhere and pick her up some chocolate or flowers. It was never anything big but just something that said I was thinking about her and loved her. I told you I got better after the whole Rosemary thing and I knew I especially had to be good for her after what she'd just gone through.
All the while I was waiting on the other shoe to drop. I kept thinking that things hadn't sunk in yet and she'd still completely lose it at some point. But like I said we made it near to a week and really didn't talk that much about things. She went and saw her regular doctor early in the week who said the same thing Uncle Ira did and we both mentally noted when we could start trying to get pregnant again. She was healing really good and there wasn't likely to be anything standing in our way. But aside from telling me that she was doing alright and her doctor confirmed that nothing should keep us from being able to have a baby, we didn't talk about what happened at all.
I know she was nervous about going to Emma's on Sunday. Sherry would be there with her bump and Rachel wasn't showing yet but she was glowing like crazy and Keith wasn't quite six months old yet. I worried about her too. I wanted to tell her she didn't have to go but then I knew how much she hated being treated like she couldn't do normal things. I sort of chickened out and left the whole thing in her court. I maybe shouldn't have handled it that way but sometimes I just punted. I think most people do every now and then. I left it to Judy to really talk to her. Her mom too and the other women. I never really talked to her about it then and that was wrong but I didn't know what to say except that I loved her no matter what. That's a good thing to say but it didn't feel like near enough.
Anyway, it was Saturday so almost a full week after the miscarriage and the day before we was kind of expected at Emma's. I know that if I thought she shouldn't go or if she didn't want to then I could call and Emma would understand. Judy talked Joanie into going shopping. Something about needing some new sundresses or something what with summer pretty much there and all. They went shopping and I went for a ride and it was nice. That evening I even cooked a little something for us. It wasn't fancy and might not have been more than spaghetti or something like that but I cooked it and opened a bottle of wine and things seemed nice. Joanie had a light to her that had been missing those last few days and she talked about finding a dress she called cute and how Judy was seeing some new guy. He was some artist or something and Joanie thought he was a bit of a flake but Judy was happy and Joanie figured it wouldn't last anyway so she didn't say anything. She was right too. I mean, it lasted longer than we thought it would but it's not like she married the guy or anything. It was nice and we even laughed a little. She'd been feeling better and the pain had all gone away in the first couple of days so we thought about going for a walk. Or I should say, Joanie thought about going for a walk. I had another idea. I had, on one of my rides, picked up a couple of things and I took her out to the garage to show her.
Her eyes got wide as saucers when she saw I had another helmet and a second leather jacket. It was much smaller than mine but fit her like a glove. I know she was unsure at first but I promised that I wouldn't go far unless she wanted to and I'd stick to city streets where I'd have to drive slower—unless she decided she liked it, that was. Well, she put on the helmet and the jacket and climbed on behind me and I started the bike up. She near to broke my ribs I think when we took off but I did all I promised and went slow and stayed within a few blocks of home. We stopped at an intersection and I noticed she had loosened her grip on me a little and she leaned her head closer to my ear so I could hear her good.
"Where do you go when you ride? Will you show me?"
I nodded and headed out of the city. Nowadays you'd have to go a ways to find anything you'd call rural. It's what's known as urban sprawl. But back then you barely had to clear any city limits and you could find rolling fields and pastures with cows grazing or tractors out doing whatever it is they do—I was never a farmer—and sometimes even horses. I didn't grow up around that and it fascinated me that I'd always been that close to all that kind of land and yet had never seen any of it. For as much as I liked driving around the city and as much as the buildings were a comfort and a home to me, getting out was freeing in a different way. Things could feel tense and close and congested in the city. The air outside of it was cleaner and people seemed more relaxed. I'm sure they have their troubles same as everyone but maybe it seems easier to handle when all the people ain't stacked like cord wood.
There was a lot of tension in the city heading into that summer. Since 1964 there had been horrible rioting in all the major cities in the country. But somehow the unrest kept moving right on past Detroit. Cleveland got it and Chicago and of course New York and LA. But Detroit somehow kept getting spared. Now some believed that it was because of all the work we did toward integration after the riots in the '40's. But even those people by '67 were starting to feel uneasy. It was like we had been too lucky too long. The mayor was working hard with Parks and Recreation to try for things to keep young people occupied and try to keep people feeling good about the city. Still there was a tension you couldn't really put your finger on but it felt like something was about to happen and getting away from that feeling was nice.
I think it must have felt good to Joanie too. I could feel her relax against me the farther from the city we got. I stopped after a while and we just sat there a minute.
"This is beautiful, James," she said at last, "Is this where you always go?"
"Here or someplace like it," I answered, "I know it probably looks like I'm running away. It's just real pretty and easier to think out here."
"You're not running away. And if you are, I wouldn't blame you," she said softly. "I'm just grateful you come home at all."
"Now why would you say a thing like that, Joanie?"
"I've been a ghost, a shadow…and it's my fault. I killed it. I killed your child."
I just stared at her. I honestly didn't understand what she was talking about. She was dying inside over losing that baby and I knew she'd done all she could to keep it, all she knew to do.
"Joanie, it was our child, not just mine and you didn't do anything wrong."
"James," she said and took on that lawyer tone where I knew she was about to tell me roughly how stupid I was to hold whatever view I held in a discussion. I was used to it enough but I also learned that I wasn't always wrong and she wasn't always right even though she could sound better in any argument. "How many times did you tell me to take it easy while we were moving into the house? How often did you point out I was lifting too much or making too many trips up and down the stairs? I didn't listen. It's my fault the baby's gone. I didn't listen."
"Sweetheart, I was being silly," I told her, "I even asked Uncle Ira and he said that wasn't what caused it at all. It just wasn't meant to be. And, at any rate, if anyone caused it, it was me."
I'd been harboring the guilt the whole week. Every time I looked into her eyes and saw that hurt it was an indictment against me and the terrible husband I was. I knew it was my fault and I knew that all her hurt was caused by me. I knew the real reason wasn't just a random act of fate. I just knew it.
"I just had to yell at you," I said. It was true. That night after we got home from celebrating my birthday we fought and we fought but good and it wasn't the kind of fight where we forgave and saw the errors of our ways and ended up making up and making love all night. It was the kind of fight that I didn't forgive her for at all and I slept on the couch downstairs in the living room because I couldn't stand the sight of her. I mean I saw her the next morning making coffee and we sort of mumbled apologies and I kissed her and she hugged me and we were kind of okay but it was a doozy of a fight and I had yelled at her. I rarely yelled at her and I'd been tempted even to raise a hand. I didn't and I knew I never really could but I nearly did and I yelled but good. Said some awful things, things I could never even think of taking back.
"That was my fault," she whispered, "I shouldn't have ever said what I did. That couldn't have caused the baby…it couldn't have. I'm sure of it."
"Joanie, I yelled. I called you names. I said terrible things. I didn't mean them, not really."
I guess I ought to explain a little more. This wasn't a typical fight for us. They was usually misunderstandings and once we got our mad out we'd talk and see the other side and be stronger for it. This was different though. We got home from Emma's that night and was sitting on the porch staring out into the night and we started thinking on the future. We talked about names for the baby. She asked if I thought about using my folks' names…William and Polly. I told her that I didn't really care for the name Polly and I thought Billy and Sherry might be thinking on having a junior if they had a boy. She said she liked the name Leslie for a girl and I said something about the name Melissa or maybe Sarah and then we got to talking about boy names and she said she always liked the name Joshua and I kind of nodded that it wasn't a half bad name at that. Then she said it, the one thing that could tip me off, the one thing that could make me come completely unglued.
"Francis is a nice name too," she said, "Or maybe something that starts with 'H' like Henry. Some way to honor him. I would never consider Horace and you wouldn't either but we could name him Francis and call him Frank."
I think I've mentioned before that it wasn't generally accepted to name a child after someone living. She was, in effect, saying that she had given up hope on Kid coming home. I lost it. I stomped into the house and she followed and I will admit right here that if she hadn't followed then there wouldn't've been a fight. She could have let me cool down and eventually we might've been alright but she did follow and I think she was trying to apologize but I didn't give her a chance. She'd called my brother dead and that wasn't forgivable to me then. Now when you love someone pretty much anything can be forgiven but I was too hurt in that moment. I knew she meant no harm and she wanted to believe what I believed and she wanted to think I really knew something that no one could know but she didn't feel those things and it wasn't her fault. It really wasn't.
But I yelled and I ranted and I called her names I'd lay any other man out for calling her. And the very next day her body let go of what might've been our firstborn child. I could see the connection even if she wanted to deny it. I can sit here all day and tell you how bad her words hurt me but that wouldn't defend anything I said.
"James," she said looking up at me and right then, I think I fell in love with her again. We was standing at the side of some country road and the sun was beginning to set behind her and the tears were falling over her eyelids and down her cheeks. I know I never had any right to think about a woman like she was but I fell again like I did the first day she stepped out of that Corvette and given the state she was in maybe that was a right thing and maybe it wasn't but right don't change the facts. "James, I was wrong then too. We don't talk about it enough. It isn't just a feeling he's alive or a hope, is it? You know something, don't you?"
I could only nod. I knew. I knew my brother still walked the earth the same as I knew my own name. I'll never be able to explain it but it doesn't matter how far we'd ever get from each other, I would know if he had died. I just would.
"I'll never suggest such a thing again," she choked through her tears, "I'll never doubt you. You've never really doubted me and I owe you that much."
She took a breath and looked around.
"We're both being silly anyway. The doctors are probably right. I think I just felt I needed someone to blame and I was handy. Maybe that's what you felt too. We'll try again starting in August or September and everything will be just fine, won't it?"
"I expect it will at that."
She leaned into me and rested her head against my chest.
"I love you," she said.
"I love you too, Joanie."
"We're kind of a mess, you know?" she said looking up at me and offering a half a laugh.
"Ain't no kind of about it," I replied, "Hell, maybe that's why we work. I mean it's also why we have problems sometimes but when we work them out and all, maybe it's because we're both such a mess."
"You really are perfect for me," she told me offering a smile the likes of which I hadn't seen from her in quite a while. "I know you've doubted that at times but I don't see any other man handling all you've had to handle."
I opened my mouth to say something but she raised a hand to stop me.
"I know you love me but I do put you through more than most men have to deal with and that's just who I am. And I know you'll say you've put me through my share of problems too and that's true. Thing is, I don't mind at all. I mean sometimes I do at the time. There was the whole Rosemary incident and all. But I always feel we get stronger and I don't mean just us as a couple but I feel like I'm a stronger person and you're a stronger person than we'd be if we'd never known each other and put each other through all this stuff. Does that make sense?"
I laughed a little because I couldn't have said it better myself.
"It makes all kinds of sense, Joanie. I like who I am now so much better than who I ever was before. I don't think I ever thought about if I made you stronger or better but I like the thought that maybe I did."
Joanie pulled my head down to hers and kissed me then and for the first time since she climbed on the bike behind me, I wished we was back in the city if only to be at our house where I could do something about how she was kissing me. She pulled away as the kiss ended and there was a sparkle in her eyes.
"The sun's going down," she noted, "Maybe we should get home before dark."
I smiled and nodded and let myself think of all kinds of things we could do once we was home.
I thought this chapter might get me more into the events of summer that year but there was a lot more that had to go on between J&J in this than I thought. But he's right about the tensions and the false sense of hope...come July here no one will be left unchanged. But at least I think J&J are doing better...I worry she got over that too easily though.-J