Final Segment

Final Segment

I didn’t mind working at Disney.  I kinda liked the outfits that we had to wear and I got to put on a blue plain bathing suit every time I did family shots at Typhoon Lagoon.  I worked on Main Street with friends, had dinner with Nancy and Rachel at nearby Downtown Disney, and I made friends with all the girls at the check-out desks.  I got pretty good at getting the backgrounds into my shots, I won MVP that year for getting the most photographs on average per day, 456, and I was pretty good with the customers.  I still visited Sam on the weekends, driving up the two hours to Bradenton, parking in the garage to pay the meters for two hours, and then talking with him for another two hours up in the jail cell.

I’d moved in with a girl named Deidre who I’d met at Will’s, a place where I was watching a really good live band, and we moved in together two months later.  I didn’t talk to her too much about things that had happened in the past few months, we just tried to go out, meet new people and talk about going back to college.

When I got enough money I bought a small plastic fence and some sunflower seeds that I planted in my parents backyard in the corner.  I put the fence all around a small patch of grass, which I dug up to plant the sunflower seeds.  I came home three times a week to check on them, water them and to see that they were getting enough sunlight.  Three weeks later little sprouts of plants grew with separate leaves attached to their vines and the necks of themselves began to get taller over time.  Two weeks later I came out to see a little one budding and then three days later I came out after a rainstorm to see that they had all gotten their petals.  I named two of them “Juliet” and I named the other flower “Julian” and I really believed that somehow the thing that was Sam’s and mine of which I had to let go, was there in this garden growing right now.

Sam called me in February of 2002 , right after Valentine’s Day, to tell me that the court had finally arranged to fly him back to Tunisia, which is where he was originally born and was from.  I’d gotten used to living with Deidre, to filming and photographing at Kodak, and to signing up for night school.  I’d kind of counted on Sam to be nearby me, even if it was only two hours away.  But I couldn’t imagine coping with being apart from him when he was in there, nearly 4,000 miles and so far away.

One time I got high with my friend Tony and I told him that I felt sick and that I had to lie down so I left him there sitting in Deidre’s and my living room.  I shut and locked the door to my bedroom and then I shut and locked the door to my bathroom.  I lied on my bed, listened to Mazzy Starr over and over and felt like I was gonna scream.  I couldn’t put my finger on what was so attractive about Sam or why I was so nuts, so crazy for him.  Maybe he was intense, maybe he intimidated the hell out of me, maybe he was cute, maybe he was deep, maybe he was withdrawn.  Maybe he was outgoing while I was more shy.  Maybe we were both the same age and we wanted the same things, maybe we were crazy for adventure and maybe we didn’t care at getting to wherever no matter the costs.

For weeks I tried to fill the void I felt before he left me.  I went to Michaels and I bought different colors of crinoline and Christmas wire.  I bent the wire to make little butterflies with antennas sticking out of their heads and then I cut out and super glued the crinoline over them.  I put them all in a box, put a note in the middle that said “don’t fly away forever.” then I wrapped the box in crinoline too and drove down to Bradenton where I said goodbye to him for the last time.  He told me that he needed money and so I gave him some and I arranged for the guard to give Sam a pack of cigarettes when they let him out.  From then on he called me from Tunisia a couple of times and on nights when I felt lonely I’d try to cross the country codes to call him too.  I would get messages in Arabic that I couldn’t understand and no matter what I said at the other end of the line, he’d never pick up.

When I got my college degree a year later I went out to eat with my family, got a job teaching at a private school, and I started running every day.  I didn’t want a TV, I read for three hours a day, ate vegetables at every meal, and emailed Sam at every chance I got.  I waited for phone calls from him, dated guys in between, spent lots of time helping out my family by going back to church and helping with their youth ministry group.  I talked about the New Yorker with my dad, joined a running group, and made two new friends.  I looked into graduate school, applied to public schools to get better health care and looked into moving to a new city.  When my mother showed me my college graduation picture one day, however, I couldn’t believe it.  I hadn’t really seen a picture of myself after the ones that Sam had taken of us on our wedding day.  I didn’t look the same.  Whatever had happened in the past had shaped me for the future and no amount of staying still could keep me from going back or staying the same.  I knew now that the only way I would survive what had happened was to move on, keep moving on, and to move forward all the same.


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