Not Now, but Then

Every couple of years after he was the cause of the break-up of my first marriage, Hal would show up at my front door with a bottle of Scotch which I didn’t drink and then try to ingratiate himself into my life as my primary advisory and counselor, ready and willing to help me out of the jam du jour, his silver Corvette parked across the street the whole while of his visit so he could keep a good eye on it.

It had been many years since his last surprise visit and I kept wondering if he would show up again. Would my husband answer the door or one of the seeming dozens of children living with us? Would the dogs bark, jump up and act crazy like they do when the mailman comes every day even though his visit was no surprise and Hal’s certainly would have been? The biggest question was would he still bring Scotch and would my husband drink it? Would he share our troubles and find Hal a good listener and ready helper?

No visit would ever happen. I knew that. Word had gotten around that I was happily remarried, had moved to a better neighborhood, had more kids. Hal never appeared again on my doorstep but he did call me for lunch and so I met him in a dark Italian restaurant on the west side of town. It was there, some 15 years removed from our relationship, that he told me he had loved me very much. It wasn’t a come-on, it was sweet, maybe a truth telling a long time coming, a salve on a wound long since healed over, no scar even visible. It seemed like a kindness to say what he said. I took it at that and said goodbye.

Every now and then I’d wonder when I’d run into him again. Years passed with no word and I figured that the declaration in the Italian restaurant was the closing statement. There would be no more visits with or without the Scotch.

As it often does, late night boredom turned to searching for long lost people and things on the internet. That night it took an hour or so to find any trace of Hal. He was twenty years older than me so the footprints of his life weren’t displayed on Google. I had to go deeper. On, I found the paper he signed to re-enter the country from Army duty in the middle east during the Suez crisis. I found a newspaper article about his daughter who had taken her own life several years before. And then in the dark of night and the still of a house with four other people sleeping soundly, I found the location of his grave.

Hal had died six years ago. He died, I thought, and no one told me. But who would tell me? There was no one to tell me but him and he hadn’t. Or had he? I don’t know.

I know that part of me liked thinking he was out there, that his silver Corvette just might pull up in front of my house and he would alight with his bottle of Scotch in a brown paper bag, ready to come inside, sit on my couch and solve my problems, and tell me, once again, that he had loved me very much. Not now, but then.

It was a nice secret to have.


Photo by Jacob Spence on Unsplash


25 Comments on “Not Now, but Then

  1. Pingback: yeah write #157 weekly writing challenge winners: crowd favorite + top row three + spirit awards | yeah writeyeah write

  2. I love this! I often speak of my flawed, but wonderful exes, and I think this is a wonderful example of that sentiment. Just because you realized you weren’t good together as a couple, doesn’t mean that person and their impact on you life isn’t important. Again, I love the sentiment!

  3. What a gut punch. I’m sorry for your loss. But I loved this post. I felt like I was right there with you and Hal’s visits.

  4. Jan, I love this piece. It’s moving without being overly sentimental, and just beautifully written.

  5. I have a Hal, too, and I can imagine how you must feel. I’m sorry for the loss.

  6. This is such a moving story, wonderfully told and has an intriguing ring of truth about it. More, please!

  7. whoa. i love how, piece by piece, we get to know a little more about him (and you) and who he was… (and who you are) and then, in a seemingly shocking paragraph, we find out he had passed six years ago.

    an honest, raw, heart rendering piece. thanks for sharing this.

    • Thank you – thanks for reading this and taking the time to comment. I learn a lot by seeing what other people saw in the piece.

  8. So beautiful!!! I was really touched by this. I too have a Hal, and although my life is much better without him, it’s fun to be sentimental sometimes. Nicely done.

    • Thank you, Martha. It’s the wondering about people who were once so central to your life – I guess it is sentimental.

  9. Lovely. Loss and longing are universal themes. It takes a special kind of courage to share them. Thank you.

  10. Very well written – about that need deep inside that doesn’t impact on our life in any way – it is just there and… So hard to describe that need to know if that someone still cares enough to want to see us, even though we really don’t need to see them. People don’t seem to leave us, they just aren’t part of our life anymore.

  11. so sweet and so sad. i had a boyfriend similar to your hal – my first and only before my husband, and we’d cross paths over the years, then i heard that he had died of a drug overdose and it saddened me beyond words. i liked him being out there and just the possibility of seeing him again. i get it.

  12. Life seems to like giving us those people who pop up at unexpected moments throughout our lives then all of a sudden disappear. I’m sure it comforts you to think of him still driving his car and suddenly showing up with a bottle of scotch in hand.

  13. I don’t feel like anything I write can adequately describe how I feel about this story or how you told it. Well done.

  14. Oh my word. Such a lovely and touching post. I’m sorry for your loss. This comment doesn’t begin to touch on the feelings this post gave me, and I’m not even sure of them myself, but this will stay with me for quite some time. Well done.

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