No Longer In Service

Jackson, Part 1

Jackson came into my life at a very sensitive time. I had just found out that I could not bear children and my partner was less than supportive about it. I’m not sure if he didn’t want to have children with me or that the idea of having children was an afterthought despite us agreeing we wanted them. So as I was dealing with traumatizing blow to my personal identity as a woman, Jackson appeared. He fell into my typical mold of men I’m attracted to – very smart, slender with dark hair and eyes, kind of dorky, and insecure. They’re always insecure.

Jackson was my teacher. No, it wasn’t like that, he wasn’t a professor or anything. I was studying to go back to school for a medical degree and he was the test prep teacher. Prior to getting married I was an insatiable flirt. I flirted with everyone, but being in a long-term partnership definitely put a tamper on that behavior. Yet meeting Jackson ignited that spark inside me again. I could flirt and be care free and not think about the consequences because I was sure nothing would happen – Jackson was also married. Our 12 weeks in the course passed with flirty bantering and innocent quips, but on the last day I changed all of that. I came into class with two cupcakes and bottle of Smart Water, to which I smiled and said, “Smart Water for smart boys.” Yeah, I know, pretty juvenile, but it kept his attention. After class I asked if he wanted to grab a drink to celebrate and after a moment of clear hesitation he agreed. We went to a ridiculous Mexican themed bar and had quite honestly one of the most amazing conversations I ever had with another person. The flow between our words were seamless and I don’t think either of us was prepared for things to be that easy. Although I never shared with him the exact reason why I opened myself to his attentions I was honest about being married and that I was currently challenged with determining whether I wanted to stay married. Jackson shared that his marriage was less than stable and that perhaps was why he was sitting with me that night. I still don’t know if this kind of honesty is what gave us permission to keep talking that evening but as hours passed it became clear that a decision needed to be made. We got up to leave the bar and in the parking lot I’m quite sure that I leaned into him to get the kiss I was desperate for. It wasn’t a mind blowing interlude, quite the opposite in fact because we were sloppy and not in sync, unlike our earlier conversation. But what was memorable was that I was not kissing my husband; the only man I had kissed for the last eight years. As I pulled away from Jackson I stupidly said, “I can’t believe I just kissed a married man” to which he said, “I’ve never kissed another married woman.”

Jackson, Part 2

I didn’t have an affair with Jackson though I suppose by strict definitions of adultery I did. That first kiss wasn’t the last and emotionally I was attached to him. We continued to go out and have those amazing conversations, but we never slept with each other. We came close once but we simultaneously understood it wasn’t going to happen. Our romantic relationship sort of just ended at that point and it was several years till our paths crossed again. How or why we came back into contact is unclear but when I did see him again any romantic notions had long faded. We both had moved on though he was no longer with his wife. I, on the other hand, was still with my husband. Seeing as the relevance of our partners were never part of our relationship when we reconnected there was little talk about them. Instead, Jackson dropped on me something I was completely unprepared for – he had decided to die and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him. This wasn’t a suicide plea in the traditional sense; Jackson was far too smart for that, but what he had done was manifest a sickness by giving into all of his insecurities, loneliness, and sadness and created something that was untreatable. The doctors (and Jackson) call it a traumatic brain injury with Alzheimer’s conditions. The result of this manifestation was an inability to function in society. He couldn’t leave his home as he might get lost. He couldn’t move his body as he was in chronic, debilitating pain. And he couldn’t work because of these deficits. But he also wouldn’t believe the doctors when they told him they couldn’t treat him and believed they were purposely trying to let him die by misdiagnosing him and falsifying his records. If this sounds like crazy to you, you’re not alone.

What I didn’t mention was that the medical degree I was applying for when Jackson and I met was in psychiatry. This may have been why Jackson came to find me again, though he’s never been able to make that connection. That was (one of) the reason life has always been difficult for him – he refused to understand the mind/body connection. He never chose to accept that his complicated and dysfunctional younger years influenced, if not made his choices and were most certainly the direct cause of his current paralysis. Rather than pull apart and recreate those arduous memories, he chose instead to die. And I, too, became stuck because I couldn’t be his doctor. It was unethical at best, too personal at worst. But I also couldn’t wait for him to perish as that was too personal at best, unethical at worst. My choice was to call him every week, just to check in, attempt to make him laugh if only for a couple of minutes. It was rarely fun and always exhausting, but I couldn’t just let him die alone.

Then last week on the eve of Jackson’s 39th birthday, I called and left a message. He rarely picks up as the effort is too much. A day passed, then 2, then 3. I called again, no answer. I left a message. After a week I tried yet again and this time that awful recorded voice came on, “I’m sorry but the number you are trying to call is no longer in service.”