Creating Johanna’s Story

Johanna shook her head, this just is not possible, she thought, finding it difficult to breathe.

Dylan sat up, kicked his legs over the side of their bed, and masked his head into his clammy hands. “I told you everything, Johanna, everything – there is nothing more to say except…” as he spoke, his voice got eerily somber, “I am so sorry.” Trembling through the words, he silenced his mouth and replaced talking with heavy, dreadful sobbing.

Too distraught to focus her eyes on this pitiful scene, Johanna removed herself from her side of the big bed and began to stir rapidly – unsure what to do with all the thoughts and emotions overcoming the space between them.

Pacing back and forth between the open bedroom door and the kitchen, she fretfully tried to swallow the truth that threatened everything she knew about life. A thousand questions poured through her mind, feeling deeply unsettled by the events he confessed unfolded in the home they built. “I just want to understand, Dylan, how could you let this happen?” All at once, logic, reasoning, and sense left the equation as an emotional current swept through every vein in her flesh. She fell to the carpet at his feet, buried her face in his lap and began to weep.

3 am, Sunday morning. Sleep was vacant from two lovers because their world had been thrashed and torn in two. Words were failing them, and where once was great passion and intense devotion, quickly love fled from their tired bodies, and with a feeble glance from her tear-stained  eyes, she looked up  – just inches from her face – into the scene of the man she loved. Visibly broken, he uttered nothing more for her ears, but from his shattered heart, said the only true thing that remained, nothing will ever be the same.

Dawn came with dim light through the drawn shades. Johanna woke on her side of the bed, unsteady and still bewildered from a dreamless sleep. She lifted her head to check if he was still beside her, and quickly tried to remember falling into the early morning hours of restless slumber, but could not recall even getting back into bed. In her dazed thought, she had not noticed he had been standing in the doorway. As if he could read the confusion inside her, he startled her with an answer to the unspoken question, “I put you into bed; you fell asleep on the floor sometime around 4.”

“What time is it now?” She asked, quietly, unable to meet his staring eyes. He motioned to the digital clock on the nightstand and responded.  It was 9:36 in the morning.

Sunday had always been their day. Dylan had always gently awakened his sleeping belle with coffee and oldies streaming in from open windows while he dug flower beds in the backyard. She had grown accustomed to early rising, knowing their rituals together often called for welcoming more useable hours in a single day. Aroused fully from sleep, she closed the book on what this day once was to them and brought Sunday to the new present-tense.

“What do we do now?” As soon as she said it she realized how much she dreaded his answer. With a nauseating degree of poise in her diplomatic demeanor, she lifted her head and finally turned her face towards where he was standing. As if the mere gesture of eye contact sparked in him some renewed hope that he still held some clout in their relationship, he instantly perked up, removed himself from his lean into the doorjamb, and briskly walked a few steps into the bedroom to stand directly before the foot of the bed.

“I don’t know, but I will do whatever it takes. I mean that. Anything…” His words, seemingly genuine and full of remorse, only made Johanna fall deeper into despair; she sighed heavily and without trying to stop it, she tasted the hot, salty tears on her lips as she began to whimper.

“If you will do anything to fix it now, then why did this happen?” Just as fast as the words leapt from her tongue and into his ears, Dylan felt himself diminish into the reduced form of a man standing on the cusp of losing the woman he loved. “… I, I just wanted to love you. That was it. And now? Now, all I can do is cry.”

He staggered backwards as if controlled by some dark, gravitational force, feeling her words penetrate his broken spirit, wounding him by the weight of his guilt and her distress rolled into one last fatal blow.
“Give me a chance, Johanna, please. Just let me – I don’t know, but let me spend the rest of my life making this up to you.

“I, I made a mistake,” Fumbling over words, talking with his hands and in tones almost too low for her to hear, “She was…”

“Don’t you say it, Dylan, don’t you talk about her in my home, ever again!” Interruption changed the color of the room from sorrowful blue to envious green, and Johanna’s tears of pain shifted into a wild protest of rage. “I swear to God, Dylan, you do not say her name – we don’t mention it unless I ask you directly, you got it?”

He recoiled further until his back met the mirrored closet doors; he lifted his palms up in surrender, and wordlessly mouthed ok in her direction. If anything, he was relieved – albeit somewhat frightened by her anger, but he knew it meant that he would not have to offer up any more details unless she asked for specifics.

Reeling in her emotions, she watched him retreat away from her, feeling at once the suffering of her own emotions while drifting into an unexpected place of mercy at the plight of the man withering in front of her. Swallowing just enough of the anger, she slowly lifted herself from the bed, wrapped herself up in the nearest sweater – it was his; she could not help but inhale his scent as she placed it on her body – and as she stepped closer towards him, she  noticed his eyes well up with tears. He’s going through this, too… She thought to herself, subtly filling with compassion that lessened the bitterness. Before she could stop it, she lingered mere inches from where he stood.

His movement was deliberate and yet at once known – comforting maybe – as one hand slowly reached up and wiped a tear away from her cheek. She melted into the touch, craving it in the lonely hollow that had separated them, and in that room, in their home, they finally embraced, only then fully succumbing to the nakedness and emptiness that had become, so quickly, what defined this moment.

She buried her face into his chest, breathing in his warm, familiar scent, and concentrated on each breathe he let into the air, and how it returned to nourish his weakened body. Mirroring the subtlety of it, and feeling the slowing pace of his heartbeat, she completely melted into his body, and allowed herself the fleeting freedom to become lost in the embrace. To lie would be to profess she did not need him anymore, because the truth was, he was the only man she had ever needed – now, as a best friend, a lover, and the man she so long believed in, she realized she needed him more than  ever.

“It does not make sense, Dylan, really…” Pausing to complete the sentiment into any sort of coherent statement, “That I still love you,” she raised her face from his chest and steeled herself through the blistering pain of looking into his eyes once more, “… That I still love you. Maybe – maybe we can…”

The phone shook them both back into the world still moving on around them. She backed away, keeping his swollen blue eyes in her view, and reached for her phone, glancing down momentarily just to see who it was.

Jerked away from their shared sense of belonging to the pain, she immediately felt the rage pour back into every cell of her body. Evil crept in, stealing her momentary empathy, and she sent a fierce look into Dylan’s soul as she pushed the phone into his face, and watched his eyes glaze over with fear.

It was Doreen.

The creative process of this is, admittedly, quite cathartic.

For many long, moonless years I have spent hours digging through the details of these days, and I have longed to pour out my emotions into some form of literary creativity. I do not wish to paint a story of villains and betrayal, not merely this to any regard – but to show the true value of love when weighed against heavy, controversial circumstances. Of the countless hours of therapy I have endured, NOTHING softens my heart quite like the ongoing work of writing my experiences in dialogue and in prose.

In these painted scenes, I recall real, difficult emotion. I remember his face, every finite detail as if my heart knew someday I would need to redraw it. I so easily taste the tears on my lips, feel the lump well up in my throat, and compete with reality as I tell myself I am not really living those moments anymore.

As sure as the crooked smile on Mona Lisa’s face,  Leonardo da Vinci drew her by memory, I am sure of it, because the nuanced way she seems to know his secrets – the truth in her eyes, the mystery behind that smile – it  speaks to  me the kind of heartfelt remembrance reserved for true artistry; he had to paint her, he had no choice. His heart never allowed him to release those details that mattered so much to him.

Like a tortured artist, I am both reverent for my craft, but deliriously wounded by my ability to recall the things I must in order to portray in these pages exactly the story that needs to be told.

If I could forget the way he cried out for me, or the last time I saw tears strewn down his handsome face, I would shed these memories without regret. I assure you, then, I would only remember the beautiful man he was to me, everything we learned as we loved each other, and the fact that he was the perfect man for me to love then – the immediate, consuming first love most often reserved only for a select few star-crossed lovers in entire generations.

I would not be compelled to write it now, or at least not to dispel from me the heartache that makes interesting reading for those whom never had to endure a taste of such horrible heartbreak. Realizing, then, that my craft becomes a spectacle work of sorts, a car crash you cannot look away from, because the fact that we loved each other enough to stay together after a lesser relationship would abandon ship immediately, well, it makes for entertaining company to avid readers. I am willing to  subject myself to critics, regarding what  was the love of my life, for the sake of my own emotional growth, and the wish to separate myself, if not finally at least partially, from the too long inescapable reality of the pain I endured.

Writing gives me this outlet. It is the only thing, in fact, which does.

Throughout the course of the next few weeks, my intentions are simple: Get this written. Piecemeal, as if simply to eventually cut, paste, and align, I will delicately abandon all emotional censors and portray the work of fiction meeting non-fiction – and only a select few, if any at times, will know for sure which is what.

This is not all about me, though some so tangibly woven within and around me it is like we are one, Johanna will emerge from each challenge with a renewed sense of self, growing to become the person she is [today]…

Hopefully, by the time of completion, a full-bodied tale of love, and the pursuit of lifelong happiness will emerge from my mind, through my fingertips, and onto these previously blank pages. It just started storming outside now. The wind is blowing through my open light green curtains, and the rain has begun to fall. How perfectly fitting for this particular blog… What a night to rest it shall be, indeed.

Washington Painter

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