Take It Light: Chapter 1, “In Pieces on the Ground”

Before Mid-Winter, 1970
Takoma Park, Maryland

“Wanna get married?”

“What?” Libby realized she hadn’t been listening. Jamie was playing his guitar and singing, and she’d barely noticed when the music stopped.

He smiled shyly. “I asked if you would wanna marry me.”

I’ll have to think about it was what she should have said. Or maybe a simple, honest no, I don’t want to marry you or anyone. Naturally, she would have added a polite but thank you for asking.

What she did say was “yes.”

Jamie kissed her, then took an antique Purple Heart medal out of his pocket and pinned it on her poncho to seal the deal.

She was only 18 but the truth was, she’d already been wounded.

* * *

Libby had spent the fall in Manhattan with the man she worshipped. Gabriel was a 30-something musician, recording a rock and blues album at The Hit Factory. Libby had thought he loved her, never mind that he had a wife in North Carolina and that he’d sing “Love the One You’re With” like it was some kind of joke. But it turned out she was only the hippie-girl keeping him warm at night till he could get back home.

She arrived at her parents’ house in early December. They were welcoming, if worried. They let her be, not knowing what to say or what to do.

For Libby, everything had gone dark. The days were bleak, the nights were long, and she was frozen by depression. She couldn’t see her way forward. So she slept, for days.

A friend from high school heard she was back and came by with a couple tabs of acid, so they dropped it and hitch-hiked to downtown Washington to see an exhibit about the Planet Mars. That moonless night on her parents’ front lawn she sat on the ground clutching the dead grass, fearing that she would fly off into the airless space above. She found it unbearably sad to see torn pieces of newspaper flee down the gritty street before the icy wind. She didn’t know how to make it through another day. Didn’t know if there would be another day.

And that’s when Jamie appeared.

He had been away for more than a year, part of the time in New Orleans with a band, part of the time in rehab, but now he was back in town. Almost immediately he picked up where, he imagined, they had left off when she was 16 and had had a crush on him.

He brought her tarot cards from New Orleans. When she asked what they were for, he told her they told the future. She couldn’t think of anything she was less interested in knowing about, but the cards looked exotic and mysterious so she kept them.

Libby knew Jamie was just as shattered as she was.

Still, she said yes.


Note: Chapter title is from “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor

© August 20, 2018 [draft]