Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Lid on a Jar of Hearts



As he stood, stopped at the traffic light on the corner of Walnut and Pond, there was no where to hide. It was Christmas night. He had loved Liddie for so long that he really had no options. Without her, he had no cards to play. The holidays, particularly Christmas, can expose the weak. And exposed he was.

George and Liddie had been married for twenty-two years. Their relationship was the kind where you might say how could she be with him. George Smidlin was a plain vanilla guy, average in every way. A decent, kind man, he was no stopper. Lydia Ponchartrain, on the other hand, was a the kind of woman, who made men slap their lips. Looking back, it would be hard to explain how they could have even hooked up. Some things in life are too strange to be explained. The psychology of attraction and relationships is poorly understood. Perhaps the understanding is so primal, it defies understanding.

Lydia always thought that she was cooler than George. She was as vain as George was unassuming. For example, she would only wear designer shades and George bought his sunglasses at the Family Dollar on Walnut. As with any person, who recognizes she has the upper hand, she moved George around life's chess board like a possessed Bobby Fisher. No matter what he did, it was always a day late and not enough. George, for his part, died every time Liddie gave him a shred of attention. Sometimes, George would lie awake in bed next to Liddie thinking he was the luckiest man alive. And that would be after she rolled over on him. Some guys.

For every one of the twenty-two years they were married, Lydia Ponchartrain Smidlin had lovers, lots of lovers. If you listed them one after the other, by month and by year, the total would be thirty-seven. Men 35, Women 2. Incredible as it might seem, as George sat in his lime green Prius, he knew only about Chester Wilkes. Chester was the man Liddie was with right now, somewhere fabulous, somewhere tropical perhaps. As far as the cuckold knew, Lydia had simply fallen for Chet. Probably just as well. If George knew about the 36 others he would have driven his hybrid Toyota into the Delaware River.

Liddie's mother, Bessie, was a woman of convenience. Used as a bald tire, she had to be tightened up three times. It's not that she was stretched from kids. Lydia was her only child and she entered the world through a low slice in her Mama's belly. It was Bessie, who taught Lydia, to bag a man for support. A good student, Lydia knew a mensch when she saw one. And that was George. With his father's fastener business as a back up, George Smidlin was as sure as rain. It's hard to get how stunato a person can be, but when a man loves a woman he'll sit out in the rain for her. Percy Sledge was right.

As he waited for the green to go, a moment of inspiration, a moment of self respect flashed before him. A girl singer, with a voice that sounded as if it belonged in a big black woman, demanded his attention. Although he didn't know it, the singer was Christina Perri, and her song Jar of Hearts was getting some air time.

i know i can’t take one more step towards you
cause all thats waiting is regret
don’t you know i’m not your ghost anymore
you lost the love i loved the most


i learned to live, half alive
and now you want me one more time


who do you think you are?
runnin’ ’round leaving scars
collecting a jar of hearts
tearing love apart
you’re gonna catch a cold
from the ice inside your soul
don’t come back for me
who do you think you are?


i hear you’re asking all around
if i am anywhere to be found
but i have grown too strong
to ever fall back in your arms


ive learned to live, half alive
and now you want me one more time


who do you think you are?
runnin’ ’round leaving scars
collecting a jar of hearts
and tearing love apart
you’re gonna catch a cold
from the ice inside your soul
don’t come back for me
who do you think you are?


it took so long just to feel alright
remember how to put back the light in my eyes
i wish i had missed the first time that we kissed
cause you broke all your promises
and now you’re back
you don’t get to get me back
http://www.elyricsworld.com/jar_of_hearts_lyrics_christina_perri.html


who do you think you are?
running around leaving scars
collecting a jar of hearts
and tearing love apart
you’re gonna catch a cold
from the ice inside your soul
so don’t come back for me
dont come back at all


x2


who do you think you are?
who do you think you are?
who do you think you are?

As he turned left onto Walnut, he couldn't help but notice the second row house on the right. It was about fourteen feet wide, the way row houses in old northeastern river towns were built. The red, common brick was cast in shadows by a cheap plastic Santa, who was illuminated white and standing guard at the doorway. The single picture window was surrounded by a set of those big colored Christmas lights, red and blue and green and orange and white. These lights were the kind George's parents used every year on the family trees. The window lights were tacked unevenly, making the window seem less like a rectangle and more like an oval. Nonetheless, it was those lights which reminded George of the first fight he had with Liddie. Liddie wanted small white lights on their tree and despite George's pleas to go big, colored, it was small white. And so it went for the next twenty-one trees.

George had taken a small apartment, a second floor walk up at the end of Walnut at Radcliffe. His crib had a nice view of the river and George like to watch the traffic, barges and ships, which passed by. The grace of those big blocks of mass, as they moved effortlessly through the water, was awe inspiring.



He had spent the day ALONE, his first ever Christmas alone. Somehow, it wasn't as bad as he thought it would be. Yeah, he did have a dinner of frozen ravioli made by some company in Iowa and yeah, he didn't get any gifts. But to his credit, he had a four foot Charlie Brown. He trimmed it with the old star and the big, colored lights from his childhood. He had saved them ever since his mother died seven years ago. A few of the whites were out and he had replaced them with clears. It was hard to find real white ones. As he sits looking at the tree, he cracks open a Bud. First one, then two, then three, ahhhh.

It didn't take long for him to get curious. He moved over to his MacBook. He searched tonight's playlist for WMMR. He found the song and the artist. And he entered... YouTube, Christina Perri, Jar of Hearts.

He listened again. To his surprise, she is a skinny white girl. She grew up a few miles down the river, in Philadelphia. And so it goes.

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