I have met a lot of people over the years, some were lovely, some were hurting and some…well… we won’t mention them. Though the COVID-19 virus has wreaked utter havoc in our lives it also has, dare I say have had positive after-effects. Now, I am in no sense suggesting that the virus itself is a good thing, but merely that it has forced individuals to take this time to reflect. Perhaps it has made them face fears that they have been avoiding for a long time. For my friend, Jack it has been exactly that, a time of bitter reflection. Jack is now an elderly gentleman whom and I met as a child and we became fast friends. I never understood why Jack, a well-natured man with a hardy laugh and good sense of humor, was always alone, never married but yet longed for companionship. I never knew that is until quarantine disrupted our lives.
Mid-way through the initial outbreak of COVID-19 he called the house to make sure that his “family” was doing well. I was the only one home at the time and we began our customary chitchat until Jack broke down in tears. His voice was full of bitter regret. I am going to tell you his tale now because he asked me to.
I will attempt to tell his story as close to his own words as possible. He wanted this to serve as a warning to others, for as he says, “…the way I lived my life was no life at all.” So without further ado, this is Jack’s story.
It was the summer of 1960, “Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers was at the top of the charts and Jack was celebrating his 30th birthday. While most young Bachelor’s his age typically went out to celebrate on their birthday’s Jack was hard at work. My dear friend was to put it simply was a workaholic and was married to his job. On the eve of his birthday, a co-worker convinced him to “come out for a drink”, which Jack did so reluctantly. As Jack’s co-worker prattled on about the cutie, Susan in Accounting, Jack’s mind wandered back to the stack of papers that he left on his desk. Jack began to nervously sweat as he thought about what his boss would say when he saw those papers. Jack was now looking at his watch nervously, desperately trying to think of a way to leave. As his eyes darted about the room they landed on “her”. The “most beautiful creature he ever saw”. Her golden hair was glistening in the few rays of sunlight that were still casting their glow through the open window. She noticed him as well. “Jack!” she called, waving and smiling as she did so. Jack was stunned for a moment, wondering whom this, to use his own words, “this beautiful creature, this goddess was.”
As she approached him, he realized instantly who she was, Ruby. Dear, sweet, little, Ruby, he was always pulling her pigtails in grammar school. She had moved away during their last year of high school, but she recently moved back to town. He was smitten with her then and he was smitten with her now. He could live for days off of her smile alone. He chatted with Ruby for the rest of the evening and walked her home. The days, weeks, even a month went by and he couldn’t get the sweet Ruby off his mind. So, taking the slip of paper with the phone number that she pressed into his hand the night he walked her home, he decided to call her. Jack asked her for a date that night and after that, they talked nearly every day.
However, as I stated earlier, Jack was a workaholic and he slowly started to distance himself from Ruby as he felt that though he loved her, he could not make the time for her. Then his father fell ill. Now, before I continue with this story it must be understood that Jack is indeed a well-meaning man with a good kind heart, but he was a very private man. Jack was in love before Ruby by a woman who cheated and manipulated him and now he was terribly afraid that if he got close to Ruby that she would do the same thing. So, Jack before he even gave Ruby a chance shut her out.
He pushed her away when all she wanted to do was be close to him, help him, and love him in return. To make matters worse he never even explained to her why he was so purposely ignoring her. Ruby tried to be patient, tried to be kind, but after constant rejection, she finally gave up and left without a word. Jack never saw her again. He tried years later after his crisis had passed to reach out to her but it was too late. Ruby had moved on, married someone else, and started a family. Though she admitted she would never forget Jack she was too hurt to have tried to stay. Jack threw himself into his work even harder achieving great financial success, won awards at work, and even became CEO of his company, but he was never truly happy. When Ruby left she took his heart and years later when he read of her passing the little that was left of his heart died with her.
I naturally by the end of this story was sobbing on the other end of the phone. Jack concluded his story with a moral, as he usually does. He said to me “Now see hear young lady, I’m telling you this story not to make you sad, but so you know not to be an old fool like me. I don’t want you to lose out on the most important person in your life because you are too afraid to let them in and too busy with his career. I want you to tell my story the best you can in your words so others may hear it too. Here it took a virus to make me realize what a fool I have truly been all these years.” With that, Jack gave his signature chuckle and hung up the phone.
This time of quarantine across the globe has been for many a time of reflection. I hope that you have time to fix what is broken; to let someone new into your heart so you may heal and learn that no matter what the circumstance is there is someone who cares. Please do not be like Jack and push them away for they may be the remedy you need.
Until next time when I return to more storytelling, I remain respectfully,
Cheyenne E. Mitchell