A Tower on the Floor

1998

The last time Jim saw her was when Julie left with her sister Mary to go to the movie theater. Julie wore a white skirt with that blue top that Jim had bought for her for their 30th Anniversary the year before.

“So what movie are you going to watch?” Jim asked while scratching his balding head.

Titanic. I heard it’s sad but really good.”

Jim looked at the calendar. “We’ve got dinner at Mary’s tomorrow.”

“I already have a cake in the fridge that I’m planning on bringing over.”

“You always have been a good chef.” Jim kissed his wife.

“Oh Jim. You’re such a sweetheart,” Julie squinted her eyes as she looked at the clock. “Oh dear. I’ve got to get going.”

“Alright. I’ll see you when you get home, honey.” Jim smiled and kissed her again as she walked out the door.

Jim watched television in the living room which was full of Julie’s trinkets. There was that African drum Julie bought when they went on safari. Next to that was a tea set from Japan. What perked his interest the most was a plastic Eifel Tower on the mantle piece that was placed next to a photograph of the actual tower with the two of them smiling, twenty years before when they were still young, not that Jim would ever tell Julie that she was almost sixty. He picked up the plastic figurine and studied it.

Jim heard a knock on the door and saw a police officer standing at the doorway.

“Are you James Conaway?” the Officer asked, watching him sympathetically.

“Yes. What is it officer?”

The officer told Jim how sorry he was to inform him that his wife collapsed at the movie theater and wasn’t able to be resuscitated despite the best efforts of EMTs. Jim stood there stunned. The figurine slipped out of his hand and fell to the floor.

1968

With a thud Jim frowned at his now broken backpack. He walked outside of his classroom carrying his books. On his way to class the other day he walked past a march that was against the Vietnam War. In the crowd he saw a girl that lead the other marchers. He imagined what her day might have been like:

She woke up that morning knowing that she was going to make a difference. As she got dressed and ate her breakfast she prepared herself. She grabbed her sign that read ‘GET OUT OF VIETNAM’ and walked out the door. A crowd of protesters waited for her command to begin marching. With a yell they began to follow her down the sidewalk on campus. She saw a man watching her from the crowd and wondered who he was. It was then that she wanted to find him and meet him.

Jim chuckled to himself. Yeah, right.

He walked down the sidewalk he saw a bunch of students protesting again. He watched and wondered if he should join in.

1998

Jim sat in the living room surrounded by family members who came from all over the country to bid Julie farewell . As the family discussed Julie’s life, Michael, Jim’s only child sat on the couch beside his father.

“Dad, she probably didn’t even feel that much pain.” Michael said and he was probably right because he was a doctor.

“Yeah. I suppose you’re right,” Jim said staring at the punch in his glass. “God damn, I really could use a drink.”

“I’m not sure if drinking is the best idea right now.”

“Son. If I want to drink, I’m going to fucking drink.”

Jim rose from the couch and walked through a crowd of people who attempted to console him. Shrugging them off Jim went down into the basement and unlocked the liquor cabinet. He poured himself a shot of Jack Daniels and raised the shot glass.

Jim took the shot and began to numb the pain that he felt inside.

1975

The shot glass crashed down onto the table as Julie laughed. “Oh dear, this is such a great place!”

Jim and Julie were in Kapa’a, Kauai sitting at a bar by the beach. Jim watched people walk along the quiet beach line.

“Yes, it’s very pleasant.”

“Jim, what is it?”

Jim shook his head and looked out at the sea. What could I even say? I can’t forget what you told me.

Julie looked at him with a frown. “Is this about what I think it is?”

“I just need some time to think about what you told me.” Jim said.

Julie looked at a surfer enjoying some waves. “All that glitters is not gold.”

Jim raised a brow. “You do love to be oh so poetic sometimes.”

1998

The room seemed to spin as Michael shook him. “Dad, wake up. We’re going to be late.” Jim mumbled and resisted for a minute before he rose from the couch he had fallen asleep on.

“Ugh, my head.” Jim closed his eyes trying to not look at how sunny it was outside. The sunlight hurt his eyes too much, but it was more than his eyes that would hurt today. He went into the bedroom and glanced at their bed: it was only his now. With a sigh Jim opened the closet and peered inside at her clothes that were still there.

No, I need to get ready. Don’t break down, Jim.

Jim grabbed his suit and began to put it on. As he put clothes on, he glanced at her copy of The Collected Works of William Shakespeare which was still on the nightstand by the lamp and shook his head.

A few hours later, Michael and Jim sat in the parked car in front of the graveyard. Jim thought that it was ironic that such a sad occasion was happening on such a nice day.

“Dad, we’ll make it through this together, okay?”

“I..Let’s get going.” Jim got out of the car and walked into the graveyard.

Jim could see the hole in the ground waiting for his Julie to enter it. A crowd was already gathered, waiting for the Hearst to arrive. The Rabbi found Jim and spoke a few words to console him but Jim just stared at that hole.

1988

Jim and Michael fished at a river bank. Michael didn’t see much point in it but Jim wanted to bond with his son. Michael had noticed that lately his father looked at him like he wanted to say something but hadn’t.

“Dad, are you alright?”

Jim looked at the river for a few moments saying nothing.

“Dad? Dad!”

Jim looked at this son. “Michael, I need to tell you something. You are a man now and you should know the truth.”

“What is it Dad?”

“I’m not your father.” Jim looked at the river sadly.

Michael looked at him unsure of what to say.

“I know this must be hard for you, but I love you so it doesn’t matter that we aren’t related by blood. You are still my son.”

Michael nodded. “I need some time to process this.”

Father and son fished the rest of the day without another word.

1998

Jim looked at the casket as it was lowered into the ground. Every shovel of dirt was another reminder. Everyone else left the grave. Jim stood there alone.

“I forgive you for what happened, you know.”

It was a Sunday morning when Jim returned home from the doctor.

“Well, what did they say, Jim?” Jim looked at her.

“They say the reason we can’t have more children is that I’m infertile, but…” Jim looked at young Michael running around outside. “How is it that we have Michael?”

Julie then told him how she slept with another man when Jim was on a business trip. Jim walked out the door slamming it behind him.

Jim laughed bitterly to himself wishing that he had been able to tell her that he had come to terms with everything. He fell to his knees before the grave and for the first time since the news came to him he allowed himself to cry.