Graduation (or, Freeeeddddooommmm)
This is the twelfth chapter of Love Song by Julienne (ft Cancer). The other ones are listed below because I felt bad about being lazy last time.
Prologue – Julienne
Chapter 1 – Meeting Julienne
Chapter 2 – Finding Julienne
Chapter 3 – A Kiss, and a Confession
Chapter 5 – Brioche French Toast
Chapter 6 – Halloween with Becca
Chapter 7 – A Ring, and a Conversation
Chapter 8 – Her Woods
Chapter 9 – Christmas, and a Chase
Chapter 10 – Alantimes Day
Chapter 11 – A Dress and a Concert
So much for managing two posts a week. These are getting tougher, so I’ll shoot for one a week. Anything else will be a bonus. Thanks as always for reading. I love you (*finger guns*).
There is an interesting phenomenon that seems to lurk around any long-anticipated event, especially one that took a lot of work to bring together. There is this high during and after, especially if it is a rousing success. Then, unfortunately, there is a depression of sorts that sets in. This thing that was a labor of love is over and done, and the higher the high the lower the low. Julienne had a day to deal with both of those conflicting emotions. Then, sadly, she had to turn around and look at all the plates that were wobbling and slowing down as she’d kept the Frost Plays one spinning.
What it mostly meant was papers. Lots and lots of papers. Plus, some of those papers involved, say, a court visit and was due on the day she realized it existed. Much of the next couple weeks was a mad scramble to get everything back in order and to work furiously on those papers (she went to court and got the paper sent in with 16 minutes to spare. Plenty of time). Her classes ended on April 21st (with a makeup class the following day). Graduation was May 9th. So Jules had a short amount of time to get a lot of things done. I helped as much as I could. I proofread her papers, helped do some preliminary source research to find articles or studies that dealt with points she was writing about, and all the long-distance love and moral support I could give her. I also sent flowers and a bear for Lewis.
We were both intensely excited at the same time. Every day that passed was another day closer to the end of the long-distance aspect of our relationship. Thanks to Jules, we had made it work with Skype (and quite a few flights). It had been our routine for 8 months. Come home from work/class, wait for the other to get home, get on Skype, chat, watch movies, or sit quietly while she’s working on papers and be able to glance up and see the other person right there. Then, whoever went to bed first would carry the laptop to bed and set it where the other would be on the weekends. We’d say our goodnights, then mute our microphones. If one of us was up late, the other could wake up and see them. If our call got dropped, whoever woke up first would call back, no matter what time it was, so we could always see each other. It was a comfort, a lifeline, a promise of a better and brighter future ahead.
It wasn’t always fun and games. Once, I flew back from seeing her and got in late, as usual, and got ready for bed. The night before we’d watched The Babadook together. After I got settled into bed in the dark, Julienne waited for things to get quiet and then said, in a low voice, “baba dook, dook, DOOK” like they do in the movie. I cursed her out for that one as she laughed uproariously. It was hilarious to her until I did it back to her a couple nights later. Then we made a pact that intentionally scaring the other person was not going to be part of our relationship. I still think it’s one of the wisest decisions we ever made.
(I used to unintentionally scare her pretty often. I walk fairly quietly, apparently, perhaps a result of having two atrocious people as father and step-father. Anyway, I had to learn the habit of saying something to announce myself before I walked into a room she was in, because otherwise she’d turn around and scream because she had no idea I was there, which would in turn scare the shit out of me.)
Skype really kept us in sync with each other, and staved off the loneliness. We’d watch things together (“ok, I’m going to press play in 3… 2… 1!”) like Daredevil and Parks and Rec and Game of Thrones while drinking wine, or we’d just talk about current events or our pasts or… anything, really. We always found it just so easy to talk to each other, about anything. Julienne knows things about me no one else does, things I’ve never told anyone, and she shared the same with me. I fell in love with her through Skype, and it’s because of how open and trusting we are with each other.
(I miss talking to her so much. I mean, I still talk to her, every day, but our conversations are one of the things that hurt the most to lose. She and I would just talk for hours about everything. I miss just hearing her speak, and the gestures she used, and how well she listened. I can’t talk to anyone else like that. It’s like so much of I want to say can no longer be communicated at all, because she isn’t there to respond, to help me refine my thoughts. Sometimes I feel myself wanting to just shut down and not talk at all to anyone. It’s a hard fight to resist that, and it’s not clear yet whether I’m winning or losing.)
But as good as we were on Skype, we were even better in person. With each new day the vibration of excitement and anticipation got a little stronger. Already my apartment – correction, our apartment – had things of hers everywhere. Half my closet was already full of her hanging dresses and blouses. Things we’d bought together hung on walls or sat on shelves. We’d been making our nest for months together and soon, so tantalizingly soon, we would be together in it permanently. It was a heady and nerve-tingling thought that was rapidly becoming all-consuming.
Everything was combining into a whirlwind for Julienne. Here she was, about to finish her double degree and leave college forever, finally, at 26. Her dream job, the one she’d chosen and planned and executed for the last five years, was waiting for her. She was engaged and planning a wedding between papers and exams (in fact, she picked the band in the middle of exams at the end of April) and starting to think of names for our future children. Julienne’s life was about to actually and finally begin. Years and years of work and failed romances and constant never-ending schoolwork were about to culminate into the life she’d always dreamed of having.
(It’s a weird thing, writing this, putting myself back in that time, feeling all the emotions. Now I’m like someone watching a horror movie, yelling at the screen, trying to bring attention to the thing lurking around the corner, knowing I can’t stop it or change anything at all. It’s such a cosmic fucking joke, a fuckover of epic proportions, what happens to her, and to us, a needlessly cruel destruction of a singularly beautiful person.)
(OK, long break over. Below is a sample of how deeply weird Julienne and I could be while separated and bored)
On May 5th, Julienne took her last law school exam. She felt free and happy and had a few days before graduation to say goodbye to her friends and pack her entire apartment, or at least what was left. Plus, she had to practice what was going to be something very rewarding and also incredibly stressful – singing the national anthem at graduation. Stage fright had derailed her dream of performing for audiences, after all, and it wasn’t like it was the kind of thing that goes away. For some reason, she even had to be the person to coordinate getting the right piano for Shelly Berg to play. Why a student had to deal with what a member of faculty was going to need at graduation was, and remains, a mystery, but Julienne handled it, as she handled all of the things ever thrown at her.
Two days later, I flew down to help her pack and to celebrate her graduation. I was so excited and happy for her, and Julienne glowed. Having no more classes, papers, or exams to worry about (except, of course, the bar exam at the end of July) lifted a burden she’d been carrying for quite a while. Her parents, brother, and sister-in-law (with Luna the “beeb” along as well) were there for her graduation as well (I honestly can’t remember who else was there, and those are the only people in the pictures I have, so I apologize if I forgot someone. I feel like I am). Together we sat and watched Julienne absolutely crush it.
(It’s such an interesting contrast with the version she did after she was placed on oxygen at the Ravens game in August 2018. Julienne, in full health and full voice, could fucking bring it. But the way she did it at the game years later, with extra catch-breaths and a simpler approach, is just as beautiful in a different way. I still cry whenever I hear her sing, just like I did back then – you can hear me sniffle in the recording.)
We made sure to scream when her name was called at her request (not that we needed prompting), then celebrated with her afterwards. We spent the night at the beach and let her comprehend the fact that she didn’t have to go to classes anymore. I was so proud for her and what she accomplished in just the time I’d known her, let alone the 6 years of college before that. Julienne was very proud of herself too, and deserved that pride. She did well in school, still had fun, got to produce concerts, make contacts, and got her law degree. I knew she’d be able to do whatever it was she wanted to do. A couple days later, she dropped me off at the Ft Lauderdale airport one last time. I took a picture of the terminal from the spot where she always stood to greet me and where I’d kiss her goodbye. It was one of my favorite places because of it.
Then, it was all over but the packing. Well, packing and fixing her bedroom door. See, Lewis is a door scratcher. Well, more like a door digger. Julienne would put him in her bedroom and shut the door when she went to class, and poor lil Lew would be anxious and dig at the door until she got home. Eventually she started putting him in a crate because he quickly did a lot of damage to the door. So she had a lot of patching and painting to do on it. Before she painted it white, though, she sent me a message:
She finished boxing up all her stuff, had a moving company come pick up the big stuff to haul up north, and I came back that Friday. We met in our spot for the final time and we climbed into her car to start our long drive. It was already past midnight so we’d originally planned to stay at her place and head up in the morning, but she got rid of her bed so instead she got a Groupon for a hotel in Boca Raton. It was the most stereotypical lime-green and pink monstrosity of a Florida hotel, and we waited in the empty lobby for what felt like an hour before someone wandered in. The room was as incredibly garish and awful as the outside was. We loved to hate every bit of the avocado-green plastic. It was like Florida’s way of saying goodbye.
We didn’t much care. We were together. This was it. It was the moment when our lives stopped being a constant rollercoaster of plane rides, blissful weekends, and crushing departures. No more Skype, no more longing, no more long-distance bullshit. It was Julienne and her fiancé, me and my bride-to-be, side by side and together from this point forward. We were about to drive a shit-ton of miles, but we couldn’t sleep. We were finally together for good.
We took our time, stopping at a BnB at the border between the two Carolinas. I took Julienne to South of the Border, the ultra-cheesy and sublimely wonderfully awful collection of gas stations and gift shops, and let her see its wonder for the first time. Then we drove the rest of the way to Delaware, to our home, ready to begin our life together. Despite her graduation, she still had a lot of work ahead of her. Jules was starting her bar exam prep courses in just a couple of days, she was ready to hit her wedding planning hard, as well as the engagement party and all the things she’d been forced to put off while she dealt with school and concerts.
But it didn’t matter. We were home, and we’d never be apart for more than a few days again.