Jane in Love
By ROY PETER CLARK
After all that she had been through, Jane welcomed John into her life. There was a thrilling quality to their first phone calls and dates, a sense of the possibility of love reborn.
Jane had been working hard on rebuilding a strong sense of herself. Her husband was dying of AIDS a continent away, and she was trying to start again from scratch - it was like she had been swimming under water forever and needed a huge breath of air to keep from drowning. She found it impossible to rid her mind of the most demoralizing thoughts, that 20 years of marriage had been a lie, that she had been the most naive person in the world, that her best years were behind her, that she might never find what she thought she deserved: the love of her life.
With the help of a counselor, Jane wrote out a list of her best qualities: attractive, a good cook, a positive person, a good mother, a good listener, passionate, well-traveled, interesting, intuitive, loyal, strong, intelligent, powerful, healthy, patient, flexible, tolerant, warm, loving, forgiving. She ends her list, with "I forgive myself."
Another part of Jane's list concerns her sense of herself as a sexual being. "I have pretty eyes. I have a strong, healthy, beautiful body. I am good in bed - I could be! Men find me appealing."
She needed this kind of validation badly. She had been drawn and quartered by her emotions: exhausted from the lies, charades, and cover stories concerning Mick's illness; angered by Mick's betrayal and denial; guilty over leaving him; but determined to build a new life for herself and the children.
Jane desired to unburden herself, somehow, to disassociate herself from her husband's disease. After all, she thought, what man would have a woman whose husband had AIDS?
To fight off her anxieties, Jane dove in. A new social life in St. Petersburg meant an inevitable series of blind dates, a tragi-comic cycle of farces. These became so predictably bad that Jane enlisted the help of her friend Karen, who would "just happen" to be eating at Red Lobster, and "just happen" to run into Jane and her date. If the date was a bust, Jane and Karen would execute a bailout.
Jane would try to make herself available, at soccer matches, church dances, picnics, and even pick-up bars with names like "The Catch." These were especially depressing places, where, with her Brazilian style and shining smile, she'd get hit on by horny college students with fake IDs or over-eager out-of-towners, their wedding rings tucked in their pockets.
But John changed all that. He was tall and rugged, with sandy hair and mustache. His attentions made Jane feel wanted again. This feeling was so powerful - and had been so long in coming - that Jane was overwhelmed.
She thought about John all the time, and worried about her own fervor. Was her passion for John real, what she dreamed for, or the ultimate rebound relationship? Yes, technically she was still married to Mick, and still thought of herself as a good wife, but she refused to play St. Jane, virgin and martyr.
Jane wanted more and more time with John, wanted the relationship to grow, but often found him "emotionally unavailable" to her. He had been twice married, twice divorced, and had his own concerns about a commitment.
Still, she gloried in their time together. She loved to fold herself in his arms, to breathe him in, to feel the strength and tenderness in his hands as he stroked her neck and hair.
One night, at his home, his kisses became deeper and more passionate, and his embraces more urgent. He held her closer, inhaling the Opium cologne behind her ears.
Jane wanted this to happen. She needed it. John's passion had ignited hers and relieved the deep numbness caused by Mick's disinterest.
This was it. This was the moment.
Their kisses were hotter, their touching more eager.
Then Jane moved away from him.
"I think something is going to happen here," said Jane, her heart still pounding, "and I want it to happen."
John looked puzzled.
"But first," she said, "there's something important I have to tell you."
THE SERIES: This is the 21st installment of a 29-part story.