The first time I heard the song “Hey There Delilah,” it was playing on the radio, in my little blue rental car. It was Sunday morning, and I was packing up the Toyota Yaris in Jack’s driveway, rushing to get to the airport in Toronto to catch my flight home.
Jack was busy writing down driving directions on a very small sheet of memo paper, because I realized I had no idea how to get back to the city from his house on Glasgow Street. I leaned against the driver’s side door and watched as Jack concentrated on writing. The sun had turned his hair blonder than ever and it was still tousled from the night before. I reached out and rested my hand on his arm, trying to memorize how it felt when our skin touched. He looked up and smiled because he knew.
I looked around one last time and thought about how much I would miss Waterloo and this old historic house that had become our cocoon for the past ten days. The overgrown vegetable garden, our large sleeping nest in the living room, the bright yellow kitchen where we sang Bob Marley songs while making enormous batches of homemade guacamole, leaving the entire city without avocados.
I thought about our leisurely drive out to Amish Country and how we stopped at a farm to buy peaches. I photographed the Amish family who sold us fresh produce from a large wooden wagon, as their overdressed children ran through waist-high, 19th century fields.
I thought back on the days we spent camping on the dunes of Lake Erie. How we swam all day in the warm waves of that vast lake and then sunned our wet, tired bodies on faded towels. We were so content lying side by side on the shore, pretending that our days weren’t numbered.
I thought of our last evening at the lake and how we relaxed on the beach in our camp chairs. Our feet sunk into the warm sand as we drank the last two cold bottles of Corona from the cooler. The water was calm and our world was right, until the conversation changed gears. Jack started arguing about child labor laws and the gross injustice of retail clothing stores, and sweat factories. In the end, he stormed off, leaving me with a half-finished bottle of warm Corona in my hand and feeling a bit homesick.
Jack was ten years younger than me. He was not long out of college and was still at the age where he thought he could change the world. I loved that about him, but his strong opinions were sometimes a point of contention. So when he didn’t return after our argument, I packed up the folding chairs and walked back to our campsite, seeking refuge from the now swarming mosquitoes. Meanwhile, Jack walked inland and meandered through trails of low brush, strolling obliviously past the numerous signs that warned of dangerous parasites and the high threat of lime disease. Just after dark, he showed up at our tent with an apology and a tick. Once the small bloodsucking insect was killed, I calmed down and we made up.
When we woke the next morning, we saw that Jack had also brought poison ivy back with him to the tent, because two oval rashes appeared on the insides of my thighs. Within a few weeks the rashes healed, but the poison ivy left scars. Six months later the scars were completely gone. I cried the day I noticed their absence.
“Hey there Delilah, don’t you worry about the distance, I’m right there if you get lonely, give this song another listen, close your eyes… I’m by your side.” We said our aching goodbyes and with a brave smile I backed out of the gravel driveway. With a heavy heart, Jack waved as I left our cocoon and eased my way back into the world he helped me put back together. And as promised, he was there by my side, every time I closed my eyes and visited Glasgow Street.